fork or a hand tiller is a low tech garden tool. It is sometimes called a “U-bar” because of the square shape.
The broadfork or hand tiller is used primarily to break open the earth to allow aeration and deeper soil penetration for better plant root development without an undue disturbance to the basic soil structure.
A broadfork will not destroy earthworms or their tunnels or the beneficial flora and fauna in the soil. A hand tiller does not collapse or invert the soil like a rototiller will.
A hand tiller can work and loosen the soil at more than twice the depth of standard 4 or 5 prong garden forks. It can loosen the soil much deeper than a rototiller can.
A broadfork is easier to use than a standard garden fork and can cover a greater amount of garden space in less time. That’s because a garden fork requires the gardener to use their shoulders, arms and back. Whereas a hand tiller uses a natural back and forth rocking motion and most of the work is accomplished by the weight of the gardener standing across the tines of the broadfork.
The deeper the soil is loosened the better plant roots can develop. No other garden tool can loosen soil or hard-pan to the depth that a hand tiller can.
And unlike a rototiller, a broadfork requires no pushing, no fossil fuel, is great for raised beds and is kind to families on a budget.
Broadforks are also used to mix nutrients into the soil in early spring or fall and are useful for digging root crops like potatoes.
For most family gardens the only real tools that are needed are a good garden rake, a shovel, a hoe and a broadfork.