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BBC Gardeners' World Magazine -Border Forks Hero Image

Seven of the best border forks

Get your beds and borders ready with our reviews of some of the best garden forks on the market.

You can’t even begin to garden without proper preparation of your soil. Well-maintained, aerated soil is necessary for your plants to be as strong and as healthy as possible. However, this is often quite a daunting task, requiring soil to be rejuvenated through loosening and turning over.

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Forks make this easy – they’re one of the simplest but most effective tools in the garden. Not only are they great for cultivating and getting areas of soil ready for planting & sowing, they’re also designed to easily lift and transplant plants.

There are several different types of forks, and most people’s go-to is a digging fork. However, these forks can be unwieldy, and ill suited to smaller areas of the garden like borders. They can also be a  little too clumsy for more delicate tasks like transplanting plants and harvesting from raised beds.

Border forks offer an easy alternative. A  little smaller and narrower than digging forks, they’re great for getting into tight spots without compromising on strength or efficiency. They offer a finesse that makes them great for weeding, or lifting clumps of perennials from cramped borders. Their lightness also helps if you have mobility issues, or if you lack strength and stamina. A good border fork turns all of the above from a backbreaker into a breeze. It should be indispensable; a lifetime companion in the garden.

We tested nine border forks across a range of styles, sizes and price points to help you find one suited to you, and in our round up below we’ve whittled out the poorer ones on test, to leave you with only the highest-scoring border forks.

For more help when preparing soil, take a look at our guide to the best garden spades or hand trowels.

Need a hand to keep your tools nice and clean? Check out our guide to the best pressure washers.


How to choose a garden fork

Types of garden forks and their uses

  • Digging forks

Digging forks are the most common forks in the garden. Larger than border forks, what they lack in finesse they make up for in brute strength. They’re great for breaking ground on whole gardens and turning over a lot of soil.

  • Border forks

These are smaller, lighter versions of digging forks, designed to be used in tighter spaces, like borders, as their name suggests. They’re good for cultivating small patches of soil and transplanting whole small plants, or harvesting root vegetables from raised beds.

Garden fork size

Border forks are designed to be used in small, confined spaces like borders and raised beds but they’re also great for gardeners who would struggle using a larger digging fork for a prolonged length of time. Taller gardeners may find them a little short to use but border forks with ergonomic handles may help with this.

What are they made from?

Fork handles come in a variety of styles to suit different users’ preferences.  The most common is a Y or YD shape, which is great for applying effort and digging with strength, but can be uncomfortable if you prefer to use both hands. Also common is the T-shape, which is good for using with two hands, but can feel unusual if you’re not used to this style.

Shafts, the part between the handle and the socket, are traditionally made of ash, a strong, durable, but lightweight wood. Most forks on the market are still made this way but other materials with similar properties to ash, such as polypropylene or fibreglass, are also used.

Perhaps the most crucial part is the head and the tines – the prongs that will dig into the soil. These are almost always steel; either carbon steel, which is durable and strong but prone to rust, and stainless steel, which is less prone to rust but is a little weaker. Some of the best forks have a mirrored finish on their tines, which ensures soil doesn’t stick.

Best border forks to buy at a glance


Seven of the best border forks 

1

Wilkinson Sword Stainless Steel Border Fork

Our rating: 4.25 out of 5

BBC Gardeners' World Magazine - Wilkinson Sword Stainless Steel Border Fork
Wilkinson Sword Stainless Steel Border Fork

Pros

  • Great results
  • Great finishing
  • Strong
  • Fantastic value

Cons

  • A little basic
  • Struggles with finer soils

For an unfussy stainless steel border fork, look no further. This traditional garden border fork has no ergonomics, but is still comfortable to hold, with a smooth ash handle. Its performance is good – some dirt sticks, but it pushes into the soil with little resistance, and picks up a fair amount. It’s good at breaking lumps, too, but struggles a little with finer soil and compost. More important is its price – this is a good fork at a very reasonable price.

Specifications

Warranty: 10 years

Weight: 1.53kg

Height: 97cm

Head material: Stainless steel

Shaft material: ash

Handle shape: Y-D

Head Dimensions: 23.5x14cm

Read the full Wilkinson Sword Stainless Steel Border Fork review.


2

Sophie Conran for Burgon and Ball Digging Fork

Our rating: 4 out of 5

BBC Gardeners' World - Sophie Conran for Burgon and Ball Border Fork
Sophie Conran for Burgon and Ball Border Fork

Pros

  • Very small – great for tight spots
  • T -shaped handle easy to use with two hands
  • Breaks up soil easily

Cons

  • Poor finishing
  • Short tines mean it’s tricky to get leverage

Despite its name the Sophie Conran digging fork is an ideal border fork. It has small tines and is great for manoeuvring in small spaces. Its FSC-certified ash shaft and T-shaped handle are comfortable and  easy to use with two hands and the mirrored steel tines stop soil from sticking. It strikes in very well with little resistance, even in clay but they are short – just 19cm – which makes it a little difficult to get leverage when turning over and transplanting.

Specifications

Warranty: 10 years

Weight: 1.3kg

Height: 94cm

Head material: Mirror polished stainless steel

Shaft material: FSC-certified ash

Handle shape: T

Head Dimensions: 18.5x14cm

Read the full Sophie Conran for Burgon and Ball Digging Fork review.


3

Roamwild Multi-Digger

Our rating: 4 out of 5

  • Buy now from Amazon (£69.99)
BBC Gardeners' World Magazine - Roamwild Multidigger
Roamwild Multidigger

Pros

  • Amazing at breaking up soil
  • Comfortable handle that can be used in a variety of ways
  • Angled handle
  • Incredibly strong

Cons

  • Poor at turning over
  • Poor at transplanting
  • Heavy
  • Expensive

This futuristic border fork is a true innovation. Rather than the traditional four tines, this model combines the middle two into an arrow shape reinforced by two soil chopping blades. It has a dual grip handle, with a second handle through the middle for using a variety of different grips. This strength – and the fine point of the arrow-shaped tines – means this border fork simply cannot be beaten for lump breaking and digging into soil. It even went through compacted clay like it wasn’t there. However, the arrow-shaped tines that make it so strong leave a big gap either side through which all soils on test fell through. This makes it poor for turning over soil, and especially poor for transplanting but if you need to break up soil or cultivate a new garden, this is a great choice.

Specifications

Warranty: 1 year

Weight: 2.42kg

Height: 103cm

Head material: Carbon steel

Shaft material: Fibreglass

Handle shape:  Dual grip

Head Dimensions: 29×18.7cm

Read the full Roamwild Multi-Digger review.


4

Greenman Garden Tools Stainless Steel Border Fork

Our rating : 3.75 out of 5

  • Buy now from eBay (£41.94)
BBC Gardeners' World Magazine - Greenman Stainless Steel Border Fork
Greenman Stainless Steel Border Fork

Pros

  • Comfortable in use
  • Well finished
  • Good at turning over
  • Good at transplanting

Cons

  • Some soil sticks to tines
  • Average at striking in

The handle on this fork is a traditional YD shape, but with a block of ash riveted into the fork where the handle becomes the shaft for extra strength. The tines met a lot of resistance when striking into soil, and lots of soil stuck  despite them being mirror-polished stainless steel. However, it was much better when turning over and transplanting – the small gaps between the tines (3.5cm/(1.3”) mean it picks up soil but doesn’t clump it together.

Specifications

Warranty: 20 years

Weight: 1.6kg

Height: 100cm

Head material: Mirror polished stainless steel

Shaft material: Ash

Handle shape: YD

Head Dimensions: 23.5x14cm

Read the full Greenman Garden Tools Stainless Steel Border Fork review.


5

Pedigree Border Fork

Our rating: 3.75 out of 5

  • Buy now from Amazon (£59.99)
BBC Gardeners' World Magazine - Bulldog Pedigree Border Fork
Pedigree Border Fork

Pros

  • Great results in all tests
  • Incredibly effective tines

Cons

  • Poor finishing
  • Badly balanced

We were very impressed with this fork’s performance. The stainless steel tines are remarkable – they slide into soil effortlessly, but aren’t slippery, holding large forkfuls of soil for easy turning over and transplanting. On some tests there was a little clodding at the top where the tines meet, but not badly. It’s fairly strong, with a double riveted socket and single riveted head with metal guards. However, it lost marks for its finishing. Parts of the fork aren’t properly sanded and splinter a little, and it’s balanced too much towards the tines.

Specifications

Warranty: Lifetime

Weight: 1.52kg

Height: 95cm

Head material: Polished stainless steel

Shaft material: Ash

Handle shape: YD

Head Dimensions: 23x14cm

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Read the full Pedigree Border Fork review.