Best Fork?

schreber_gaertnerJuly 20, 2010

I use 3 of the "roll up" plastic bins that are maxed out in size, which means about 4' diameter and 3' high. Till now I've used a regular shovel, but am finally going to buy a fork to make things easier. I searched some threads and saw references to manure forks, pitchforks, 3-tine, 4-tine, 5-tine, and 9-tine forks. Can anyone recommend which would be best for this application, figuring I'll have to reach in over the top, lift, and turn? I'm thinking shorter will probably be better, but if anyone has bins like these and good (or bad) experience with certain types of forks, that'd be great.

Thanks very much!

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I have a 10 tine fork and I would advise against it. With that many tines I have a hard time sinking it into the compost and rough compost tends to jam up between the tines. If I had to do it again I would go for one of the manure forks meant for barn use.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 6:39PM
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I used a potato fork for turning soil, digging potatoes, and for turning compost. Potato forks have four flat tines. Also sold in garden centres are garden forks. They have four tines but the tines are close to square in shape.

I have always used a potato fork and I like it. Taste is a matter of what you are used to.

Here is a link that might be useful: Potato Fork

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 7:12PM
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Here's one of my favorite gardening tools. I just built this new compost pile yesterday with it. It has 5 tines and I like the short handle. We also have one with a long handle which DH uses. I think this is called a garden fork altho has narrower tines than a 4 tine one we also have so is easier for me. The tines are thicker than a hay fork which I broke cleaning out sheep pens.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 7:43PM
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That looks very much like what I referred to as a manure fork. I used one like it as a young'un cleaning out barns. The one I have now is more like a silage fork but without the basket.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 11:52PM
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I have always used a shovel as well. I asked my wife for a pitch fork for my birthday, but added that I would rather get a used one from a rummage sale. She called my grandparents who have a farm. They both pick up on different phones at different times and so she explains twice that she is looking for a pitch fork for me. Grams is tickled that she called and says "well, Bud do you have an extra pitchfork?" Gramps asks "What kind does he want? How many tines?" Long story short I get to go out there and pick out my pitch fork. I will also use it for digging up potatoes so this thread is very interesting to me. Of course, I could probably try a couple out and Bud wouldn't miss them.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 11:22AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Hi Schreber, whatever you feel
Is the fork that gives you the best deal
As an online friend
I would recommend
Pay the extra to get stainless steel

(A stainless steel fork, though more expensive, will last forever and is much easier to dig with especially if you have heavy soil. I use 2, a 4 tine garden fork and a lighter weight, smaller Âborder forkÂ. Both are Spear and Jackson.)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 11:49AM
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I have a manure fork (5 tines, fairly thin and round, and a straight handle) and a spading fork (5 flat and broad tines with a D handle) that I use for working with my compost. both work for me quite well, although which I use is determined by the satge the compost is in. Early on with relatively dense material I find the manure fork is best, but toward the end wehn the material is much finer the spading fork works better.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 12:24PM
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Thank you all for advice on the tines.
The 4-tined flat spading fork's working fine.
But imagine my shock
among garden tool talk--
an invasion of poems with 5 lines!

(just when you thought it was safe to click on a link--thanks, Flora!)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 1:16PM
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There is of course a definite difference in the strength of the tines between a potato fork (meant for digging in the ground) and hay or manure forks which are not designed to dig like a shovel. I had a potato fork for a long time for digging but when I got a hay fork I was amazed how much better it was for compost - the tines being closer together so it holds stuff up instead of letting it fall through. Mine is a long handle though - I like luckygal's pic of the D-handle one, if I could start over I'd get that one for compost.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 3:25PM
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Pitch fork - for dry hay
Manure fork - for wet stable muck (heavier tines)

Spading and potato forks - heavy tines for lifting root crops

I use a spading fork.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 3:55PM
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Hands down a 6 tine long handled manure fork. the tines are close enough together to lift and turn compost. They are strong so you can turn or loosen soil with it without the bending. I have a bad back and short handles aggravate it.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 7:45PM
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As you can see by all the great replies, there are as many different composting tools as there are ways we compost. What may be a great tool for my compost bin, may be a difficult for working yours. I'd check the web and look at all the available tools and try to decide what would work for your needs.
It's my personal belief that the narrow tines on a pitchfork/compost fork make it easier to stab into the pile and any compost that drops while lifting further mixes the compost. Hope you find one that works for you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sneeboer Compost Fork

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 9:39AM
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lcpw_gw(z6 St Louis)

If you choose one of the forks with thinner tines (designed for hay or manure or compost), and if you have heavy clay soil, be circumspect about using that fork to dig in the soil. (I loaned my compost fork to a friend who didn't know the difference between a compost fork and a spading fork, and my o my the heavy clay soil was able to bend those tines in surprising ways.)

I find my spading fork heavier than my compost fork. Either seems fine for turning the compost pile. The time when I have a strong preference is if I'm moving a lot of shredded leaves (what my municipality gives away as "compost" - an excellent starting point for compost, or a nice mulch). There, if moving a lot of it, the compost fork is a lot more pleasing to me to work with.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 11:39AM
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I generally use the five tined fork for moving the compost but a 3 tined pitchfork for digging/mixing in the EarthMachine. Once the compost has finished the heat stage and is in the curing stage I use a shovel to move it as it's too crumbly and fine for a fork.


P.S. Five tined fork works very well for whack-a-rat. ;-)

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 3:42PM
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I bought the potato digger linked in cowgirl2's link to Johnny's, thing cost $40 15 years ago - I now see it costs $79.

There is nothing quite like that sinking feeling when you instinctively whack a mouse with an $80-to-replace garden tool, hear that CRACK!! and feel your fork go all wobbly.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 3:57PM
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terran(zone10/Sunset20 CA)

I use a "D" handle ensilage fork to move compost, mulch, leaves, and such. It takes on the role of a leaf rake around the compost pile as well.

I use hardware cloth enclosures for compost and find that a few days after construction the pile will hold its shape. When it's time to turn, the enclosure is set to the side of the original mound and used to form the new pile. Working over the top edge of an enclosure is not fun and hard on the body; I speak from personal experience.


Here is a link that might be useful: Ensilage Fork

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 3:06PM
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I bought a compost fork after looking over the choices. Five rounded tines, curved, with a long handle. The manure fork was too big for my bins, which are 4' round, and 4'by8'.

Saw a nice stainless one for $125, but thats too much money. Mine was $35 I think.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 3:43PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

That's an incredible price! I've just checked a Spear and Jackson stainless steel digging fork and it's £13.99 on Amazon over here. ie $21.60 Compost forks are £15 - £19. I wonder why they're so expensive in the States. The link probably says more than you really ever wanted to know about forks

Here is a link that might be useful: Forks

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 4:46PM
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I wouldn't normally post about this, but since you asked :
after 26 years of marriage,and so many outings, I have to say ,my best fork was at a baseball pitching mound down the street at the local park around 11:00 pm ,we had just finished when the lights turned was close ;-)

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 9:06PM
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I have several forks but my favorite for compost, particularly early in its composting stage, is a long-handled five tine manure fork. It goes into early dense compost easily and the long handle provides lots of leverage.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 9:36PM
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