Farm, Garden and The Land > Permaculture, Land Management and Foraging

Broad fork

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I am considering a broad fork to loosen the heave clay soil.  Anyone have any experience?

I am in Easter Ohio with a heavy clay soil.  The clay is so heavy that when I put an invisible fence in for the dog one spring the wire was exposed in August as the soil had not healed.  When the dry of August the scar opened up and exposed the antenna wire.  My property does not have much of a slope and where it does water does not always go where I want it to.  I am thinking I can simulate a swale, much less efficiently, by making channels of Loosened/Aerated soil for the water to travel through both to and from my Guilds and Growing patches.  I am thinking that this will not open up ruts in my lawn areas unless the summer is a dry as it was 2 years back when the wire was re-exposed. 

Like I sad I am trying to direct water somewhat to and actually from areas that need more or have an excess to its ability to hold.

How bad an idea is this?

Perhaps I should send this in as an expert counsel question.  That might be one that Jack would send to more than one and get multiple answers.

I've used a pitchfork to expand my garden beds.  Same concept, but a broad fork would be much easier on the back.  Both would allow you turn the soil fairly deep 12-15" easily.  You may even want to use a long metal digger.

Where ever you are trying to loosen the soil so that water penetrates to the roots - come back after loosening with the broad fork with a tiller and turn in some clean mulch/saw dust, compost, coffee grounds, topsoil, etc.  (This is where some will say to look into hugelkulture.)  Don't add sand.  It actually fills in the air pockets you're trying to create.  The goal is to add life to the soil so the clay isn't so heavy.  And life will create a space (air) for itself (roots, digging, decomposing...).  You might be able to plant a cover crop for the winter, something like buckwheat or alfalfa to get some roots going into the soil.  Then chop/drop next year and lightly turn/rake it.  If you don't have time to do that, don't sweat it and let the dandelions grow.  And next year throw a bunch of beans in that plot.  They root fairly deep and are productive.

Search some of Endurance's posts.  I'm pretty sure his garden was on a significant slope where he did some terracing, swales and other water flow management.

I don't have heavy clay soil but I do have way too many rocks.  I love my Meadow Creature broad fork.  We use it to loosen the soil, remove shrubs and pull rocks out of the garden.  It has been worth every penny.

I've never used them, but know that they come in very different thicknesses.  With heavy clay, make sure you get a heavy duty one with thick tines.

I've been using a U-Bar from Lee Valley for over 20 years, first in Minnesota, now in Nebraska.  It works very well and is sort of fun to use. in MN it was much heavier soil, but it worked very easy.  Here in NE with our Platte Valley silt it isn't really needed.


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