As you become a more seasoned gardener, your gardening tool collection tends to grow. Generally, we all start out with the basics: a spade for big jobs, a trowel for small jobs, and, of course, pruners. While you could probably get by with just these three tools, they’re not always the most efficient for every gardening job. For example, have you ever tried to dig into rocky or extremely compacted, clay soil with a garden spade? It can be back-breaking work. Using a digging fork for a job like this can reduce much of the strain on your body and tools. Continue reading to learn when to use digging forks in garden projects.
Digging Fork Functions
There are a few different types of garden forks. Each type is made for specific purposes. The basic garden fork, or compost fork, is a large fork with four to eight tines shaped with a horizontal curve and a slight upward curve at the bottom of the tines. These forks are generally used to move compost, mulch, or soil. The curves in the tines help you scoop up a large heap of mulch or compost to spread it into the garden or turn and mix compost piles. This type of fork is more similar to a pitchfork.
A digging fork is a fork with four to six tines that are flat, with no curvatures. A digging fork’s function is just as its name suggests, for digging. When choosing between a digging fork vs. pitchfork or compost fork, a digging fork is the tool you want when you are digging into a compacted, clay, or rocky bed.
The strong tines of the digging fork are able to penetrate problem soils that a spade can have trouble cutting into. The digging fork can be used to “dig” up the ground or simply loosen up the area before digging with a spade. Either way, using a digging fork will reduce the strain on your body.
Naturally, if you are using a digging fork for tough jobs like this, you need a strong, well-constructed digging fork. A digging fork constructed out of steel is always the best option. Usually, it is the actual tines and fork part that is made of steel, while the shaft and handles are made from fiberglass or wood to make the tool more lightweight. Digging fork shafts and handles may also be constructed of steel but are heavier. Digging fork shafts come in different lengths and their handles come in different styles, such as D-shaped, T-shaped, or just a long shaft with no specific handle.
As with any tool, you should select the proper one based on your body type and what feels the most comfortable to you. For example, if you are short, you will have an easier time using a digging fork with a shorter handle. Likewise, if you are tall, a longer shaft will create less strain on your back.
What is a Digging Fork Used for in Gardens?
Digging forks are also used to dig up plants with tough, massive root structures. These can be garden plants that you intend to transplant or divide or patches of pesky weeds. The tines of digging forks can cause less damage to root structures, allowing you to get out more roots than you can with a spade.
For garden plants, this reduces the stress of transplanting. For weeds, this can help you get out all the roots, so they don’t return later. When using a digging fork to dig up plants, you can use it in combination with a spade, using the digging fork to loosen up the soil around the plants and roots, then completing the task with a spade. Or you can simply do the whole job just with a digging fork. It will be up to you which way is easiest.