The Veg Plot

Tool wars: hand fork or garden trowel?

fork or trowel

I am the proud owner of a shiny new wooden handled, stainless steel, hand fork. I coped for months with only a trowel after my trusty old fork broke, but it wasn’t enough. I’m a fork man. I needed a new fork.

Which got me thinking… are other gardeners more attached to their trowels or forks? They do pretty much the same job, but which do people prefer?

First I asked Thirsty Rich for his preference. And despite our own logo featuring a ‘forkscrew’, he immediately expressed a preference for the trowel “because if you come across a slug or snail you can lob it over other peoples gardens easier.” Charming.

Garden experts

So what do the rest of our gardening chums prefer? I contacted a few experts to find out and uncovered a smattering of affection for the fork but a lot more love for the prong-less option (68%).

TV ace Rachel de Thame was quick to side with her trusty trowel, declaring “had my fav approx 20yrs, always losing it but turns up eventually”, while Alys Fowler gave us this shocking revelation: “actually thinking about it, I don’t own a hand fork.” The Guardian’s gardening guru Jane Peronne also went with the “trowel all the way”, showing off a particularly natty copper tool – the posh gardening metal also proving to be the weapon of choice for permaculturalist Julieanne Porter.

Top garden designer Andrew O’Brien stood up for the fork with this advice: “Can just about use a fork for the FEW tasks a trowel would be better. But trowel stinks as a fork!”. As did brewing gardener Scott Pearce who proudly announced “hands down hand fork”. Allotment author Lia Leendertz was one of several voters who remained undecided (“both, or whichever’s to hand”).

Among TV’s Big Allotment Challenge stars it was a near clean sweep for the trowel, with host Fern Britton agreeing with fellow contestants Mich Stacey and bearded duo Gary and Pete that the trowel trumps the fork. Champion Ed also championed the trowel, advising “trowel and digging fork, that’s all you need.” Runner-up Rupert Goddard also offered some helpful words, suggesting “fork for weeding, trowel for planting.”

Retail sales

But away from the gardening pros, what does the UK population at large prefer? Keen to find out the nations tool buying habits I got in touch with the sales team at top home and garden retailer, and supplier of my own new fork, Wilko. They provide two trowel options for the discerning digger – a standard hand trowel and a ‘trowel transplanter’ – and their combined sales against the hand fork are remarkably similar to our own survey, with 69% preferring the trowel.

If, as Rupert suggests, forks are for weeding and trowels are for planting then perhaps these results tell us something more about the gardening jobs we prefer as well as the tools we choose…

Gardening graphs


*Wilko’s champion trowel is available here. Nick’s fork is the one in the photo at the top of this page. We’re grateful to Wilko for not only providing the stats but also sending the fork featured free of charge.

1 Comment

  • I have a trowel that turns into a fork very quickly; it’s called my hand! Fingers open, fingers closed, who cares? Use your hands and spend your fork/trowel money on pork!

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