Pitchfork/Composting fork recommendations?

Dave S., Zone 5B, 1300 ft, 11" rain
edited November 2020 in Tools, Hardware, & Machines

Do you have a good recommendation or experience using a pitchfork or composting fork?

I am so excited-- after years of wanting to try it, I finally have a good source for green and brown material enough to try "Berkeley Method" or Geoff Lawton-style composting. This uses a very large pile, minimum five feet high, to rapidly cook the compost in an 18 day cycle. For most of that time you are flipping the entire pile every other day.

So I am going to moving a lot of compost. I thought I had a pitchfork, but it seems to have wandered away to a community garden or just embarked on a life adventure away from my house. Now I need to buy one.

Most people seem to think a pitchfork is the same as a compost fork. Is that true? It is definitely not a "digging fork". I need long curved tines, apparently.

What have you used? Was it any good? Do you have a recommendation or a place to buy one? Have you ever composted using this method? I'd like to hear about your experiences. Thank you!


  • torey
    torey Moderator Posts: 3,540 admin

    I don't turn our compost pile. That is my husband job. He doesn't like the long-tine pitchforks that are traditionally for pitching hay. He says they bend too easily. But we only turn our piles twice a year. Once in the spring and once in the fall. So it is pretty heavy. He prefers a standard garden fork. There is also a manure fork that is similar to a pitchfork but with much stronger tines. That might be what you are looking for. So I would try a feed store rather than a garden centre for that.

  • Leediafastje
    Leediafastje WA State, Olympic Mtns, Zone 8Posts: 68 ✭✭✭

    I was told to air the pile but, not flip it until the fall. I also keep it moist. We have a hay fork that seems to work great.

  • Nancy A.Maurelli
    Nancy A.Maurelli Posts: 44 ✭✭✭

    WOW, sounds like you're gonna be busy turning that pile, @seasparrow32! If you can get finished compost in 18 days, perhaps it's a good trade-off. I would imagine you would need something sturdier than a hay/pitchfork to turn a large pile...

    All my compost heaps are self-sufficient, and I have never turned one. I just leave them alone and Mother Nature does the rest. This DOES take time and enough space to leave the compost in place for a season or two. I am experimenting with composting as part of a garden rotation.

  • naomi.kohlmeier
    naomi.kohlmeier Posts: 382 ✭✭✭
    edited June 2020

    I've used both a pitchfork and what I know as a potato fork. My pitchfork has longer narrow curved pointed tines that really can turn a lot of wetter materials, but the dry stuff falls through. The potato fork has a different handle, is shorter and has wider tines/forks and blunt points. It does better with dry materials, but is a bit harder to dig through wetter things like matted partially decayed grass, etc. But it's easier to put your foot on it to dig, if that make sense. If there was a cross between the two, it'd be great.

    When our family was all home, I had a three part compost system. We used pallets to make walls on three sides (7 pallets total) and the fronts were open. We turned the compost most days, and had three smaller separate piles going rather than one large one. It worked remarkably well and we planted cantaloupe around the backs of the pallets and thee vines completely covered them by summer's end. It was easy to compost the vines when they were finished bearing.

    Most farm supply stores carry a version of both of these, as do the big box stores' garden centers and hardware stores around here in Nebraska

  • Thank you for all of the recommendations! I ended up ordering a dedicated "manure fork". I'll let you know how it turns out!

  • EarlKelly
    EarlKelly Penn state master gardener Northeastern Pennsylvania zone 5bPosts: 230 ✭✭✭

    @seasparrow32 jusT saw your post. I use what is generally called a silage fork. It is five tined and stouter than a pitchfork. I use it when I am also getting wood chips. Works great for that too. Familiar with a manure fork. Should do the job for you. Good luck and stay strong, lot of work ahead of you.

  • Hassena
    Hassena Posts: 314 ✭✭✭

    Hi there, I prefer to use a fork with many tines. A pitchfork that has too much space between the tines to get a good turn. You pick up a load and half would fall through the tines.

    The manure fork should be just fine :)

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