My Garden Path
Steve’s roots for gardening go back to his childhood. He was fascinated with flowers and vegetables
and developed an eye for gardening from watching, and helping, in his own family’s garden.
Steve manifests his passion for gardening by writing, speaking, and of course, by putting a shovel
into the ground. He gardens at his Chester Springs, PA home, and designs landscapes for commercial
and residential properties in the Philadelphia suburbs. Steve is an organic practitioner and
advocates for native plant selection.
- A graduate of Longwood Garden’s continuing education program, Stephen Van Valin holds two Certificates of Merit in
Ornamental Plants (I and II)
- Owner of Harmony Garden Design Group, specializing in garden design, consulting, and plant procurement
- Inventor of the newly patented gardening multi-tool called The Gardenomic Mulch Fork and Spade™
- Co-author of The Garden Report read by Herb Clarke on KYW NewsRadio 1060 (formerly)
- Has made appearances as a gardening expert for WCAU Philadelphia affiliate NBC10 news
- Director and producer of The Garden View, a television gardening show pilot
- A graduate of the Nature Lyceum of Long Island, NY
- Currently writing a book entitled The Nature of Creativity
A graduate of Susquehanna University, Steve maintains membership in The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Longwood Gardens, The
American Horticultural Society, The Hardy Plant Society, Garden Writers Association of America, and The Delaware Valley Water Garden Society.
"Gardening should be inspirational and fun. Anything I can do to spend more
pleasure time (not hard-labor time) in the garden is worth pursuing."
The big discovery
Necessity really is the mother of invention. I created The Mulch Fork to solve a significant challenge that every gardener encounters.
For over 20 years I've been gardening our half acre here in suburban Philadelphia. Our gardens keep evolving, and get better every single year with a lot of perseverance and a ton of hard work.
I've applied mulch and compost to my beds consistently every year. Sometimes as many as 15 yards in Spring get applied one pitchfork load at a time. It's brutal and tedious work. I'm thrilled when it's done though. Mulch pays off by blocking weeds, improving the soil, moderating temperatures for the plants, and conserving moisture.
As my gardens grew, I found myself frustrated by the challenge to spread mulch in areas where there were lots of plants. Worse yet, if I waited too long in the Spring, and the perennials were already poking through the soil, mulching took forever and required extra care. Perennials are generally very fragile and vulnerable at that early stage in the Spring. Tossing a heap of mulch on top of them would do a lot of damage or even fatally bury them.
So, in order to be careful mulching around perennials and multi-stemmed shrubs, I started to improvise. I'd hold my pitchfork with one hand up near the tines giving me a free hand to pull back the leaves and branches of plants. I could then carefully lay down just the right amount of mulch around the base of the plant. This was the only way to do it with accuracy and finesse.
However, I soon realized that a long-handled pitchfork was heavy and awkward to maneuver. I couldn't use this technique for long because my wrist would fatigue. The straight handle is at the wrong angle for lifting with one hand. And, that's when the idea hit me. What if I could design a pitch fork that was perfect for using with one arm? What if I designed the handle to provide lifting leverage if it pressed against my forearm?
At first, I assumed there had to be a tool already invented to do this job. Much to my surprise, there are all kinds of long-handled pitchforks, but none you could use with one hand. So I began the journey to design it myself. What I've invented is the world's first ergonomic one arm pitchfork for applying mulch and compost. It's become a superior tool for a common task.
Here's another significant surprise that I didn't really expect. The Mulch Fork makes it so much easier and faster to extract mulch right out of the wheelbarrow that it saves incredible amount of time and effort. I like surprises like that!
It’s smart to listen to your friends. Everyone I showed the original prototype to said, “You should create a shovel attachment.” So, I designed a way to make the heads interchangeable. Now, there are a ton of other possibilities that I’m considering in the future to help with garden tasks. Thank you to my brilliant friends!
I've found The Mulch Fork to be a useful time saver and a smart tool that makes me a better gardener. Now I'm spoiled. I don't know how I could mulch without it. I hope it gives you more fun time in the garden too!
Steve Van Valin
Inventor of The Mulch Fork