Friday, April 6, 2012

Broadfork Gardening

This year we heavily amended our soil with composted horse manure and ground wood. Our pH is way too high and our acid levels need to come up, so we went crazy amending 3 inches deep over the entire garden. The question quickly became, how are we going to till this into the garden soil? Our friend rotary tilled the garden for us, but the tiller was only able to mix the wood and manure. We still hadn't penetrated the garden soil much at all. We went with a broadfork!


We did some research and found the video below on Youtube. We went with a small business called Valley Oak Tool Company in California (the owner is pictured in the video). The tool is made in the USA. As far as I can tell Valley Oak Tool engineered this broadfork themselves. We're completely thrilled with it! It has 12 inch tines (standard tillers reach only 3-5 inches). It is also distinctively stronger than other broadfork models. We've quickly learned that finding rocks and roots is easy to do! This model has gussets on each tine to resist bending. It's also 25 or 30 dollars less than other better known models. If you're interested in deep soil penetration we highly recommend this tool!



We really had no idea what a broadfork was until we read about it this year in Eliot Coleman's book, The New Organic Grower.  Coleman talks about the advantages of using a broadfork for deep soil penetration and aeration. We've also read plenty of good stuff about double digging on your blogs, but the labor and warnings we've read against disturbing or bringing deep soil to the surface have kept us from trying it. OK, OK, I admit it, it's just the labor! Double digging looks like very hard work!

Still, we had this dilemma in the garden. How can we get down to the garden soil below the deep layer of compost amendment? The broadfork solved our problem! In the picture immediately below you can see the amendment layer of compost, and below that, the garden soil that the broadfork easily pulled up. Check out the video below to see the tool in action in our garden. It's been a life saver for us this year!

3 inches of dark compost on top of 6 inches of garden soil all brought up by the broadfork.



video


Two 50 foot rows deep dug with the broadfork in just over an hour!
Tete Noir Cabbage. Thanks for the seeds Robin!

18 comments:

  1. I do love my broadfork and find it one of the best garden tools to have. And it is the best thing for digging up root crops too. You will love it.

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    1. I wouldn't have thought of using it to dig root crops. Thanks for the tip.

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  2. I have wanted a broad fork also after reading Eliot Coleman! The only place I saw that had them was Johnny's this is good to know for future reference. It looks like it was really useful!

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    1. It is wonderful. I hope you can get one soon too!

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  3. I've so wanted a broadfork for years. But I try to keep the number of tools in my shed down. With my small garden I can do it with a garden fork, so I stick to that. For now at least.

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    1. I think the garden fork is great. It's a quick and easy way to to turn soil. If you ever feel like you need the broadfork, Valley Oak Tool sells smaller broadforks that might fit your shed a little better!

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  4. Double digging IS hard. I have a small the garden cultivator that I use once a year to get everything mixed in. But it doesn't go very deep. I usually rely on my garden fork to loosten the soil underneath. A broadfork seems like a great investment.

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    1. We're glad we made the investment. It was either this or a tiller and we just weren't satisfied with the way a tiller turns soil.

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  5. What a cool tool. You're going to have some very happy veg in those beds.

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    1. We hope our veggies will be happy! If only it would stop freezing at nights.

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  6. I would so love a broadfork right now! Maybe you should take a drive about an hour and a half east and bring your broadfork along!! :)

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    1. Robin, you are tempting us to make a spontaneous trip! If our to-do list weren't a mile long around here, we'd be there in a second!

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  7. Excellent! I would love a broadfork too. It would be so perfect and is in fact, on my wish list. Good choice.

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    1. I'm betting you won't regret the purchase when you finally make it!

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  8. That's very useful tool! I wish for a broadfork too! hahaha...

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    1. It's great. I just finished turning our potato bed with it. I think it's going to make a huge difference for this years crop!

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  9. I need that tool too. The cabbage seedlings look very pretty.

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    1. We can't wait to see them head up.

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