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4 Best Garden Forks for Digging & Borders (2021 Review)

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The best garden forks are durable in hard soil, comfortable during extended use, weatherproof and rust proof. Look out for a carbon steel head, hardwood shaft and as little plastic as possible. 

You’ll also want a handle with good grip under pressure and either a wishbone or rounded shape for solid ergonomics. 

The length and width required will be dependent on how tall you are, and how big your feet are. I recommend measuring this out before buying, as the wrong size can put unnecessary strain on your back. 

A reliable garden fork is a gardener’s best friend. I’ve researched and tested the best forks for digging and border work. Check out my recommendations below…

 

What is the Best Garden Fork For Your Garden?

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Comparing The Best Garden Forks

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  • Best For
  • Handle Shape
  • Weight
  • Length
  • Width
  • No. of Tines
  • Tine Length
  • Cost
  • Our score
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In-Depth Reviews of Our Recommended Garden Forks

Spear & Jackson Traditional Stainless Steel Digging ForkSpear & Jackson Traditional Stainless Steel Digging Fork

Best digging fork

Design
Comfort
Durability
Value for Money
Overall
4.7
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Spear & Jackson Traditional Stainless Steel Digging Fork Review

Specifications

  • Handle Shape: Wishbone
  • Weight: 1.95 kg
  • Length: 90.5 cm
  • Width: 18.5 cm
  • No. of Tines: 4
  • Tine Length: 28 cm

One thing we’ve likely all experienced is how much harder digging up the garden can be when contending with heavy mud sticking to fork tines or spade blades.

That’s why non-stick tines can make such a difference, and on the Spear & Jackson Traditional Stainless Steel Digging Fork the mirror-polished stainless steel head doesn’t hold onto as much mud or clay as traditional forks.

Therefore, not only is it already relatively lightweight at 1.95 kg, it’s good at keeping things that way too.

The rest of the body is made from one piece of weather-proofed hardwood which splits to form the handle, resulting in no weak joins on the shaft itself. It isn’t prone to rust and the wood is also well protected against the elements, although of course storing it inside when not in use will help prolong its life.

When it comes to performance, it’s worth saying that this is a good fork, but it has its limitations, so it depends what you want to use it for. If you’re working on vegetable patches and frequently-turned earth, this is ideal for keeping up maintenance. It’s also possible to use this for aerating soil, given that the tines are around 28 cm long.

However, overall, this isn’t the best garden fork for leveraging very solid ground, or fighting thick roots. As you might imagine for the cheap price, it isn’t as hardy as some stronger, heavier forks, so it can’t be expected to manage all of the heavyweight work of more expensive models.

At around 90 cm long, it’s slightly shorter than the majority of digging forks; whilst it’s likely still suitable for gardeners of most heights, taller gardeners might wish to consider other options. It does feel manageable and well-balanced in use.

Pros

  • Comfortable for users of most heights thanks to its 90.5cm design
  • The fork is rust and weather resistant so won’t get damaged if you forget to put it away at night!
  • Very well balanced so comfortable to use for long periods
  • Fantastic value for money for a quality digging fork

Cons

  • Not sturdy enough for heavily compacted soil
  • Wooden handle may be slightly brittle
  • Fork may arrive with excessive packaging - well wrapped, but not great for the environment
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Rolson Ash Handle Digging ForkRolson Ash Handle Digging Fork

Best budget digging fork

Design
Comfort
Durability
Value for Money
Overall
4.45
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Rolson Ash Handle Digging Fork Review

Specifications

  • Handle Shape: D-shaped
  • Weight: 825 g
  • Length: 99.5 cm
  • Width: 20 cm
  • No. of Tines: 4
  • Tine Length: Not listed

For the bargain-hunters out there, this great value Rolson Ash Handle Digging Fork is well priced for the level of quality and performance it offers.

Whilst cheaper items can sometimes fall down when it comes to the quality of materials they use, the carbon-steel head and ash-wood shaft of this fork remain very suitable choices. The heat-treated tines even have a hammered finish, which helps to stop mud from sticking to them.

With further reference to the materials, the ash-wood shaft also helps keep the weight down, and this is one of the lightest digging forks featured here, weighing under 1 kg at 825 g. If you’re someone who struggles with heavier gardening tools, this is a good choice to reduce fatigue and help make the process of turning over soil more manageable. 

The handle is plastic, which is comfortable but does mean that there is a potentially ‘weak’ area where the handle attaches to the shaft. However; it seems generally well anchored and sturdy.

So, this brings us on to performance: it’s a great fork for a lot of different jobs, but may struggle in harder soil and very clay-based land. If you’re working in predominantly pre-dug earth, it’s a great value item that should significantly help with turning and digging the soil.

It measures approximately 100 cm in length which seems relatively standard for digging forks, most gardeners will likely find this a suitable size for comfortably getting on with the job.

Pros

  • Carbon steel head is excellent quality and very long lasting
  • Can be used for both digging and aerating
  • Lightest fork featured at 835 g and well balanced

Cons

  • The fork and handle have a slight flex at the joining which could wear over time
  • Best for lighter soil as it’s not strong enough for heavily compacted areas
  • The handle is a combination of ash wood and plastic which gives it a cheaper feel
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Spear & Jackson Select Stainless Border ForkSpear & Jackson Select Stainless Border Fork

Best border fork

Design
Comfort
Durability
Value for Money
Overall
4.425
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Spear & Jackson Select Stainless Border Fork Review

Specifications

  • Handle Shape: Rounded design
  • Weight: 1.76 kg
  • Length: 97 cm
  • Width: 13.8 cm
  • No. of Tines: 4
  • Tine Length: 23 cm

We’ve all been there – that heart wrenching feeling when you accidentally damage the roots of your favourite plant, whilst using a fork that was too wide for the space. It’s one of those things that’s easily done, yet also so easily avoided by using a narrower tool like the Spear & Jackson Select Stainless Border Fork.

At approximately 14 cm wide, this is a fork that can fit around plants without causing their roots to quake in their boots. The narrow width makes it much easier to dig and aerate soil without encroaching on areas you want to leave untouched.

When it comes to design, the stainless-steel head and polypropylene shaft make for a sturdy but lightweight combination. It weighs 1.76 kg and the handle is an extension of the shaft so there’s no join where excessive force could cause it to snap.

The handle itself is also very ergonomically shaped, with a rounded design instead of the standard ‘flat’ bar. This, combined with its non-slip rubber coating, makes it quite comfortable to use and easy on the hands. It also allows space for two hands to fit, which can be useful for raking soil or driving the tines into the ground.

One of the primary drawbacks of this fork, especially for taller users, is its length. The shaft measures around 71 cm, and the head adds about another 26 cm onto this, resulting in an overall length of approximately 93 cm. This makes it the shortest fork featured here, albeit by a couple of centimetres.

Whilst the short length may let it down, this isn’t the sort of fork that will be used for long, extended periods of time anyway. It’s best suited to small border work, and shouldn’t really be used for trying to dig larger patches. Using it on softer, pre-dug soil will get good results, but harder ground may pose too much of a challenge.

Pros

  • Ergonomic and practical design that allows you to pull soil with minimum effort
  • Smaller than others on the market so can be used in narrow spaces between plants
  • Suitable for both left and right handed users

Cons

  • Not intended for heavy use, as tines may break if put under excessive pressure
  • The narrow design means it’s slightly harder to get a foot onto it to dig
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Kent and Stowe Carbon Steel Border ForkKent and Stowe Carbon Steel Border Fork

Best budget border fork

Design
Comfort
Durability
Value for Money
Overall
4.45
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Kent and Stowe Carbon Steel Border Fork Review

Specifications

  • Handle Shape: Wishbone handle
  • Weight: 1.82 kg
  • Length: 105 cm
  • Width: 17 cm
  • No. of Tines: 4
  • Tine Length: 30 cm

One recurring problem with garden forks is their lack of durability – the tines and shafts aren’t always able to hack the pressure we need them to.

This Kent and Stowe Carbon Steel Border Fork is more durable than most, with a carbon steel head, wooden shaft and long crank. Its tines are much less susceptible to bending, meaning it can be used in ground where there may perhaps be a few larger stones lurking, without breaking on contact.

The crank, which is the metal socket where the shaft joins with the head, is a lot bigger than that on most forks, resulting in a stronger construction that can stand up to more pressure. This seems to make the fork able to hack tougher jobs than other weaker models, turning soil which contains bricks and stones, as well as soil that is more compacted.

If you’re aiming to prepare planting beds, dig out roots, or battle tougher clay-based soil, this is a good tool to have in the armoury.

At 1.82 kg, it’s still lightweight despite by no means being the lightest fork featured here. It strikes a good balance, able to be used for bigger, heavier jobs, yet limiting the amount of soil picked up each time thanks to its size. As a border fork, it has a narrower head than a digging fork so it doesn’t move as much soil, keeping the weight down, but is still hardy enough to be used on tougher tasks.

It can be harder to get a foot onto the head, due to its smaller size, especially for those with larger feet. This can make it a little harder to push down with force, compared to some wider forks.

Pros

  • Extremely versatile - suitable for cultivation, soil turning, aerating and breaking up soil
  • Long shaft offers ample leverage during tougher digging jobs
  • Carbon steel preferable to stainless steel due to its strength and durability
  • Perfectly balanced for comfortable usage

Cons

  • Shaft length may be a little long for shorter users
  • The narrow design means it’s slightly harder to get a foot onto it to dig in tougher patches
  • Heavier than others on the market at 1.8 kg - although not too bad
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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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