If you have flower beds or are working on a vegetable garden, a garden fork is an essential tool every amateur or experienced gardener needs. One may be forgiven for thinking that a garden fork is just one simple tool, but not all garden forks are the same. There are many different types to choose from, but the main two are a border fork and garden fork. Here we will focus on the garden fork.

If you need to dig around a vegetable bed, dig undisturbed soil, or dig heavy soil such as clay, a garden fork is ideal. A good one will help you cope with most gardening jobs. Garden forks tend to be made of carbon steel or stainless steel. The handles are usually made of polypropylene, aluminium or wood. 

image of gardener using garden fork

What Is A Garden Fork?

A garden fork, also known as a spading fork or digging fork is a gardening implement, with a handle and several short, sturdy “tines.” A common tool in most gardens, it is used for loosening, lifting and turning over soil. It is similar to a spade, but the tines allow the implement to be pushed easily into the ground which you can use to rake out stones and weeds and break up clods. While garden forks were made of wood once upon a time, they are now made of carbon steel or stainless steel.

It is important to note that garden forks are different from pitchforks, which are used for moving materials like hay, compost, or manure. Garden forks, by comparison, have a fairly short handle, with a “D” or “T” end (the “D” end allows you to put your hand through the handle, whereas the “T” end is more like a handle). Their tines are usually shorter, flatter, thicker, and more closely spaced than a pitchfork.

Choosing a garden fork for your needs all depends on your size. If you choose a garden fork with a “D” end, this can be uncomfortable, whereas choosing one with a “T” end can make life a lot easier, especially if you have larger hands. It’s also important to choose a garden fork that’s relative to your height. If you are tall you should choose a longer, garden fork (a 72 cm shaft should be ideal) as this will minimise strain on your back. 

The garden fork you settle upon depends on your needs and the style. For example, if you find you have a lot of digging to do, picking an ergonomic design with the right length is advised. But if you prefer a traditional tool, a fork with a wooden handle will suit you. A digging fork tends to be suitable if you have large areas to dig and you are a medium to large build. 

Picking a garden fork isn’t necessarily so simple, as it depends on the soil you are working with, just how much work you intend on doing, and how long you need the tool to last. While many first-time gardeners think that any garden fork will be okay, it depends on the following components that make up a garden fork: 

The tines and head

Probably the most important part of a good garden fork. For general usage, a digging fork with a forged steel head is the best choice. 

Tine shape

If you are using your garden fork for digging or turning the soil over, look for a garden fork that has flat-faced tines. Choosing flat-faced tines will make it much easier for you to lift and turn the soil, aerate it, mixing in manure or compost, and digging items up. The most common garden fork has four tines, although some digging forks have more, but are thinner and blunt on the end and are usually used for harvesting.

The handle

The right handle can make all the difference. For most, a standard 30-inch long handle is ideal and comes in hardwood, fibreglass, or steel handle material. Wood is usually your best choice as there is very little give in it, letting you work heavier loads without breaking the handle. Fibreglass handles help with light-duty work, but are not recommended for heavier tasks. Steel handles are almost impossible to break but can be prone to rust unless they are coated resin. 

Handle shape

As mentioned, they come in “T” or “D” shapes. A “D”-handle can be easier to control and use. “T”-handles tend to break more easily and can be harder to use, but it’s a matter of personal preference. 


Best Type Of Garden Fork For Clay Soil 

If you are working with clay soil, the best type of garden fork is stainless steel. This is useful because the soil does not stick to them as easily. Stainless steel tools, in general, are incredibly useful for working in the garden because they are very durable and tend to last the longest. As these do not rust or corrode as easily as other metals, it is a very valuable material when working with a sticky material like clay soil. 

Best Type Of Garden Fork For Mulch 

As mulch is, by its very nature, a mixed bag of materials, so it’s crucial to have something sturdy. A long handled-fork is crucial if you are digging deep, but if you are looking to move a lot of mulch, you need a carbon steel mulch fork. 

Best Type Garden Fork For Aeration

A standard garden fork is not recommended if you want to relieve the compaction and promote healthy roots. A hollow-tine fork will work best. It is just like a normal fork but with hollow prongs. A hollow tine aerating fork is a great tool and reasonably cheap to purchase.

As you can see, choosing a garden fork isn’t about picking one at random; it all depends on your specific needs, as well as your personal build. If you are looking to get started in gardening you can choose a standard garden fork. But for those people looking to completely renovate a garden but also find something that’s a useful tool, there are different materials, sizes, and designs.