Saturday, November 11, 2006

More about the Broadfork / U-Bar

I was going to post this as a comment on the previous post, but it got long enough that I figured I'd make it a separate post.

I bought a U-bar digger like this one available from Lee Valley:

After acquiring it, I read an interesting bit about this type of tool in Elliot Coleman's The New Organic Grower. He advocates one like this, available from Johnny's Seeds:

His argument is that although the wooden handles may very occasionally need to be replaced, they cut down on the weight. He'd rather use a tool that is lighter all the time and once in a great while needs new handles, rather than a tool that is heavy every single time.

He also advocates the curved tines rather than the straight tines, based on the fact that the straight tines will act more like a pry bar, whereas the curved ones will have more of a rolling action through the soil.

I've only ever used the one I have, but I kind of wish I'd read Coleman's thoughts on this before I bought mine, since his comments do seem to make sense. Unfortunately, I've never seen either version in a store or somebody else's garden, so it's hard to look them over in person, much less try them out. But I thought I'd at least share what I've learned.

The other thing I wanted to mention was that in clay soil that has not been worked much, mine acts a bit more like a shovel than a fork, prying up one solid chunk of clay instead of breaking through it. Once the clay is broken up a bit, it's much easier. But even in heavy clay, I can see some benefit to being able to turn over a 30-inch chunk of turf at a time, if you don't mind a workout.

If anybody else has experience with this type of tool, I'd love to hear about it.



At 11/13/2006 10:44 AM, Blogger Madcap said...

Thanks for the extra info. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the number of things I'd like to be researching, and I appreciate the help.

At 11/13/2006 12:55 PM, Blogger e4 said...

I know exactly what you mean, which is why I decided to post this.

I feel very overwhelmed by this site about all sorts of edible, medicinal, and otherwise useful plants. But I'm also glad I found it because it's fascinating. At least for a plant nerd like me...

At 11/13/2006 11:13 PM, Blogger Beo said...

I have looked at the U-bars frequently, but with the prospect of maxing out at only 1000 sq foot of annual veggie beds I have not purchased one yet-figuring I can spend an extra day of needed labor with the old pitch fork and spend the money on my orchard.

Now had I your multiple acres that would be a different matter!

At 9/24/2007 5:13 PM, Blogger Durgan said...

U-Bar Digger. I bought one today at Lee Valley and used it for an hour and returmned it forthwith. I consider this tool almost useless.

The tines are too big with no taper, so inserting in other than soft soil is too difficul; if not impossible, for normal use.

My six tang manure fork does a better job and inserts in relatively hard soil easily. All one has to do is be a bit careful and don't force the handle if the ground is extra hard.

At 4/14/2009 11:30 PM, Blogger Charley said...

Johnny's Seeds in Maine has the Eliot Coleman-designed broadforks.

At 8/05/2010 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I make these broadforks for a living for Johnny's Seeds.

At 3/20/2011 5:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the comments that this doesn't work in compacted soil: that's not what it is designed for. It's best used to aerate beds that have previously been double-dug or otherwise already conditioned.


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