I’m a big fan of simple garden tools – and the hoe is one of my all-time favorites.
Unfortunately, thanks to the decline of Western Civilization, even saying the word “hoe” now evinces smirks and winks.
We’ve left our agrarian roots and have immersed ourselves in the cesspool of the inner city.
Yet for us who have left the city and sought out simpler lives connected with the soil, our hoes are comforting tools that fit nicely in the hand and lead to clean rows and happy crops.
However, not all hoes are created equal.
Today we’ll take a look at my top five best garden hoes and how they’re used.
Garden Hoe #1: The Gooseneck Hoe/Paddle Hoe/Garden Hoe
This is the classic garden hoe in North America.
Unfortunately, modern models don’t consist of a single forged head and handle mount like the antique model above. Instead, the gooseneck portion is welded onto the blade and then fits into a hole in the bottom of the handle where it’s held in place by a cheap stamped metal collar.
Look around for an old one – you’ll appreciate it. The cutting steel is remarkably fast compared to the modern metal. It’s like the difference between a cheap stainless butter knife and a good carbon steel blade. You’d choose the latter for food prep: do the same in the garden with your hoe.
The swan neck on the hoe should be adjusted to maintain a good angle with the ground the gardener stands and hoes his garden.
This is a good, quick blade for tougher hoeing jobs and larger weeds, as well as little weeds. If you find yourself chopping at the ground, you’re doing it wrong. Sharpen up your blade and ease into your work.
Garden Hoe #2: The Scuffle Hoe/Hula Hoe/Stirrup Hoe/Oscillating Hoe
Yes, there are a lot of common names for this one hoe.
Hoes need to be given Latin names. Let’s just call this one Marra oscillatus.
This hoe is a country housewife’s favorite and for good reason. Rather than scraping the weeds in a repeated scraping stroke-and-lift as you would with a regular hoe, you scuffle this hoe back and forth, letting the oscillating blade snip through the weeds, effectively decapitating them.
Somewhere around here I have a picture of my wife hoeing a garden bed with a hula hoe when she was nine months pregnant. I am so tempted to post it.
The scuffle or hula hoe is a major time saver that makes cleaning up weeds a snap, provided they’re not too entrenched. If they are… you’ll need the next hoe.
Garden Hoe #3: The Grub Hoe
The grub hoe is an earth chopping monster. Unlike the previous two hoes which are created for lighter weeding projects, the grub hoe is an earthmoving tool consisting of a heavy forged head that points at a little less than a 90 degree angle from the handle.
The grub hoe is the primary cultivating tool in much of the undeveloped world. It’s easy to use than a shovel for digging, plus it’s more than strong enough to chop through tree roots, smash through hardpan and till new ground.
I’ve taken antigue grub hoe heads and pressed them back into service with great results; however, the best blade/handle combination I’ve ever used is the grub hoe sold by EasyDigging.com. Their handles are incredible and the blades are forged steel.
You can actually dig easier with a grub hoe than you can with a shovel. Once you own one, you’ll wonder how you gardened without it. I’ve planted a lot of perennials with mine.
Garden Hoe #4: The Wheel Hoe
The wheel hoe almost disappeared from the American garden decades ago. Recently, however, it’s started to make a comeback thanks to the internet and a lot of small farmers interested in getting maximum output from quality hand tools without resorting to gas-guzzling tillers.
The most famous wheel hoe is the classic Planet Jr. cultivator. Unfortunately, Planet Jr. went out of business years ago though there’s still a thriving trade in their implements on eBay and in the antiques world.
A good old Planet Jr. wheel hoe will usually set you back $200 or more. I know. I’ve searched for one.
So – what’s the deal with wheel hoes and why would a gardener want one for his plot?
Simple: the wheel hoe allows you to clean up a field plot in a fraction of the time it would take you with any other hoe. The wheel in front allows an incredibly efficient distribution of force that works wonders in decapitating weeds, especially when it’s teamed up with an oscillating blade, such as the one on the Planet Whizbang wheel hoe.
I own that simple, well-designed kit-built wheel hoe and have found it to be a monster at clearing even tough weeds. The oscillating hoe rocks back and forth as you push/pull the wheel hoe, making it almost possible to cut sod with it.
The Planet Whizbang wheel hoe doesn’t have any additional attachments, unfortunately, but as a dedicated weeder it’s super fast. You can find it here.
For extra features, you need to turn to the leading manufactured wheel hoes such as Hoss, Glaser, or Valley Oak.
Hoss also makes an excellent seeder attachment for their wheel hoes, allowing you to plant a large garden in a limited amount of time.
I own the Hoss wheel hoe/seeder combination and got mine from Easy Digging. It’s an amazing piece of mechanical technology. One man could easy tend an acre with a good Hoss wheel hoe and seeder.
Garden Hoe #5: The Grape Hoe
The grape hoe is an Italian innovation similar to a grub hoe. Unlike the grub hoe, the grape hoe isn’t made for digging. It features a wide, strong blade that’s angled to the ground at a degree that makes the scraping away of surface weeds a breeze. They’re sold on Amazon though I got mine from EasyDigging.com.
(Yes, I know – I keep coming back to Easy Digging. They’re the best I’ve found for grid-down hand tools, so I’m going to keep pluggin’ em.)
Grape hoes were originally designed for use in vineyards, but they’ll also make short work of weeds in orchards and in garden beds. It’s a large, tough implement not suited to careful weeding but it is excellent for clearing new ground and pathways in a rapid amount of time.
Finally, I covered the grape hoe, the grub hoe and the adze hoe in a short YouTube video that shows you how they work and how quickly you can tear up the ground.
So – what are you waiting for?
Grab a good hoe and start slicing weeds and taking names!