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.
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