Things to Know Before Buying a Garden Fork
A garden fork is an essential tool for anyone who prides themselves on their plants! I’m a firm believer that every gardener should have one of these in their garden shed, and that is should be a high-quality model which will really help get the job done. Gardening forks are especially useful when it comes to loosening soil and weeding.
There’s a range of garden forks to choose from, in various designs and sizes, but for most gardeners a digging fork or border fork is all that’s needed.
Take a look at the following tips to help you make an informed decision when looking for the best garden fork for your garden.
Digging Fork Vs. Border Fork
Digging forks are generally used as an alternative to spades, as they are easier to push into the ground. Rather than having to lift heavy soil with a garden spade, digging forks break through the soil seamlessly and tend to be easier to use.
Digging forks are perfect for vegetable beds or digging undisturbed soil. They’re also the best option for heavy soil like clay. With four, strong tines, a good garden digging fork will be able to cope with most gardening jobs.
Border forks are slightly smaller than garden forks. These are ideal for tighter spaces such as raised beds and borders. In general, they’re not meant for the same size tasks as bigger digging forks, but they’re lighter which makes them ideal for smaller gardeners who don’t have the strength for a heavy fork. Ultimately a border fork will be able to do the same job as a digging fork, it’ll just take a bit more time.
Choosing the Right Material
Garden forks are usually made from carbon steel or stainless steel. The handles can be made from either metal or wood.
Carbon steel forks are stronger than stainless steel, although they are more likely to rust. However, carbon steel forks are sometimes coated with resin which should protect them from rusting, so this is something to look out for.
Stainless steel forks have greater resistance to corrosion and rust thanks to their high chromium content. Stainless steel forks are useful if you have clay soil, as the soil doesn’t stick to them as easily. Both carbon and stainless steel are very lightweight.
The traditional garden fork has a wooden handle; the upside is that wood is a great shock absorber, making gardening less uncomfortable. However, wood can rot and weaken over time and is heavier than polypropylene or metal. Using a fork with a wooden handle for an extended period might end up being quite hard work, compared to using a fork with a lighter handle.
Metal handles are another good option. These are more durable but they don’t offer nearly so much shock absorption.
Handle Length and Design
Garden forks come with handles in various lengths. For most people, a 72 cm shaft will be ideal, but if you are taller than average you might want a longer design. Using a garden fork which is too short for you will hurt your back.
Many forks have a D handle for ease of use, while others have a T handle. For most people, a D handle is more comfortable. If you have very large hands however, you may find a T handle easier to grip.
Finding the Right Weight Garden Fork
A garden fork that’s too heavy will be harder to use, so if you struggle with mobility or you’re not particularly strong, I recommend looking for a lightweight model which doesn’t compromise on quality.
More important than the weight is the handle design, as a heavier fork with an ergonomic handle will be easier to use than a lightweight one which has a bad design.
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Garden Fork FAQs
How do I keep the head and tines of my garden fork in good condition?
You should clean your garden fork regularly to ensure it lasts as long as possible. Soil left on the shaft and head may cause wood to rot and metal parts to rust. Clean all dirt from the tool after use. You can do this with a wire brush; however, really caked-on mud may require the use of hot soapy water as well. Leave the fork to dry after cleaning.
Some people keep a bucket of sand mixed with a little linseed oil in their shed. They then push each of their tools into this bucket after use and this protects the metal from rust.
You should also be careful to only use your fork for work that is suitable. Garden forks are not designed to dig up rubble or large tree roots and you may damage your tool if you attempt such heavy jobs.
How do I take care of the wooden handle on my garden fork?
Twice a year, in spring and autumn, sand the handle with a medium-grit sandpaper. Then, rub a generous amount of linseed oil into the wood to create a protective, waterproof barrier. Make sure you store wooden-handled tools in a cool, dry place.
If your wooden handle breaks, you can usually buy a replacement part. These can be simply fitted, usually with just a couple of screws.
How do I fork soil?
Forking the soil can be done in the winter to prepare your garden for the spring. It should be done on soil around shrubs or other plants where a spade would disturb the roots. It will aerate the soil and improve its health.
To fork your soil, you should first remove weeds and large stones from the ground. Loosely spread compost over the soil then begin to lift the soil using your fork. Shake the soil to break down any lumps, then put it back on top of the surface soil.
Roughly level the surface before spreading more compost over the area.
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