ISSUE 95  |  Southern Gothic

5 Favorites: The Dirt on Broadforks

October 30, 2013 5:00 PM

BY Erin Boyle

When you’re concerned about soil health, sometimes the best bet is to go back to the basics. Broadforks, also known as U-Bars, are a traditional hand tool enjoying something of a renaissance among farmers and gardeners committed to the health of their soil. 

The idea is simple: the long tines of the fork penetrate and aerate the soil, allowing room for roots to grow, without collapsing the soil the way a fuel-operated rototiller might. And unlike a traditonal garden fork, which requires the constant work of a gardener’s back and arm muscles, the broadfork makes use of the gardener’s weight. By standing on the cross bar, a gardener sinks the long tines into the soil and then uses a gentle rowing motion of the long handles to rock the tool back and forth in the soil. As a result, broadforks mean beautifully aerated soil, with minimum physical input. 

Here are five broadfork options that we have our eyes on this fall:

Above: Gulland Forge Broadforks are made by blacksmith Larry Cooper in a blacksmith shop that’s just feet from his own garden in North Carolina. This broadfork measures 17.5 inches across, with a penetration depth of 9 inches deep. The ash handles are 48 inches long; $185 from Gulland Forge.

Above: Johnny’s 727 Broadfork is a 27-inch-wide, seven-tined broadfork redeveloped by Four Season Farm’s Eliot Coleman; $199 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Johnny’s Broadforks are also available in 15-inch and 20-inch models. Made in Maine.

Above: The 4-Tine Standard Broadfork is a lightweight option from Valley Oak Tools. It measures 21.5 inches across with 18.5-inch tines; $180. Valley Oak Broadforks are also available in 5-tine and 4-tine narrow models. Made in California.


Above: A 14-Inch Meadow Creature Broadfork is made entirely of high-strength alloy steel. It measures 21 inches wide and has 14-inch tines; $199. Meadow Creature Broadforks are also available with 12-and 16-inch tines. Made in the US.

Above: Bully Tools Broadfork made with fiberglass handles is an affordable option at $79 from Gempler’s. Made in the USA.

Still searching for the right kind of help in the garden? See all of our posts on Garden Tools.