Chances are, your yard work stories are a lot like mine:
Part 1: I know! Let’s plant some heather along that awkward retaining wall in our front yard. It will soften the wall and give the dogs a visual clue not to fall three feet into the gully behind it.
Part 2: Hmmm, now that we’ve dug out a planting strip along the wall, I am reminded of how uneven and lumpy we left our yard from the last big project. Maybe we should just level out this part a little bit…
Part 3: We are now digging up and leveling our entire yard. This work will never end. Ever.
The good news is, this story has a very happy ending: the broadfork. After spending hours using shovels and hoes to level out just a tiny section of yard, we decided to a tiller would make the work go faster. The tiller was already checked out of our local tool library (more to come on those), but the volunteer suggested we give this big, heavy, slightly ominous looking steel fork a try.
I’m not kidding when I say, the broadfork completely rocked our yard work world! This one in particular is one piece, forged from steel by Meadow Creature on Vashon Island, a charming island 15 minutes off Seattle’s far southwest shore. You can find them in a combination of steel and wood, but the one-piece construction will no doubt last longer, and the heaviness (although it was NOT too heavy for me to lift, and my upper body strength is pretty pathetic) made the process super easy in breaking up hard-packed dirt and grass:
First, lift the broadfork up about a foot (being careful of your own feet — those tines aren’t exactly friendly) and then drop it down, letting gravity do the work.
Second, step onto it and wiggle it back and forth in the dirt — this is the fun part.
Third, push down on the handles, lift dirt
Then move the whole thing a half-step over and repeat.
Using the broadfork was a revelation: in just three hours, we’d completely leveled three times what we’d struggled with the day before. Once the dirt was loosened, it was easy to rake it into our yard’s lower section.
Best of all, using the broadfork was fun and gave me some exercise, too — kind of like doing light step aerobics, only with some upper-body work involved.
At nearly $200 each, broadforks are not exactly cheap, but if you have a lot of tilling work to do each year, they do come recommended. Or you can look into joining a local tool library like ours! — Mary T.