We have already spoken a few times about the broadfork we received as a Christmas gift (ordered from these great folks), but we haven’t ever gotten into how it works or the wonders that it does for the soil. Thanks to this trusty new garden tool, our days of double digging are a thing of the past. What used to take many hours prepping and loosening our soil now takes around an hour, easy.
To make the best choice in garden bed preparation, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. Soil in a natural and healthy state consists of several soil horizons which are visually distinct layers of soil. These layers are home to billions of beneficial bacteria, fungi, and other mircroorganisms that all play roles in helping soil thrive. Completely tilling these layers up (like with a rototiller) destroys many of the benefits of these organisms.
The popular and more prevalent choice to prepare garden soil would be to till the soil with a rototiller. The truth is that rototillers can actually destroy the integrity of your soil. Rototillers act like a blender shredding up the soil below. They end the lives of many earthworms and other microorganisms. These are just some of the reasons you won’t ever hear the hum of a rototiller at our place.
Let’s get back to the good stuff, the broadfork. The broadfork traces its roots to a French farmer in the 1960’s and has been adapted to many different regions of the world. In France it’s known as a grelinette, and in Australia it’s known as a Gundaroo tiller. The basic idea is the same, the broadfork is a pitchfork like tool with longer tines that are used to dig deep into the soil loosening and aerating the soil. The design allows the user to utilize his or her body weight to limit any strain. Using it, is surprisingly not much of a workout at all.
I feel like open hands and the sound of singing angels should follow every time I say broadfork… it’s that amazing. Here are just a few reasons we swoon of this garden tool:
- It encourages nutrient rich soil.
- Keeps the biodynamics, worms, and beneficial microorganisms intact.
- Loosens the soil for plant roots to reach deeper into the earth and tap into more nutrients.
- It’s easy and quick to use.
- No motor, no gas.
- No easily broken moving parts.
- Always tuned up and ready to rock a day’s work.
- Built for a lifetime.
Using a broadfork
We picked a broadfork in a size that both Ryan and I could use for our height. To work a broadfork, place it one side of your garden with the teeth pointing away from you.
Then step on it to press it into the earth. Step off and plant your feet firmly behind it while holding on to the handles and use your body weight to pull the broadfork back towards your hips.
Bring the broadfork back to an upright position, pull it up from the ground and step back about a foot and repeat the process. Once you finish a row go to the top and start another row beside the newly finished one. The finished product is nothing short of glorious.
Thanks to Ryan’s mom shopping our gardener’s wish list and gifting us this gem, our old garden beds seem so much smaller to work. We are looking forward to expanding beds around our current homestead. The ease of building new gardens when we finally perches a home of our very own (hopefully in the fall) makes this investment that much more sweet.