Spading forks are indispensable garden tools. Breaking new ground, removing sod, tilling the garden by hand. These are heavy duty gardening jobs and a good tool will make all the difference. If you have lovely, fluffy soil, from years of amending it - wonderful. You can go straight to the compost fork and by-pass the macho garden fork. If not, find a garden fork you're comfortable with and start digging.
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It's called a spading fork because both tools are used for digging and aerating soil. Personally, I find it much easier to use a fork, especially in compacted or rocky soil.
This Truper Tru Tough is a basic, but fully functional style, with a D-grip wooden handle and clear-coated, gray-steel finished heads. I prefer square tines, but they are very hard to find these days. These flat, steel tines are strong enough for most jobs.
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If you're tough on your tools or you plan on using them in compacted or rocky soil, you should consider investing in a garden fork with a fiberglass handle. Fiberglass is stronger than wood and it is weather resistant, so it generally lasts longer. It's also more expensive, so consider it an investment.
Bully Tools Spading Fork with Fiberglass D-Grip Handle has a 7-inch,10-inch head, and triple wall construction handle, which means, wood reinforced, thick fiberglass coating and steel ferrule.
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At the other end of the garden fork world, there's the compost or manure fork. Compost may happen, but it happens faster if you turn it periodically. You could use a regular garden fork for this, but compost forks have thinner tines that are more widely spaced and curved, so that chunky material doesn't get stuck in the tines and loose material remains cupped and contained. Once you try a compost fork, you learn to appreciate them.
This is a Tru Pro Manure Fork Nine inch head with 5 tines and a 50-inch fiberglass handle, which offers good balance when lifting. It also has a very welcome cushion grip for balance and control
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While you could use this fork for light spading, it's really meant to be used more as a compost or manure fork, or for carrying and spreading mulch. What makes this fork a little different is the slightly angled handle. It's designed to prevent stress on your wrist by keeping it in a neutral position. Instead of a standard D-grip, this one has what they call a teardrop-shaped shaft, for a more comfortable grip and a better ease of motion.
It also has a 17-gauge steel shaft, which is stronger than wood, but heavier than fiberglass. Fiberglass handles have a tendency to bend when they are put to the test. Steel won't.