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When would you use a fork over a spade?

Shop for Garden Forks

Both used for digging but with obvious differences Garden tools such as forks and spades (or shovels specially designed for digging) are like members of the same family. They share many of the same traits but have their own features too.

The most important distinction between these two members of the digging family are the tines.

The tines allow the fork to be pushed more easily into the ground. It is said that tools are like extensions of your hands. Make no exception with a digging fork – the tines are like super-strength fingers!

A fork can penetrate much harder soils than a spade because the pressure is transmitted through the tines.

Without delving too much into the maths, pressure is the force per unit area.

The pressure is greater over a smaller area Okay…let’s put it in a way we can understand.

Which would be the most painful?  A person stepping on your foot with a high heeled shoe?

Or a flat shoe…

 Wonkee Donkee say 'You don't have to ask me twice?'
...whereas it is dispersed equally across the entire sole of the flat shoe. Don’t try this at home!  Of course, it is going to be the stiletto.

The reason for this is because the pressure of the flat shoe wearer’s weight (the force) is distributed across the larger sole of the flat shoe and therefore will hurt less.

Whereas the area of the high heel is far smaller than the flat shoe and the same amount of weight is concentrated on one particular spot.  Ouch!

The same principle applies to the tines of a fork. Rather than being spread out equally across a blade, the force is channelled into four smaller areas, the tines.

So why use a spade then?

When would you use a fork over a spade? Well, there are specially designed digging shovels such as a taper mouth shovel or a rabbiting spade, which can dig as well as any fork.

But first, let’s examine the advantages of a fork over a spade.

This allows better air circulation to improve the soil The tines allow the fork to be pushed more easily into hard, compacted ground.

A fork can is also better at turning over and aerating soils (perforating the soil with small holes) to allow better air circulation.

A fork reduces the risk of damage to earth worms It can rake out stones and weeds as well as breaking up clumps of soil and there is less risk of cutting through roots or root crops…

…or through worms.

A spade and fork gift set to help persuade any soil to produce a garden! It is important to remember that a fork and a spade complement each other. If your budget allows, treat yourself to both.

They are also available as gift sets.

Using a spade with a straight edge to dig neat borders

Spades or specially designed shovels are best for:

  • Digging, especially in sandy or loamy (medium textured and easy to cultivate) soils
  • Moving larger quantities of bulk material
  • Digging straight-edged, neat trenches for flower beds and vegetable patches as well as shaping edges on a lawn
Removing weeds with a digging fork

Forks are best for:

  • Digging, especially in sticky or clay like soil
  • Breaking up, turning over and aerating soils
  • Lifting and pitching as well as turning over organic material such as compost
  • Harvesting root crops such a potatoes or large plants like leeks
  • Removing large weeds