A Proper English Garden Fork
The lady, identifiable as British by her accent, was obviously elated. At last, she cooed as she picked up the three-tined fork from the table at our garden-show booth, a proper English weeding fork. I have been unable to find one anywhere.
While not unknown on this side of the Atlantic, the style of fork to which she referred is ubiquitous in Great Britain. It has flat tines that are wide near the top, where they merge with the shank , and taper to pointed tips. The tool, along with a trowel and a dibble, is one of a trinity possessed by nearly every English gardener. (In the USA, the three most common garden hand tools are a trowel, three-tined cultivator, and a forked-tongue weeder evolved from an asparagus harvesting knife.)
American made garden hand forks tend to be made with thicker, round tines and are mostly used for loosening soil to maintain tilth rather than for weeding. The tools are different enough that we make both patterns. Our English style fork includes the best refinements of the type, including slightly dished tines for increased rigidity, a slight lengthwise curvature, and a recurved, forged shank of 7/16 inch steel rod that is riveted to the handle.
Having said that, the English style hand weeding fork is meant for light weeding in cultivated beds, trays, and containers. It can work great in raised beds as well. Use it to tease out small weeds, or lightly work the top couple inches of cultivated soil only. Because of its design - long, flat tines - the forces at play when using it to dig in harder soils, or to pry out deeper weeds - the tool is prone to damage when used incorrectly. Do not use it for digging or prying up deep rooted weeds or for working in hard soils, if you want it to last you many years in the future.