This simple and primitive looking tool, the Broadfork, is one I highly recommend every garden. The Broadfork is used to loosen and aerate soil without causing disturbance to the beneficial organisms and ecology in your soil layers. I prefer using a Broadfork over using a rototiller any day. I find the Broadfork to be in alignment with my gardening philosophy, which is; observe, learn, then do only that which sustains all beneficial life-forms in the garden, and whenever possible avoid using things that keep us dependent on outside sources (such as: gas, oil, manufactured equipment that can and will breakdown). The Broadfork is going to out-live any rototiller and it does not require any form of energy once it’s manufactured, other than your own – which makes it useful in weight-control and provides many other health benefits.
Using a Broadfork will also not allow weed seeds, which are hidden in your soil to come close to the surface of the soil and germinate; which is always the reality when using a rototiller or double-digging.
The Broadfork is a European designed tool, I prefer the ones sold at Johnny’s Select Seeds because they are a much better design; Eliot Coleman (my all-time favorite gardener/farmer and author of Four Season Harvest) developed the ones Johnny’s sells.
After using the Broadfork, as shown in this video from Johnny’s, you would gently rake in your soil amendments (lime, manure, kelp, phosphate, etc. depending on what you soil test reveals is required for your garden) into the top couple inches of your garden beds.
Using the Broadfork should feel comfortable. If it’s not adjust what you’re doing. Mostly, the effort comes from your body weight (when you press it into the soil by standing on it), and when you step backwards (bringing the Broadfork back towards your body at a 30 degree angle). You need not lift the Broadfork high before dragging it back 6 inches and repeating the same procedure over and over.
Now you’re ready to plant your seeds!
Over time your soil will become softer, have better drainage, better texture and structure, and the beneficial organisms will absolutely love what you’re doing!
Garden Tip: I find it easier to use a Broadfork in gardens that do NOT have boundaries (such as wood, plastic, rocks, etc.) which are commonly used to create raised-beds. I also do NOT recommend making ‘Bottle-Garden” beds as the use of glass in any type of garden food production area is very dangerous at best, try using a Broadfork around glass bottles framing the beds and you’ll quickly hurt yourself or remove the bottles! Also, know that over time using the Broadfork will give your garden beds that ‘raised’ look because the soil where you garden will not be walked on like your paths. So save yourself time and money and do not frame your beds!
More tips on gardening tools…