Hard-Working Garden Hoes

With a little help from us, choose the right garden hoes for nearly effortless weed control.


| June/July 2010



garden hoes - scuffle hoe, stirrup hoe, winged weeder

Depending on the job, garden hoes come with multiple head shapes. From left: a pistol grip allows for more push-pull power when using a scuffle hoe; this triangle shaped scuffle hoe is sharp on all edges; the Winged Weeder comes in several sizes; stirrup hoes can quickly cultivate large areas.


ILLUSTRATION: ELAYNE SEARS

Anthropologists often say that humankind went “from bow to hoe” when switching from hunting and gathering to growing food. Garden hoes were probably the first gardening tools, made from sticks, antlers, bone and stone. Then as now, hoes were indispensable for shaping soil and controlling weeds. Every gardener needs at least one good hoe, and most serious gardeners use several. Hoes vary in the types of work they are designed to do, so the challenge is to choose the best hoes for the tasks that await in your garden. For a chart of which hoes work best for which tasks, check out Choose the Right Hoe for the Job. 

Sizing Up Handles

A hoe is comprised of a head — of which there are several major variations, discussed below — and a handle. The handle can be made of wood, metal or fiberglass. Although most handles are straight, push-pull scuffle hoes may include a second “pistol grip” (link to image gallery) on the handle for easier operation.

The length of a hoe’s handle should correspond to both the nature and duration of its use. If you have many rows to weed in a large garden, a long-handled hoe you can use in an upright position will save time and muscle strain. On the other hand, if your garden is a small collection of intensively managed raised beds, you may find you prefer the more detailed weeding job you can do with a short-handled hoe. Many of the hoe heads described here are available mounted on short- and long-handled hoes. Artisan toolmakers, such as leftyfriendly Red Pig tools in Oregon and Rogue Hoe in Missouri, make state-of-the-art hoes (and “hand plows”) with 12-inch handles. Among long-handled hoes, handle length ranges from 55 to 60 inches for hoes you’d use when bending over, to 74 inches for hoes you’d use while standing up. Tall people should opt for the longest handle available. For folks of average height, a 65-inch handle offers good balance and grip.

With hard-to-weed carrots, beets and onions, you can often do a better job using a short-handled tool than you can using a hoe with a long handle. Some diversity in the handle lengths of your hoes is obviously in order.

High-Efficiency Scuffle Hoes

Ready to start talking heads and blades? For most gardeners, a sharp, ultralight scuffle hoe is a top tool for controlling young weeds up to 4 inches tall. Scuffle hoes cut when you push and again when you pull on the handle, which makes them more efficient than hoes that cut in just one direction. Many scuffle hoes can be operated from a near-standing position, usually by swinging the blade through weeds instead of chopping them, which can be hard on your back. Scuffle hoes come in two designs:

Diamond or triangle hoes slice through weeds on all sides, so they make excellent use of time and energy. Models include DeWit’s diamond hoe ($47), Rogue Hoe’s triangle hoe ($25), and Fisher Industries’ Winged Weeder (about $20), which looks like a swept-back diamond hoe. At retail stores, look for Ames’ floral scuffle hoe for about $40.

gail powell_1
7/26/2010 1:07:07 PM

for U.S. made hoes see our website at unitedstatesmadellc. Made in the country in mid northern Ohio. Try them and let us know what you think! Thanks!!






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