If you’ve ever discovered that your soil is simply too tough to penetrate with a shovel, you’ll need a digging fork. These tools are a great way to loosen the soil in preparation to digging. They’re also great for working organic material, fertilizer, or compost into your garden beds. They’re amazing for getting root vegetables up to the surface to be harvested. They’re great for turning your compost pile.
Whether thin-tined or wide, flat-tined, sharp-pointed or triangular-pointed, these useful tools are nearly a requirement for anyone with a serious vegetable garden.
Best Choices For Specific Purposes:
- Best Digging Fork: Radius Garden 203 PRO Ergonomic Stainless Steel Digging Fork
- Best Spading Fork: Truper 30293 Tru Tough Spading Fork
- Best Garden Fork: Fiskars Ergo D-handle Steel Garden Fork
- Best Border Fork: Spear & Jackson 4552BF Traditional Stainless Steel Border Fork
- Best Broadfork: Bully Tools 92627 Broad Fork with Fiber Glass Handle
- Best Compost Fork: Gardena 3782-20U Terraline Compost Fork
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Types of Digging Forks
There’s a wide variety of things which fall under the category of digging forks. Let’s go over some of them now.
Digging Fork / Spading Fork
The wide, triangular-tipped blades of the typical digging or spading fork are made for very specific uses. While they do in fact dig very well, they’re designed to help aerate or blend together soils. This means that these are very useful when you’re working compost into your garden bed, turning your soil in the spring. They’re also useful when digging up root crops like sweet potatoes, as the flat-faced tines will lever the tubers out of the soil. While these can be used in clay-like soils, they’re better in loamy or sandy soils.
The garden fork is typically what most people think of when they imagine the classic garden pitchfork. Made with four narrow spikes that have pointed tips, a garden fork will cut through harder soils easily. The narrower spines make it easier to turn through even thick clay than a wider-bladed fork would. The cousin of the garden fork is called a border fork, and it is used commonly in raised beds or narrower spaces. Both are extremely useful tools in the garden.
A compost fork looks like a much larger garden fork, except that its tines have been bent to form a slight scoop. This type of fork excels at turning compost piles, aerating them so that the pile can continue heating internally. Since compost gets heavy, and the compost fork is much larger, some prefer smaller-tined forks and a little more time spent turning. If you want to turn your pile in a hurry and move onto other tasks, the full-sized compost fork is the fastest way to do it.
The potato fork is confusing as many companies sell spading forks as potato forks. Others sell a scoop-shaped fork as a potato fork or cultivator fork. Both work for levering root crops out of the soil. However, the curved or scoop-shaped potato fork is not meant for digging as much as it is for lifting the crops. If you can only choose one tool, and you want something that will multitask, opt for a spading fork instead, as it does double-duty.
While not a typical digging fork, this two-handled tool is extremely useful for larger-scale grow sites. Made with a number of sharp tines extending off of a lower bar and two sturdy handles, the broadfork can easily pry root vegetables up from the soil. It’s also great if you’re tilling a large area and don’t have a motorized tiller. Occasionally, these can also be called U-bars.
Features To Consider
The best digging forks are constructed of high-carbon steel. Stainless steel is also great. Although some compost forks have aluminum tines, the weight of the compost can bend the tines and isn’t advisable.
While the material is important, the way that the digging fork is constructed is essential. There are two options I recommend for the head-to-handle attachment. The first a riveted socket attachment, where the handle is directly sunk into the steel of the fork and riveted in place. That style very rarely breaks. The second is a welded shaft, where the head is directly welded to the metal handle. That’s also a great choice.
The banded or strapped-on heads have a tendency to weaken or get loose over time, where the above two options don’t.
Traditional digging forks had a wooden handle. These tools tend to see a lot of prying action, and wooden shafts break unless they’re hardwood. If you’re going to choose a wooden handled fork, I recommend something like ash as it’ll hold up to the task a bit more.
Most of the current digging fork designs include a steel handle. This does add extra weight to the tool, but it pays off in longevity. Steel shafts just don’t break under the pressure exerted by a person. If you don’t mind the extra pound or so of weight, you should invest in a steel shaft model.
Best Digging Fork
Radius Garden 203 PRO Ergonomic Stainless Steel Digging Fork
I have to admit that when I first saw a ring-handled tool, I thought anyone who’d use it would be a fool. Now I’ll freely admit that I was wrong. If you have a rock stuck in the middle of your garden bed and want to pry it out, this will do it. You can use both hands on the ring handle and push down once your tines are beneath the soil surface. Double the arm strength equates to double the force! While it takes some getting used to, once you’re familiar with this tool, you’ll never go back to a traditional D-handle while digging. Definitely give this one a try. I think you’ll find you’ll like it!
Best Spading Fork
Truper 30293 Tru Tough Spading Fork
If you can only pick one type of fork, take a good look at this one from Truper. Its flat blades allow you to pull root vegetables up without risking damage. The wider tines also offer added leverage when you’re prying old roots or rocks out of the soil. It can turn compost with the best of them, and the triangular tips allow for ease of soil penetration. My first fork was a spading fork much like this, in fact. There are other forks which are specialized for specific tasks, but if you need a multitasking tool, go with this one.
Best Garden Fork
Fiskars Ergo D-handle Steel Garden Fork
With a welded boron steel fork, and a steel shaft, this Fiskars garden fork is likely going to outlive you! This surprisingly inexpensive option from the well-known tool manufacturer is a great choice for someone who is going to be working in sandier soil conditions. It can handle harder soils, too. If you’re going to be blending compost or peat moss into your bed or spreading large chip mulch, this garden fork will help you achieve your goals. Definitely a winner in my book!
Best Border Fork
Spear & Jackson 4552BF Traditional Stainless Steel Border Fork
If you’re going to be working in smaller garden beds, this is the perfect fork for your needs. Whether you’re aerating your raised bed, or removing old root systems from your flowerbeds, this fork can handle it. It has a hardwood handle which should last for quite a long time of normal use, and is treated to withstand the elements. The smaller fork allows you to get into tight spaces with ease. Without a doubt, this is a solid option for those who don’t need a larger digging fork.
Bully Tools 92627 Broad Fork with Fiber Glass Handle
While there are broadforks which are fancier, which have different methods of use, and which have more tines, I like this one. For the money, you just can’t beat it, and Bully makes a strong broad fork that will last you for years of use. The dual handles allow you double the leverage for prying potatoes out of the soil. The wide bar gives you a place to step down and use your foot to help pivot the fork out of the soil. All things considered, this is a solid broadfork at an excellent price, and well worth the money spent.
Best Compost Fork
Gardena 3782-20U Terraline Compost Fork
Whether you have a compost pile or a stationary composter, this Gardena compost fork will help you achieve the black gold you’re looking for. This wide fork will easily turn a standard pile in short order. If you’re using a stationary composter, you can use it to aerate the contents by stirring them inside. Either way, it’ll get the needed air into your pile to keep the heat up.
Whether prying up potatoes or creating compost, working fertilizer into the soil or full-on farming, there is a digging fork for you. What tasks would you put your digging fork to? Share your stories in the comments below!
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