Best Garden Fork for Mulch
Thanks for taking the time to read my article on the best garden fork for mulch. You will find that this type of garden fork gets referred to by slightly different names.
It can be called a compost, mulch or manure fork. They come with a different number of tines depending on the intended purpose. The exact shape and length will also vary from one fork to the other.
The compost fork is ideal for aerating, loosening and loading manure or compost for transportation. You can also use it to turn most other organic materials including mulch.
This is a different type of fork than a standard digging fork and also different to the lighter and smaller border fork.
In this article though, we are going to focus on the best garden fork for mulching, and which types of mulch forks are the best to use.
Our Top 3 Mulching Fork Picks
Fiskars Ergonomic Compost Fork
This is a high quality compost fork that has 4 tines for loosening and distributing straw, hay and ideal for garden waste and mulching. It has a comfortable ergonomic shape, that encourages a back-friendly posture to protect from muscle strains. It has a D-grip handle and boron steel tines.
Spear & Jackson Agricultural Manure Fork
This fork is from a well known brand, and it has a tubular steel shaft and epoxy coated square tines (4) As the name might suggest, this fork was originally designed for raking manure into a pile. It is however also very good for working with compost and for mulching.
What is Mulch?
Many new beginners to gardening may have heard of the term mulch. We thought it was worth a few seconds of your time to fully understand the term. The good news is that it as an easy task to complete so anyone can do this.
According to the Royal Horticultural Society, "Mulches are loose coverings or sheets of material placed on the surface of soil. Mulches can be applied to bare soil or to cover the surface of compost in containers."
The big question is why do gardeners use mulch? There are a number of key benefits.
Benefits of Mulching
- Mulching helps retain the moisture in the soil which is important in the Spring and Summer months in the UK
- It also helps reduce the amount of watering that is required as moisture is naturally retained in the soil
- One thing that gardeners love is that a good mulch helps suppress weeds, and is for many the main purpose of mulching in the first place
- Mulching also helps warm up soil in the early Spring
- Depending on the mulch used, it can also be quite a decorative feature
- Mulching also helps improve soil organic matter and deters some (but not all) pests
For the vast majority of gardeners, mulching helps with weeds and also is a pretty simple way of keeping their gardens looking neat and tidy.
Types of Mulch
There are two types of mulch:
- Biodegradable - over time these will break down and will help improve the structure of the soil. These types of mulches include compost, leaf mould, wood chippings, conifer bark and seaweed
- Non-biodegradable - these don't break down and include gravel, pebbles, stones, slate, shingle etc. There are also sheets that you can buy like a woven fabric, and these can be placed in garden beds or borders. Holes are then cut in these to sow plants etc. These sheets need to be permeable to allow water through.
With biodegradable mulches some topping up will be required as they do break down over time. This is not a huge amount of work though and the benefits to your soil are worth the extra effort.
What is the Best Time to Mulch?
In the UK, these are best applied in late Spring. (Middle of May to middle of June) This is because the dreaded annual weeds have not started to germinate at this time. You can also mulch new beds, garden borders and new plants at anytime throughout the year.
The single biggest mistake made by gardeners is the depth of their mulch. To be effective mulch should be about 3 inches deep (7.5 cm). To reduce costs, newer gardeners tend to spread their mulch quite thin, and that makes it really ineffective.
You can always tell, as you will see weeds easily push their way up through a thin layer of mulch.
The best way to nail this is to remove any weeds completely, make sure the soil underneath has been well forked and is moist, and then lay a 3" layer of mulch. That will suppress any weeds, and encourage the growth of any new plants.
Things to Know When Mulching
Water & Rain
After you have put on a layer of mulch, then it does need a good watering, if you are using the mulch around plants or in flower or vegetable beds. It will need more watering than usual just at the beginning. That is of course to allow the water to get through the mulch.
After that initial watering, then you will find that it needs to be watered less frequently as the mulch helps a lot with water retention.
Avoid Tree and Shrub Stems
Make sure any layers of mulch don't touch the stems of the bottom of shrubs or around trees. Likewise don't pile up mulch against the side of any woody shrubs. This can cause diseases which of course we all want to avoid.