Make Your Own Broadfork Garden Tool

Prepare the soil in your raised bed in one-sixth the time using a U-bar, also known as a broadfork garden tool.

| March/April 1980

062 broadfork - diagram

Material and assembly diagram for broadfork garden tool.


This article on how to build a broadfork is excerpted from a 1980 MOTHER EARTH NEWS interview with French intensive gardening expert John Jeavons, author of "How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine."  

Because the good folks at Common Ground feel that even intermediate technology is often beyond the financial reach of the people who need it the most, they're constantly looking for sophisticated low technology solutions to the problems presented by small-scale agriculture.

One such innovation — the broadfork or "U-bar" — was designed at John Jeavons' request by two Stanford University engineering students who worked from traditional French and Canadian designs for similar tools. The broadfork garden tool is used after a bed has been initially well prepared with a spade and fork, and can—for all subsequent preparations—reduce the required digging time from approximately two hours per 100 square-foot bed to 20 minutes or less!

Jeavons graciously allowed MOTHER EARTH NEWS to publish drawings of the broadfork so anyone who wants to try biointensive gardening can cut his or her labor time while keeping yields up.

7/30/2017 2:53:03 PM

@ Howard Boldt see links below! Those plans are correct. If you look at the Broadfork that Johnny's Selected Seeds has. These Tines are in fact 3/8" in diameter. This Broadfork is not for Hardpan. You will need a Hardpan Broadfork if you haven't already double dug your Garden area or you have clay. May I suggest or

12/11/2016 9:36:31 AM

That's really great you start planning what to grow this year. Last year it was a big problem for me, but this year I need gardening broadfork more than I've ever needed it, so I'm really curious. If you planned every single plant, think about the tools, that's really time.

5/15/2015 1:23:04 PM

I recently purchased a new Broadfork by Valley Oak Tool Company with steel handles. It was not inexpensive, but after trying to make my own, it was worth the cost. It's super strong and now I am a fan! I hope everyone has a great season this year :)

Micah Agnew
11/8/2012 6:09:26 AM

It looks to me that the tines are 3/8" stock that is 1 1/4" wide.

Howard Boldt
6/30/2011 10:12:43 AM

Later... Okay, upon further study, I see the rest of the plans may be allright, but I still question the the 3/8" tines. That just doesn't seem strong enough to me.

Howard Boldt
6/30/2011 10:07:30 AM

The plans say 3/8" bar stock for the tines (what we commonly call square "key stock" in these parts, I believe). I think they probably meant to say 3/4", cuz no 3/8" steel 18" long is going to do the job, as far as I know, and I do know a bit about steel... There may also be other errors in the drawings. Compare them closely with each other and with the photos and you will see what I mean. How do I inform the authors of these mistakes?... I love the concept and these plans could be good ones - with adjustments.

Ken Gallenbeck
4/13/2010 11:11:32 AM

To access a picture with measurments for building using bar stock and steel tubing, choose the "image gallery" and go to the second (of only 2) pictures. It prints out fairly small (hover over the image and right click for a menu). I'm going to "save as..." and try importing the image into MS Publisher to make it larger. Good luck! Ken G Funguy Farm, Pecatonica, IL

Barbara Rentz_1
4/7/2010 10:13:10 PM

I opened this page to get instructions on how to build a broad fork. I see no plans, instructions, or pictures. Where are they?

Roland Green
2/14/2010 12:38:26 PM

For Bert Boyd. I don't know how deep the roots go, but try using slates, placed vertically in the ground around the patch where you want the bamboo. Fibre cement slates are approx 2ft long and 1ft wide so the barrier will be quite deep. I have found this especially useful to contain patches of mint which will spread everywhere otherwise. The bits that do escape are easily pulled up. Another method would be to plant the bamboo in a container plunged into the ground.

Roland Green
2/12/2010 11:08:17 AM

Looks like hard work and would defeat the puropse of raised bed which were mentioned, since to use the fork one would have to walk on the beds. The raised beds I have are 8ft x 4ft and require only a light forking over and then a till with a three pronged harrow type cultivator and the whole effort takes about fifteen minutes for a bed. The soil is much easier to work as it is never compacted by walking on it. I constructed the beds using 6" x 2" rough sawn timber and lined the inside face with a strip of dpc material wrapping it under the bottom edge and secured with clout headed galvanised felting nails; this keeps the soil out of contact with the timber. The outside can be treated with a timber preservative if required. The beds can be placed directly on cleared ground and filled with a mixture of soil and compost or, if converting an existing garden, in shallow trenches, the spoil from the trenches piled in the middle where the beds are to be; add plenty of compost and level off. Raised beds have the advantage in that vegetables can be 'block' planted, plants planted the same distance apart in all directions - no row spacing needed. Weeding is easy as well as all parts of the bed are easily reached from either side. Distance between beds need only be the width required for a wheelbarrow and a plank placed on the side boards of two adjecent beds makes a handy seat when weeding.

Bert Boyd_1
1/20/2010 8:25:49 AM

Do you have any articles on building barriers to contain the spread of bamboo plants in an urban setting?

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