I started growing veges while recovering from a back injury. I was limited to the amount of work I could handle with a spade, fork, rake because I’d be laid up for days with pain. Only when Eliot Colemans classic book “The New Organic Grower” was recommended to me, I found a tool that let me think of growing more than 10 square meters. It only took fifteen minutes with a Broadfork in my hands to start dreaming of growing better veges full-time!
Sorry, did you say –
“What on earth is a Broadfork??”
The broadfork is an old dutch tool for building better crops from the soil up! It makes the job of soil preparation short and safe! Its a tool that you’ll write into your will for the next generation! Lets have a closer look at one:
– So, what you get with these tools is five (or seven) super strong tines that can penetrate eleven inches!
– Tines mounted on a footbar designed to use body-weight and gravity to get the fork all-the-way-in! And uses leverage to do all the hard work!
– Sturdy uprights and a cross-bar handle that suits the natural arc of the tool in your hand to keep you working longer.
– The tines are staggered lengths so that if they hit clay, they wont bring up too much, or get ‘bogged’ – the stagger really helps fracture the soil as you make each pull.
– It’s a tool that can aerate, and break up compacted layers of soil, while working a surprisingly large volume of soil at each ‘bite’. It will heal over-tilled soils in time.
But you already have a traditional ‘garden-fork’ -what’s so bad with it?
– It wont work as much dirt as deeply, and only works a third the width.
– It relies on your shoulders, hands and back to be in dangerous positions when being used for long periods. Every cubic centimeter of soil must be lifted by the poor user!
– Cheap steel tines will bend if you catch any kind of root, or stone.
– Well over half the weight of a broadfork (5-tine) anyway! What good is that?
Believe me! It will save you sweat!
I got mine from Gundaroo Tiller, a small-farm tools outfit near Canberra. And through talking to Joyce Wilkie, the finer benefits started to appear, and my crops were responding great too! She pointed out that a Broadforks action wont invert, or turn-over soil as the “double-digging” methods that we were sold. Which means all our expensive and thoughtful fertilizing wont get buried deeply, where young roots cant get at it, where it would be highly diluted anyway. And when she pointed out that through aeration, Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide are major building blocks of every plant (O, C, H, Si have been said to make up nearly 98% of the physical plant structure!), And water infiltration is a major consideration to annual vege crops, I had a real hard time to do anything but listen to experience! And still the broadfork was up to the task!
Serious thanks to Mike and Joyce for their friendships, minds and hearts – and teaching me to use mine!
A year or two later, with permission, I started building my first broadforks after the Gundaroo Tiller pattern, to help bring this tool to South Australia. I now build tools for all kinds of folk, elderly, school-kids, community gardens, professional market gardeners, weekend warriors, and all use it just fine. I really get a kick out of sending these tools off, saving people work (and pain) so they can enjoy the fruits of their labours all the more!
Please Contact me if you want more information about Broadforks as a tool. I manufacture 2 variations:
5 tine broadfork, 45cm working width
– excels in tighter soils, or raised beds with defined edges
7 tine broadfork, 65cm working width
– BULK TILLAGE! yes, it’s the big one! for open fields and intensive bed production!