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How to choose the best fork for you

Shop for Garden Forks

Researching any topic can be daunting and the garden fork is no exception. This section summarises the main points to consider when buying a fork. As we have seen, there is no clear-cut answer.  It depends on your frame and the task you wish to do. To summarise, there are four main factors to consider that will contribute to the functionality of the fork and your physical well-being.

1. Match your strength

If don't need spinach and you're strong already, go for a robust, all steel fork. If you’re not particularly powerful, then opt for a border fork with a narrower head and a shorter shaft that won’t wear you out during prolonged periods of digging.

For a stronger person, a wider head and a longer shaft will stand up to the test of time while offering maximum performance.

2. Match your height

Don't struggle with a fork that is too long or too short.

Someone tall using a short fork

It’s a backache waiting to happen. Opt for a fork of around 1m (42 inches) plus in length.

Likewise, someone small using a long fork

The base of the shaft is harder to reach so you will not be able to lift without straining.

For petite frames, an overall length of 935mm (36 inches) is suitable. The ideal length of a shovel should be mid-chest height.

3. Match your hands

No need for blisters anymore! Most forks are fitted with a D or a T-grip at the end of the shaft. Either style offers support, however, if you have very small or very large hands, you may find the T-grip a better choice.

Alternatively, the O-shaped grip offers plenty of room for large hands while matching the curve of your palms, hence maximising your comfort.

The ergonomic fork says 'Grip me too hard and I'll squash your thumb.' And if you have ever suffered from arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome, you will recognise the need for comfort. An ergonomically shaped handle grip is a must!

Look for cushioned grips which are tilted forward slightly to keep your wrist in a neutral position. This will avoid wrist and hand strain.

4. Match the task

This is ideal for moving loose or fine material

Consider the number and shape of tines in relation to the task

For example,  a fork with as many as ten rounded tines in a basket shape is ideal for scooping loose or fibrous material such as shredded bark, mulch and compost.

However, its design would not be sufficient when digging and cutting into hard soils.

Which material you choose depends on what your needs are. Check the pros and cons of each material before you make up your mind.

Consider the material the shaft is made from

A choice of wood, fibreglass or steel will usually make up the shaft.  All three materials offer quality, performance and a long life although each have their own pros and cons.

For instance, fibreglass is weatherproof and resistant to splintering and rusting unlike wood.   However, wood is lightweight, reduces shock and vibrations, and is supple enough to eventually mould to your grip.

It’s all about finding the right balance.

Two steel straps secured to a wooden shaft with rivets

How is the blade attached to the shaft?

If your budget allows, choose either a solid socket or a strapped connection over an open socket as both connections will stand up to continuous, heavy-duty use.

 

Consider the length of the shaft for the task

For raking up decaying leaves from your garden or spreading compost, an extra-long fork will save you hours of bending over whereas a border fork is perfect for working in small areas or in a greenhouse.  

 
Forks with different functions

And finally…

…if your budget allows, invest in multiple models with varied applications in mind.