Broadfork vs. Tiller: Which Is Best?
There are many tools that gardeners can use, although some haven’t heard of the broadfork yet. This effective tool has the ability to give you healthier soil, increase yields, and reduce your gardening work.
Broadforks are used to manually aerate garden beds as opposed to using a motorized rototiller. It looks like a pitchfork that is also equipped with a handle on each side. Using a broadfork simply requires sticking the tines into the soil, then stepping on the crossbar to more effectively push the tines deeper into the soil. As you do this, pull the handles back, then lift and aerate the soil.
But you might be wondering why you should use a broadfork and do the manual labor when a tiller can do it for you?
Read on below to learn more about why you should be using a broadfork instead of a tiller:
- Preserve the soil’s nutrients: These days it’s no longer enough to know that your soil is rich in a lot of nutrients. It’s also become important for the soil to contain different microorganisms. When you use a tiller, the process ruins the rhizophere, which is known as the layer of soil where plant roots as well as their microorganisms are found. Because of the sheer amount of nutrients found in the rhizophere, this layer of soil is crucial to soil and plant health and this is why it should be taken care of. Using a till will mean that each plant will need to go back to square one in order to recreate a new rhizophere after each tilling process.
- No more weeds: Using a tilling method can make dormant weed seeds rise to the top of the soil and germinate with sun exposure. When this happens you’ll have to spend hours removing weeds yourself. But if you use a broadfork, it won’t mix the soil so that the seeds remain deep in the earth and remain dormant, even for decades.
- Plant earlier: Using a rototiller can have a detrimental effect on your planting and gardening schedule. It can’t be used in damp soil because it can break the overall soil structure and as a result will even create small bricks that roots are unable to pass through. But if you end up using a broadfork, the soil doesn’t have to be dry and it isn’t mixed around completely unlike when you use a rototiller. However, you shouldn’t use a broadfork either when the soil is wet although a broadfork can still work well with damp soil and you won’t have to worry about ruining the soil structure.
- Penetration: Depending on the model or brand, rototillers are designed to only reach around 6 inches of the soil. On the other hand, broadforks can reach as deep as 16 inches below the surface. Deeper penetrations mean that the broadforks are much more useful in making tunnels that enable plants to grow deeper roots. When the roots are deeper, it’s much easier for them to reach nutrients and water that are situated in the soil’s deeper layers, a particularly useful benefit especially during dry spells.
- Save seeds: If you are interested in saving seeds especially from valuable varieties that depend on multiple seasons to produce well, a broadfork can help but a rototiller cannot. Using a broadfork makes it much easier to work around a plant bed so that you can choose which plants you want to keep until they reach maturity.
- Ideal for raised beds: If you are working soil that is planted in raised beds, broadforks are much easier to use as compared to lifting a heavy rototiller into the bed. Other areas that may be challenging to use a rototiller in will also give you the perfect opportunity to use a broadfork instead.
- Full body workout: Many gardeners are afraid of using the broadfork because of the sheer labor that’s involved. But this isn’t true: the weight of your body is responsible for doing all the work so there isn’t any need for you to lift and poke the soil with the tines. All you need to do is hop on the crossbar so that you can push the tines into the soil, move it from side to side, then lean back while holding the handles. Using a broadfork can help you build core body strength and even give you a total workout – but it’s much easier to use than a rototiller.