Tool Review: The Meadow Creature Broadfork
This 4th of July, I think it's highly appropriate to feature an American-made tool. I really like tools, especially tools I can't break. When I'm gardening, I don't like to worry about handles snapping, bolts coming loose or blades dinging up.
I once bought a machete - a Gerber machete- that was a complete piece of garbage. That made me never want to buy any of their stuff again. Maybe there's a reason they have the same name as a baby food company. I should probably write a review of that machete just so I can rant about how worthless it was, then give it ZERO SPUDS!
Unlike that piece of soft metal trash, today's tool is a monster.
Meet the Meadow Creature broadfork.
To the uneducated eye, you might think this was a strange piece of tractor equipment or some sort of medieval weapon. It's got amazingly vicious spikes on the end with a wicked curve to them, and the solid steel construction doesn't look like any other garden tool most of us have seen.
That's because it's NOT like any other garden tool. This is a ground-breaking machine.
WARNING: Broadforking is hard work. If you're a wuss, you won't like it.
Since getting deeper into the John Jeavons' method of double-digging, I've become much more aware of the need soil has for air. The beds I've double-dug have done better - and areas that have been simply tilled have done poorly. Even in Florida sand, compaction can and does occur.
Yet double-digging is murderously hard. I think it often needs doing - but sometimes you just want to get a big area done without breaking your back. Other times, you may want to loosen up an existing bed without busting out the shovel and digging fork again. That's where the broadfork comes in.
Most broadfork manufacturers warn against breaking new ground, or tell you that they're only made for "already-loose" soil. Really? That's like having a shovel that's only for digging holes that have been dug once and then filled in. Are you kidding? There may be a place for delicate little tools - but it ain't on this homestead. My tools get hauled around to different beds, lent to friends, worked hard and occasionally drenched by Florida's unpredictable monsoons.
The Meadow Creature site reads "We are confident enough that our tool is indestructible to guarantee it forever. Customers tell us our broadfork is great for removing turf, digging out blackberry roots, quack grass and bermuda grass. And also digging up trees and prying out boulders -- it's not meant for that, but we'll stand by the guarantee anyway."
Nice, eh? As a person who regularly uses wrenches to hammer nails and scissors to trim fingernails, I appreciate that kind of guarantee.
The Meadow Creature broadfork is made of solid steel allow - even the handles. (There's a bit of a downside to this strength - it's somewhat heavy - but that's actually an advantage on the downstroke.)
|Breaking new ground out back. This thing is bad to the bone.|
The first time I tried my new broadfork, I was amazed how it cut into the ground like a knife. I went to the most compacted and oak-root riddled part of my yard... and it handled it. No problem.
With the Meadow Creature broadfork, I can break about 50 ft2 of new ground in roughly 15 minutes. That's new, unworked ground, covered in weeds - which is not what a broadfork is supposedly for. In my less-weedy beds, I can go about three times that fast.
On new ground, the broadforking doesn't take as long as the weed-pulling does, though the weeds come out easily once the broadfork has passed by. Once they're pulled, the soil is perfect for planting.
One note: you will get blisters and wear yourself out if you jump in too hard on your first try with this broadfork. The motion is rather addicting, and before you know it, you're more tired than you thought you were. Cotton gloves might be a good idea. The handles are smooth, which allow you to change your grip easily and slide your hands into different positions as needed.
So far, my wife and I have broken about 2000 ft2 of ground with this fork and we're still having fun. I've also let multiple visitors try it out. Men in particular were impressed by this broadfork's strength and ease of use.
My wife, despite not having anywhere near my strength, still finds the Meadow Creature broadfork easy enough to handle. She did about 500 ft2 when we broke up this spring's potato bed and still had energy to plant multiple rows of mung beans. I think it helps that the broadfork has a really good balance. You can jam it in the ground and easily work it in without falling over.
One other thing you should know about this broadfork: it's not cheap. The Meadow Creature will set you back $199.00. I got the 14" version, since that seemed to be the most versatile.
That said, I've come to realize, after buying a lot of tools: cheap isn't good. I buy DeWalt power tools after breaking quite a few cheaper brands... and they hold up. I also don't like Chinese crap. If it's made in China, sell it to someone else.
The Meadow Creature is made in the USA, and it's expensive. However, it's going to last.
If you only have a small garden, this tool might be overkill - but if you've got a larger space in cultivation, then it's worth the price. I'm using mine regularly - and when things cool down this fall, I'll probably use it a lot more as I prep new areas and revitalize the weedy beds left over from summer. I actually filmed a short video of me tilling a strip out back and posted it to YouTube yesterday - check it out:
I don't usually get real hyper over anything but plants... but the Meadow Creature broadfork is cool as heck. This is my kind of tool. If you get a few bucks together - and feel like saving on a gym membership - you'll find them for sale at www.meadowcreature.com.
Rating: 5 Spuds!