Famous Gardeners’ Favorite Hoes

Garden hoes have been around nearly as long as gardening. Despite their timeless design, different gardeners reach for certain hoes first.

| Spring 2017

“Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.” So the old quote goes, and to this day the garden hoe remains one of the most popular tools in the garden shed.

As long as we’ve cultivated crops, we’ve hoed. Garden hoes are among the oldest tools of agriculture. Records exist of their use by Egyptian civilizations from about the same time the first wheels turned, more than 5,000 years ago.

Hoes fall into two main families: long-handled and short-handled. The latter have become more popular with home gardeners in recent years because of the rising popularity of raised garden beds. But a short-handled hoe is hard on your back if you have a large garden to tend. Within the long-handled family of garden hoes, there are push hoes and pull hoes, with many designs for each.

Push hoes, such as the triangle-shaped scuffle hoe and the Dutch hoe, are designed to glide through the top layer of soil with a gentle push of the handle. The blades are sharp on each side for slicing weeds. My favorite push hoe has a wide blade on an open hoop that lets the earth flow back through without clogging. When the fork and shovel have done their job, this old hoe works the earth to a lovely crumb, demolishing clods and leaving a fine tilth that’s perfect for sowing or planting.

Pull hoes, also known as draw hoes or field hoes, include heads of various shapes designed to cut weeds and move earth with a more vigorous pull on the handle. Their solid, angled blades (either on a swan neck or a short neck) tend to be larger and heavier than those of push hoes. Pull hoes are good for deeper cultivating, soil mounding, and grubbing larger weeds.

Form and Function

The hoe endures because it works, delivering results for the garden and the gardener. For the garden, hoeing helps control weeds, allowing vegetables to perform their best. For gardeners, the regular act of hoeing lets them commune with the garden in a rhythmic form of meditation that does as much for the soul as any mindfulness session or health spa. There’s something deeply therapeutic about decapitating weeds with a gentle push or pull of the hoe. The long-handled hoe is also the best friend of a gardener’s knees and back, especially in larger plots where hours of hoeing may be required. One gardener I know enjoys pottering in her patch in the evening with a long-handled hoe in one hand and a beer in the other. A nice kind of therapy!

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