One of the most important tools in your allotment arsenal (apart from the bottle opener) has to be the hoe. The garden hoe is a versatile implement that can be deployed for weeding duties and for tilling the soil in preparation for planting. Certain types of hoe (such as the draw hoe) can also be used to create drills for seed planting. Read on to learn the best way to use your hoe!
How to Properly Use a Hoe
To the uninitiated, it’s not entirely obvious how to use one. Do you brandish a hoe like an axe to bludgeon the soil into submission? Or maybe swing it in large circles like a scythe? Neither, as it happens, but the way you wield it depends on what hoe you have to hand. Hoes are either designed to be pulled through the soil or pushed AND pulled through the soil, with the garden hoe blade biting into the earth to do your dirty work. Typically, hoes are designed with long handles to afford the user a comfortable operation in an upright position to help prevent too much back bending, but can come with shorter handles and smaller blades for more intricate gardening tasks.
Types of Garden Hoe
Hoes come in all shapes and sizes. Here are a few of the more useful types of hoe you might come across.
The quintessential allotment hoe with a flat, oblong-shaped blade attached to the handle by a curved neck. Ideal for drill work and for drawing earth up around plants and vegetables, but be aware of the dangers of this implement if left unattended (see Hoe Safety, below).
The Dutch hoe has an angled blade that is pushed and pulled through the soil to slice weeds just under the surface of the soil. Also look out for the Royal Dutch hoe – a formidable tool that has a row of zig-zag teeth (making the hoe resemble a crown) that slice on the push stroke, with a hook blade on the reverse to cut on the pull stroke. For extra thrust, choose one that sports a pistol-style grip at the end of its handle.
A razor hoe comes packing a beak-like blade which is great for extracting stubborn weeds from delicate crops. Draw it through the earth in a pulling motion for speedy clearing of large areas. You’ll find that razor hoes come in long and short-handled versions, the latter of which is great for intricate weeding work.
A diminutive, short-handled hoe, designed for close, hand-to-hand combat with weeds dwelling amongst closely-spaced plants. Onion hoes can often be bought with different sized hoe-heads depending on your needs and preference.
Essentially a lightweight version of the mattock, digging hoes often sport a double-bladed head: a vertical blade for slicing and a wide horizontal blade (called an adze) for grubbing and excavating. This type of hoe is great for digging drills and wider weeding work.
Anyone who has watched their fair share of Laurel and Hardy films will be aware of the inherent danger a garden hoe can pose when left lying on the ground, with the draw hoe being the worst offender. Inadvertently stepping on the flat end will cause the hoe handle to fly upwards with fearsome velocity, stopping only when it makes contact with your face. This calamitous cause and effect can certainly provide a ‘ho ho ho’ moment in a slapstick film scenario, but it’s not such a laughing matter when it happens for real down on the allotment. For safety’s sake, always lean your hoe next to a shed or tree when not in use.