Though you may be like some gardeners who love to hoard gadgets, it is possible to achieve most gardening goals with a basic set of tools. Among these, one of the most essential gardening implements is the trusty garden fork.
A garden fork is a must-have tool to help you dig up weeds, loosen dirt, and remove old, diseased, or dead plants. A garden fork is also well suited for transplanting established plants from one area to another.
A garden fork can also be used to turn a compost pile—just use a long-handled fork and gardening gloves to avoid getting your hands dirty. In this guide, we’ll review some of the best garden fork options available to make gardening tasks more productive.
- BEST OVERALL: True Temper 4-Tine Forged Spading Fork
- BEST BUDGET: Fiskars Fiberglass D-Handle Fork , Heavy Duty
- BEST ERGONOMIC: Radius Garden 204 PRO Stainless Steel Border Fork
- BEST BORDER FORK: Spear & Jackson Select Stainless Border Fork
- BEST BROADFORK: Bully Tools Broadfork with Fiberglass Handles
- BEST HAND FORK: Flexrake Classic Hand Fork
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Fiskars Ergo D-handle Steel Garden Fork
- MOST VERSATILE: Edward Tools Hoe and Cultivator Hand Tiller
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Garden Fork
Among common garden tools, forks are one of the most versatile. Gardeners can use a single fork for digging, turning, weeding, transplanting, and even aerating the lawn. There is also the sheer variety of garden forks to consider. To help you choose the best garden fork for your outdoor chores, we will look at what sets them apart from one another and the main strengths of each type.
There are six types of gardening forks, each of which serves a variety of purposes:
- Standard garden forks usually have four square or round tines. These garden forks are designed to root around in the soil and move dirt, compost, or mulch as needed. They have a slight curve to make it easier to scoop dirt as you fork through it.
- Digging forks are meant for penetrating the soil and are ideal for loosening compacted earth. These garden forks usually have between four and six tines with no curvature.
- Spading forks are much like garden forks and are often called digging forks. They have four often flat-faced tines that may be shorter and more robust than those on other forks for heavier digging work.
- Border forks are usually smaller, lightweight versions of the standard garden fork, designed for working in confined spaces like flower borders, or for incorporating compost into ground that is already well dug. Historically they have also been called ladies’ forks.
- Broad forks often have five or more tines and two separate pole handles that provide a great deal of leverage. They may be used for lawn aerating or to dig over a vegetable plot.
- Hand forks are compact tools suitable for loosening up small patches of dirt around small plants and seedlings, as well as digging up weeds. These garden forks typically have three tines.
Durability is a key feature of garden forks, which often get little care and can be left out in all types of weather. Additionally, most have to withstand considerable leverage forces. If the fork shaft breaks, it is not only inconvenient but could also result in back strain or other injury.
The tines and the back of the fork are typically steel, though the type of steel can vary. Stainless steel is strong and resists corrosion. Boron steel is very hard. Hand forks might be pressed from a steel sheet as an entire piece. Larger forks frequently have either forged steel tines or welded tines for additional strength.
Traditionally, shafts and handles were made from hardwood, which costs less than other materials and feels good in the hand. Unfortunately, wood can split if you do not care for it properly. As a result, many modern garden forks have steel, fiberglass, or polypropylene shafts and handles, which are both stronger and less affected by damp or cold. A solid steel shaft usually has some kind of plastic or resin cover for added comfort.
A quick glance at many garden forks will reveal that handles come in different shapes. Additionally, a line drawn from the handle, down the shaft, and through the tines is often far from straight. Each of these elements affects ergonomics, which in turn influences both user comfort and the power generated.
T-shape and D-shape handles are common, though the former is more often found on garden spades and shovels. The D shape has long been the standard for a firm grip and easy turning. The handles often tilt forward slightly to reduce wrist strain. More recently, O-shape handles have appeared; their makers claim they reduce stress on the wrist and hands, though gardeners might need some time getting used to gripping them.
Shafts often have a slight bend near the bottom to aid leverage. Tines may also have a forward curve, which can help with lifting, though straight versions are often considered stronger.
Length and Weight
Length can be important for ergonomics and effectiveness; the best length depends on the type of fork and the work most often being done. A border fork is often a little shorter at around 36 to 38 inches and relatively light, so it is easier to maneuver in and around plantings. These garden forks aren’t designed for heavy digging.
Many of the standard garden forks we looked at are around 40 inches long. This doesn’t seem much larger than a border fork, but it’s an important difference if digging for longer periods. While 40 inches is considered a good average, taller gardeners or farmers might want a longer fork, and we have seen models up to 53 inches. It is very much a question of personal preference.
Whether the weight of a garden fork makes much difference will depend on how well it is designed and the physicality of the user. Border forks with wooden handles are usually among the lightest. A stainless steel garden fork is often seen as a sign of quality, though these tend to be heaviest. However, if the ergonomics are good and the tool is comfortable to use, the actual weight will have minimal impact.
Our Top Picks
Read on for recommendations on reliable, top-performing gardening forks. To make your shopping experience easier, the following list features a mix of products in various shapes and sizes. There is sure to be a tool suitable for most purposes and budgets.
This American-made garden fork from True Temper is evidence that you don’t need to spend a lot of money for a tool that holds up to plenty of outdoor chores. It’s specially designed for breaking up tough, compacted soil that is heavy with clay.
The True Temper digging fork contains four rigid, diamond-pointed steel tines that won’t break under pressure. A poly D-grip handle makes the fork easy to control and adds leverage. The 30-inch hardwood handle provides enough length for comfort. This fork is useful for a variety of gardening tasks like turning compost, aerating soil, and digging up dirt.
- Type: Spading fork
- Length: 46 inches
- Weight: 3.9 pounds
- Forged tines for strength
- Durable ergonomic grip
- Light and maneuverable
- May be too long for some
- U.S. assembly, but Chinese components
This long-handled, 45-inch Fiskars garden fork comes at an affordable price point, a plus for those who might need a garden fork only occasionally or for jobs like turning compost or loosening soil in a few garden beds. It’s also made with comfort in mind. The fiberglass handle is strong but helps keep the fork affordable and light. A D-handle design helps keep a gardener’s wrist in a neutral position during use to reduce strain.
Even though this garden fork won’t set your budget back, it is durable enough to hold up. The tines are made of powder-coated steel to prevent rust buildup and keep soil from sticking to the surface.This product from Fiskars is durable and will last through years of dedicated gardening.
- Type: Standard garden fork
- Length: 45 inches
- Weight: 4.3 pounds
- A brand known for high quality
- D handle adds to comfort
- Low cost
- Fiberglass handles can be brittle
- Rust-resistant finish prone to wear
If your current go-to tool has seen better days, consider replacing it with this modern garden fork from Radius Garden. This four-tine fork can help you move dead leaves, aerate and loosen soil, dig up potatoes and bulbs, and turn compost. Some of these chores require working in tight spaces, and the seamless design, modest length and handle help gardeners maneuver around plants and structures.
With the circular handle, it is easy to grip in different spots and change leverage or strain for better ergonomics. The handle and a spot midway down the shaft are covered in thermoplastic elastomer for added comfort. This gardening fork is incredibly durable, built with stainless steel tines and a resin-encased carbon steel shaft. The fork has an extra-wide forward, allowing you to cover more ground in less time, another ergonomic bonus.
- Type: Digging fork
- Length: 41 inches
- Weight: 4.9 pounds
- Handle design minimizes hand and wrist stress
- Rust-resistant stainless steel tines
- Tough steel shaft
- A little heavy
- Premium price
Leading British brand Spear & Jackson has been making garden tools for more than 250 years. Its high-quality border fork has rust-resistant stainless steel tines that have been mirror-polished to shed dirt. The fork has a tough, impact-absorbing polypropylene shaft with the handle molded in as a single piece. This removes a common point of weakness.
Ergonomics are a key element. The tool is relatively light, and the handle tilts forward slightly to maximize leverage. The fork is a little shorter than a standard garden fork, and the head is narrow to allow good maneuverability around plants. The Spear & Jackson border fork is nevertheless very strong, and it exceeds British standards for testing forks, shovels, and spades.
- Type: Border fork
- Length: 38 inches
- Weight: 3.9 pounds
- High quality throughout
- Strong stainless steel tines
- Molded shaft and handle
- For light digging only
- Tines occasionally prone to bending
Tackle the same tasks as you would with a standard garden fork, but on a larger scale with this broad digging fork from Bully Tools. You can complete the same garden chores with this broad garden fork as with a narrower tool, but in less time. Broadforks are also useful as potato forks, which were once a popular alternative but are now seldom seen.
With heavy-duty fiberglass handles, 10-gauge steel tines, and commercial-grade construction, this tool is durable and will last for years. The 42.25-inch handles are detachable for convenient storage.
- Type: Broadfork
- Length: 42.25 inches
- Weight: 11.8 pounds
- Excellent tool for large-scale digging
- Tough triple-wall fiberglass handles
- Very good leverage
- Relatively heavy
The classic hand fork design has changed little over generations because it is efficient and versatile. This one from Flexrake uses heavy-gauge carbon steel for the tines so they won’t bend easily. It is welded to a shaft that fits within a traditional hand-turned oak handle.
With a weight of under 8 ounces, the Flexrake classic hand fork lets gardeners work all day without undue strain. Overall size offers a good balance between the dexterity needed for setting out young plants and the strength needed for weeding around established shrubs. However, it is not a tool for heavily compacted clay soils, and excess force can cause the shaft to bend.
- Type: Hand fork
- Length: 10 inches
- Weight: 7.2 ounces
- Classic, efficient design
- Heavy-duty steel tines
- Comfortable oak handle
- Handle needs oiling occasionally
- Shaft may bend
When there’s heavy-duty digging to be done, in hard clay or stony soil, the Fiskars Ergo is a prime candidate for the job. The welded boron steel used for the tines is particularly hard. It is unlikely to bend or be deflected, even when driven into the toughest soils. The tines combine with a steel shaft that offers greater strength and durability than wood or fiberglass.
The handle is also steel and is encased in plastic to provide comfort and a sure grip. It is angled to improve leverage while minimizing the pressure on the hand and wrist. A further grip area on the shaft is there for maximum control, allowing the user to get good lifting power from the longer-than-average shaft.
- Type: Garden fork
- Length: 47 inches
- Weight: 4.6 pounds
- Very strong boron steel construction
- Length allows tremendous leverage
- Good ergonomics maximize performance
- Will be too long for some
- Powder coating likely to wear eventually
If you’re a minimalist gardener or someone without much storage space, you might gravitate toward multipurpose tools. This garden fork from Edward Tools serves as both a hand tiller and a hoe, so you only need to carry around one tool for multiple jobs.
The two-sided garden fork and hoe features carbon steel blades and a grippy rubber handle. The fork is ideal for tackling tasks in the summer vegetable or flower garden. When you need just one hand tool to handle multiple tasks while tending your garden, this one is easy to carry along.
- Type: Combination tool
- Length: 15 inches
- Weight: 13.6 ounces
- Great versatility
- Durable high-carbon steel
- Rubber-covered grip absorbs impact
- Handle needs oiling occasionally
- Some reports of broken tines
The True Temper spading fork is an impressive all-around tool that combines traditional and modern materials, and it should provide many years service. The Fiskars fiberglass garden fork is an acceptable budget alternative for occasional use, but it’s less comfortable over long periods.
How We Chose the Best Garden Forks
We have wide experience with a variety of garden tools. We also conducted considerable research to ensure we were aware of any recent developments in material technologies and ergonomics.
The wide variety of forks available, from hand forks to broadforks, allows buyers to choose the best garden fork for particular tasks. For this reason, it was important we offered a full range of options.
Value for money is also a key issue, and we tried to offer a representative selection. It was important to maintain quality, and so while we investigated budget brands, we largely picked well-known manufacturers with a proven reputation for quality and durability.
We hope that the above information has provided you with lots of valuable information. Our top picks provide excellent examples of the best garden forks available, which should make it easier to find the one you need. During our research, a number of questions came up often. While these may have been answered above, we’ve collected them here for your convenience.
Q: What is the difference between a pitchfork and a garden fork?
A pitchfork isn’t a digging tool but is used for lifting straw, hay, grass, etc., either loose or as bales. It can also be used for clearing manure and bedding from stables, for example. It usually has a longer handle to maximize leverage and two or three slender tines. A garden fork is shorter and normally has four tines, which are thicker and stronger for digging. Garden forks are sometimes called pitchforks, though that isn’t really correct.
Q: What is the difference between a border fork and a digging fork?
A digging fork is a general-purpose tool. A border fork is a smaller, lighter version that is easier to use if space is restricted, which is often the case in a border filled with flowers and shrubs.
Q: How do I choose a garden fork?
Consider how often you will use the garden fork, typical tasks you might need to complete, and budget. You also might want to look at length and weight, especially if physicality, ergonomics, or height are issues.
Q: How do you rotate soil with a garden fork?
Push the tines in with your foot, pull the handle back to lever the soil loose, and then break up clumps by striking them with the back of the fork. If the soil is compacted or heavy clay, attempting to move too much could strain your back. Work 6 inches of soil at a time.
Q: Should you oil a garden fork?
Boiled linseed oil rubbed into wooden fork handles with a rag will feed the wood and shed water so the handles last longer. Wiping a little of the oil over metal parts will help to prevent rust. Though not as good for the wood, light machine oil could also be used.
Q: Can you sharpen a garden fork?
Unlike a garden spade, which can benefit from periodic sharpening, there is seldom a need to sharpen a garden fork. Sharp tines do make working soil easier, but they are usually very durable and wear very little. If you feel the need to sharpen a garden fork, a file or handheld grindstone will do the job.