Garden forks Not for dining

Although not an essential garden tool, many gardeners come to find that a garden fork is quite handy and more agile than a spade or shovel for some digging jobs. You drive this shovel-size tool into the soil and then pull back on the handle and rock it to break and loosen soil. It's useful for digging up bulbs and root crops, including onions and potatoes. It's also good for scooping jobs (moving compost or hay from one spot to another, for instance). Garden forks tend to be shorter than pitchforks and have shorter, flatter tines.

Yes, you can find many different kinds of garden forks, though you'll notice that the four-tine model is standard. As with shovels and trowels, pay close attention to what the labels say and ask a store clerk for assistance if you need help determining which type of fork is right for you.

A strong ash or hickory handle is desirable. As for the prongs, they'd better be strong — stamped or forged steel or high-carbon steel, maybe slightly incurved to resist the temptation to bend, with tines that taper to a point. Solid-socket construction where the handle meets the tines is critical because this tool can really take a beating in use, and you don't want it to LBEfl bend or break.

You want widely spaced tines so you expend less effort when digging.

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