Things to know about an ideal hoe
"Honey, the flower bed is being taken hostage by weeds! Get out there with your hoe!" Whether it be for the appearance of a beautifully manicured flower bed, or the health of a weedless garden, choosing a hoe that minimizes work, back stress, and time can be a challenge.
Many people make more work of hoeing than is necessary. Although, the hoe is one of the most primitive of all tillage tools, it can be designed and used more effectively now. No, there isn't really any way to make hoeing fun, but isn't a beautiful garden or flower bed and a painless back all the rewards you need?
The first problem with contemporary hoeing is that too often hoes are used for deep cultivation or chopping, rather than the scrapping action they are designed for. Let's not mistake a hoe for a shovel. Using a hoe in place of another tool accounts for sore muscles. We need a sharp cutting apparatus designed to slice weeds at their life-giving stems, not to dig them up. The majority of garden weeds have newly invaded with their shallow roots and fall easy victims to the scraping of your hoe. This scraping action takes relatively little work in comparison to cultivating or digging, and there are several hoe types that facilitate maximum scraping and weed death. For example, a shuffle hoe has blades on both sides to cut weeds on either side at the same time with pushing or pulling movements by its handler.
It is also important to keep your hoe sharp. The sharper the hoe, the less physical force it takes to slice weeds. Some hoes need less sharpening than others, but a professional sharpening before gardening season, and a handy file help ease the work of hoeing. Also, take note of the type of soil you are working in. A sandy or rocky soil rapidly dulls a hoe.
The importance of choosing the right hoe in the first place is paramount. A lightweight hoe with a sharp, durable, metal blade is best. The handle should be long and smooth. The handle's length minimizes hunching and stressing of your back, and the smoothness prevents splinters. Hoeing in an upright position with a comfortable handle is most effective. Again, depending on your needs, a shuffle-type hoe works well in larger problem areas, while a hoe with a smaller blade and a curved swan-like neck works best in precision hoeing. The swan-like neck allows you to hoe around small plants and flowers without going to the other side.
Finally, a common mistake in hoeing is the actual technique. Many gardeners lift the hoe into the air between strokes, stressing their backs, cramping their forearms, and ineffectively using their precious Saturday afternoon gardening time. Again, hoes are for scraping at the plants roots just below the surface of the soil. Choose the right hoe, make sure it is sharp, scrape in a back and forth motion while standing upright, and spend your saved time with a glass of lemonade in the shade admiring your work! The more you know, the less you hoe!