A high quality fork is one of the most essential gardening tools; I’m a firm believer that every gardener should have one of these in their garden shed!
There are a number 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 garden tools to use on heavy soil like clay. Four tines is usually sufficient, although a larger digging fork may have five.
Border forks are slightly smaller than garden forks. These are ideal for tighter spaces such as raised beds and borders. In general, they’re intended for more light duty work compared to bigger digging forks; however, their lightweight construction also makes them useful for smaller gardeners who don’t have the strength for a heavy fork.
If a border fork is made from carbon steel, it should be able to do a lot of the same heavy duty jobs – it’ll just take more time.
Choosing the Right Material
Most garden forks have tines made from carbon steel or stainless steel. The handles/shafts on these garden tools are generally made from either metal, wood or polypropylene.
Tines made from solid forged carbon steel are stronger than forged steel tines. However, they don’t have such good weather resistance. For this reason, 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 good 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. If the tines are made from mirror polished stainless steel, or have a hammered finish, this can also stop mud from sticking.
On the subject of tines – forks tend to have either round tines or flat tines. Flat faced tines are better suited to digging out plants (doing weeding, transplanting, etc.) whereas round, broad tines do a more effective job of aerating soil.
The traditional garden fork has a wooden shaft. The upside of this is that wood is a great shock absorber, making gardening more comfortable. However, the downside is that wood can rot and weaken over time. Wood is also heavier than polypropylene or metal. Using a fork with a wooden shaft for an extended period might end up being quite hard work compared to using a fork with a lighter handle.
Metal shafts more durable but they don’t offer nearly as much shock absorption. Polypropylene shafts are very lightweight and have good weather resistance, but they shouldn’t be used for heavy duty jobs because the plastic isn’t strong enough.
Shaft Length and Handle Design
Garden forks come with shafts of various lengths. In most cases, a fork that measures 100 cm from end to end will be ideal. The shaft section specifically will likely measure around 75 cm. Using a garden fork which is too short for you will hurt your back.
Many garden forks have a shaped handle to make them more comfortable. Commonly forks will have a D shaped handle or a T shaped handle. For most people, a rounded D shaped handle (or even O shaped handle) is more comfortable. However, if you have large hands, you may find a T shaped 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.
Back To Contents