Sheep garden blog: turning over clay soil

Tiffany Daneff / 23 April 2015

Gardening editor Tiffany Daneff finally succeeds in finding the ideal garden forks for turning over her clay soil.

When we moved from the city two and a bit years ago we were under pressure... short of time, money and space in the removals van and, as is the way of such things, a lot of my garden tools were left behind in our shed. (Incidentally, the shed was crushed only a month after we left by a large branch falling off our old and enormous fig.)  

I could swear I used to own three – if not four - garden forks. Now I am down to one; and it is a truly hateful thing. It weighs a ton and looks like it came from a building site, which it may well have done. I am a great one for lifting things out of skips. Indeed, when I say I am down to one fork, that’s not quite true.

I found a rather natty fork lying discarded by the communal bins one day and reckoned it was just the thing for turning the compost. I suspect this was designed for forking hay for horses as it is possessed of gently upcurved tines. Even better, it is incredibly light and, because it was good and rusted I felt no guilt at leaving it stuck in the compost so that it is there, ready to use, whenever I feel the urge to turn the heap.

Read our how to make a compost heap.

But this is the time of year when it is hard to avoid forks, especially when you live in clayey parts of the country. There are six vegetable beds that need turning, airing and weeding. The husband had a go a couple of weeks ago. Oh dear. Not a good idea. He spent the following week complaining furiously about how it had completely destroyed his lower back and refused utterly to lift the thing ever again. So then I had a go. I have to say I managed to go over two beds, but it wasn’t any fun at all. The tines were too thick, the handle too large, the length too great. Luckily, my back’s fine but I couldn’t stick it back in the barn fast enough. The thing was made for a REAL MAN, not a normal five foot five human being.

So I have been hunting and I have come up with various “Ladies’ forks” which do sound rather Little Britain, but who cares? This week the two new forks I ordered arrived. One is a DeWit Ladies Fork. It’s 99cms in total length and weighs 1.4 kilos and cost me £69.99. The other is a special DeWit Two Pronged Weeding/Rose Fork, £49.99, which was recommended for turning clayey soil prior to mulching. I’ve just been giving both forks a try out. They’ve both got satisfyingly sturdy ash handles which feel like they will never split or break though the short T handle at the end will take some getting used to.  

Read our tips for coping with clay soil.

The ordinary fork is a good border fork, sharp with not too large a head but the one that really impressed me is the two pronged affair. Now this is a really clever design. It pulls out six inch dandelion roots with no trouble at all and is a joy to use.  I’ve given it a go in the worst bed, the one we grew the potatoes in last year in an attempt to loosen the soil.  And it makes it much easier both to penetrate claggy clay and to work under stubborn buried stones.  Another bonus, being narrow, it is ideal for careful weeding between plants.   

Best of all though, having seen the beast, the husband declared he wants to have a go with it. Oh yes.

Buy DeWit gardening products from Amazon


Tiffany Daneff is also the editor of the award-winning intoGardens app - the world's first magazine app for gardens. Visit the appstore to download a free sample or go to the website for more information. Gardening has never looked better or been more exciting.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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