What's a Broadfork and Why You Need One

The broadfork is one of the simplest but most effective tools on our market garden. Derived from the french tool 'la grelinette' or often known as the 'U-Fork' it is symbollic of market gardening where hand tools are the primary tools used when growing food.

In this article we will go through what a broadfork is, what a broadfork is for, and why you need a broadfork in your market garden, garden, allotment or farm.

Plus we will take you through the options we have including two different types of broadfork and the new exciting 'Trident' broadfork which is perfect for homegrowers and allotment growers too.


So What Is a Broadfork?

The broadfork is a two handled hand tool which allows the user to loosen and aerate deeply compacted soil without bringing the lower layers to the surface. The tool is perfect for those growers who want to work with minimum-till or no-dig as the tool does not "invert the soil", which keeps the soil structure in place whilst allowing space for deep roots to develop.

The fork section has a U-Shape, with tines normally around 30cm long spaced across the horizontal bar. The amount of tines is based upon how wide the broadfork is. For example the standard 65cm width broadfork has 5 tines, which works a standard 75cm wide bed over in one pass.

The fork then has two handles attached to it that come right up to chest height of most users, so that the fork can be stood on to push it in the ground and then levered back to the required angle to aerate the soil.

Broadforks are made as strong as possible so that they can push through and lever the heaviest and most compact soils, allowing us to regenerate soils that haven't been looked after. The handles are removable and sold separately so that they can be replaced, whilst the broadfork head lives on.


What Does a Broadfork Do? Why Do I Need a Broadfork?

It is now widely understood that inverting the soil breaks down the soil structure and interupts the soil food web that is the natural symbiosis of how soil microbiolody feeds our plants and vice versa. We now understand that items like the conventional or mechanical plough invert soils and destroy this relationship.

Maintaining this soil food web and the structure beneath our feet is essential for food growing whilst also working with nature and the environment. Undistrubed soil structure allows for free movement of worms, bacteria and beneficial fungi that our soils and our veg plants need.

Every time we use a plough or "double dig" our veg growing spaces, we break down this relationship and destroy the homes of all this beneficial nature. This means you are "starting again" each time you do so, and this is how we end up having to feed beds with artificial or chemical fertilisers, end up having to use pesticides as we have destroyed the homes of beneficial insects and generally spiral into intervention at all stages of growing food.

However the broadfork gives us the best of both worlds, it allows us to intervene a little by aerating the soil... without disturbing the soil structure and inverting the soil. This means the food web and habitats of beneficial nature remains. Whilst also giving space in compacted soil for roots to develop and grow down.

This also allows us to give food growing its best chance in heavy soils whilst also following the methods of minimum tillage or no dig growing. We will get the benefits of not bringing weed seeds up to the surface (which happens when inverting soil) and therefore end up weeding less too.



What Options and How Much Does a Broadfork Cost?

An added benefit is just how cost effective a broadfork is, not only are they made so strong that the heads will outlive us growers.. but also the original cost is miles lower than the cost of machinery, tillers or rotavators. Plus it is people powered and with the cost of fuel currently across the world none of us need another expense like that.

We currently have a range of three different broadforks available, two full sized market garden scale broadforks and a lighter option which is perfect for the allotment or home grower.


The Round Tined Broadfork:


This 2' wide tool features 12" long teeth spaced 4" apart which boast a parabolic curve enabling the fork to be used with an easy rolling motion.

Each of these Broadforks are handmade for us in Sussex and is available with or without handles that come in two lengths. Replacement handles are also available separately.

Cost of Broadfork Head: £179 +VAT


The Green Tech Tools Flat Tine Broadfork:

This Broadfork is fairly light, weighing only 6 kilograms together with handles, the design uses five laser cut metal tines made from flat steel, rather than thick round tines. The tines are protruding all the way through the shaft and are welded from both sides for additional strength.

It is 65 cm wide so you can work a standard 75 cm garden bed in one pass.

Cost of Broadfork Head: £153 +VAT


The Trident:

Trident is the smaller broadfork’s fierce cousin that was designed for lighter body weight gardeners, but also for cases of heavily compacted soils. With less tines it protrudes soil easier and gets the job done in the heaviest of soils and the smallest of spaces.

The Trident Broadfork Head: £75 +VAT.


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