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What are Gardening Forks?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 16, 2024
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When speaking of a hand tool, a fork is an implement with tines aligned with the handle, used for digging, lifting, tossing, and working soil, There are a variety of forks that can be useful in a garden, and both the terms gardening fork and garden fork are used to describe a category of tools as well as a specific tool. Some gardeners use a single fork for various garden tasks, while others prefer to have several specifically designed tools. Here are some of the various, highly useful types of gardening fork:

Border fork. A border fork is a flat-tined gardening fork used for digging, often made with a tee-shaped handle. Border fork is also a British term used for a potato fork or garden fork.

Cultivating fork. This gardening fork has the head fastened at a 90º angle to the handle, making it look something like a three-tined hoe. Unlike three-pronged cultivators, which have curved prongs, a cultivating fork has broad and straight tines and can chop weeds.

Digging fork. A digging fork is a multipurpose gardening fork used for turning soil and working compost into the soil. It can also be used like a potato fork for harvesting root vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, and onions.

Flower fork. This is a shorter-tined general purpose gardening fork that digs to only a moderate depth, ideal for tilthing, breaking up surface clods in soil that's been initially dug. The practice of tilthing was popularized by Alan Chadwick, founder of biodynamic/French intensive gardening.

Pitchfork. A pitchfork is a three-tined fork, the outer edge of which is shaped like the letter U. It is used for pitching or tossing hay or other light material. It has obvious agricultural use for pitching hay, but as a gardening fork, it can be useful for spreading mulch, among other tasks.

Potato fork. A heavy gardening fork with flat, long tines, the potato fork is used to scoop and separate potatoes from the dirt; the potatoes are caught on the tines without being damaged, and the dirt falls through. This must be done carefully. The same technique can be used to harvest parsnips, carrots, and beets. Sometimes this fork is referred to as a root and potato fork.

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Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for HomeQuestionsAnswered, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
By John57 — On Jul 02, 2011

When I planted a large circular flower bed in my front yard, I used a pitchfork to scatter the mulch. This required several bags of mulch and the pitchfork worked better than any of the other garden tools I had.

Once I dumped the mulch out of the bag, I used the pitchfork to spread it around and even it out. You want one where the tines are not too far apart or the mulch will just slip right through.

By bagley79 — On Jul 01, 2011

There are certain times of the season that I use my garden digging fork more than others, but I would not be without it. It is perfect in the spring when you need to break up the soil after winter. I find this much easier to use than a hoe or long handled tool.

I also use a cultivating fork when I want to dig up bulbs after they have died back. If I want to transfer the bulbs to a cool, dry place for winter, the garden fork makes this an easy job.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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