Choosing A U-Bar Digger
The U-bar digger has been used in Europe for centuries. It has not been a common tool in the United States, though every vegetable gardener should have one. This tool is far superior to the spading fork for loosening up soil in a garden bed as long as there are no perennial plants to have to work around. It is not as effective in soils with lots of rocks, but in a loamy or well-tilled soil, it is a dream to operate.
Design – The term “U-Bar” refers to the two handles of this tool that are attached to the ends of the digging tines forms what looks like a “U” shaped tool. This is a spading fork on steroids. It can have from 4 to 8 tines as long as 5 to 8 inches. Most U-bar diggers have some sort of a lever device at the back of the bar holding the tines.
Some U-bar diggers have wooden handles and others have steel handles. The tines vary is size and strength. Most U-bar diggers on the market will work just fine in the average home garden situation.
Durability – As with the spading fork, the U-bar diggers’ lifespan is directly related to the quality of the construction and the strength of the tines.
Comfort and Technique – The U-bar digger is a standup type of tool. Holding the tool is almost a vertical position, you sink the tines into the soil with the pressure of your foot on the bar holding the tines. Then you back up a step and pull the handles towards you. This movement causes the tool to lean on the lever device establishing a point, just above the soil level, where your energy spent on pulling the handles toward you is transferred to the tines below the leverage device. The effect is for almost effortless soil loosening. Your back is spared virtually any stress at all, yet the soil is loosened thoroughly. You then pull up the U-bar digger, move it a few inches ahead and repeat the process. Once you get a rhythm you can loosened a 100 square feet of garden bed in a matter of ten or fifteen minutes; all with little stress on your body, especially on your back.
Maintenance – If you have wooden handles on your U-bar digger, they can be oiled with linseed oil (used to care for baseball mitts). The tines should be cleaned off when dirt accumulates. Using an oily rag to wipe off the tines leaves a thin coat of oil to protect them from rust.