I currently live on the slopes of the Great Orme in Llandudno and as such don't have much of a garden. As the house is built on (and from) Orme rock the garden consists of a few raised beds which were built by the previous owner.
When we arrived here there were mainly shrubs and climbers in the beds and over the years I am gradually clearing out the ones that I don't like and replacing them with new ones.
One of the garden tools that I find to be invaluable is my little hand fork or, to give it its proper name, the Elements Weed Fork made by Spear and Jackson. I have had mine for some time now so I have no idea how much it cost me when I bought it but they are currently just £3.49 from Amazon with free postage. When I think about how much use it gets and how sturdy it is believe me that is a bargain!
According to the write up on the Amazon site the fork has a hammer finish epoxy coated head which apparently gives it improved resistance to rust, scratches, humidity and alkalines in the soil. This all sounds very technical but basically the three prongs of the fork are very strong and hardwearing and I only need to wipe the dirt off them when I have finished working to keep them looking good.
The handle of the fork is made from weatherproof ashwood which has been finished with a clear varnish and it has a hole in the end through which is threaded a leather thong so that the fork can be hung on a hook in the shed. This means that it is not only practical but it looks good too.
I use mine for basic weeding and generally turning over the soil. The handle is easy and comfortable to grip and I just have to push the prongs into the soil and gently turn the soil over picking out the weeds as I go.
The other main use that I have for mine is helping to dig out some of the old shrubs. The beds are too small for me to be able to use a spade or large garden fork so I use a trowel, my little fork and the secateurs.
I start by getting the fork underneath the base of the plant to begin to work the roots free. As I manoeuvre the roots I can then cut them with the secateurs and pull them free. The fork can be used again to get underneath the cut roots to help in this process. I then dig out some of the soil with my trowel and keep repeating the process with the roots until I have got them all out.
I have found that the fork is very strong - some of the roots that I have removed have been long and well established I can tell you! Because of its size and strength it is very easy to use and get into places where larger tools would be useless.
When I have finished working I just knock off the loose soil and give it a quick wipe and it's ready for the next time it's needed. Sometimes I go mad and give it a proper clean with the wire brush like dad always used to!
All in all I would definitely recommend this little fork either for a bit of gentle weeding or for more strenuous jobs as I have described. It has been strong enough to cope with anything that I have thrown at it and at that price you can't really go wrong can you?
Incidentally at our previous house we also had the long handled version which was great for turning over the soil in the ground level flower beds without having to bend down.
Hammer finish epoxy coated head for improved resistance to rust, scratches, humidity and alkalines in the soil.