Hoes by Any Other Name: Breaking Down Your Basic Garden Tool

The Basic Garden Tool

The Basic Garden Tool

Garden tools, specifically gardening hand tools, are among the most important utensils ever developed by man. I’m going to refer to it often in this website. I’m fascinated by farming. Without farming, we’d still be hunter gatherers. That would be exciting and maybe even fulfilling for a while, but the hunter gatherers eventually joined the agrarian societies or they perished. Civilization began with farming.

Gardening and farming are not simply ways to provide sustenance or to beautify a landscape. Working the earth is a spiritual experience. Religions actually began in the early agrarian communities. For anyone who farms the land, every aspect of it is part of their life. There are so many reasons to love the art of the profession that it is also easy to cherish its characteristics. One great area of interest for any farmer is the history and evolution of the implements which have been used in the farming profession since the beginning of time.

The hoe is one of the oldest and most adaptable of the gardening hand tools. Not only is it a simple and efficient way to till the soil which you are gardening, but the hoe also helps control weed infestation and is of great using during the reaping process.

With farming in my bloodline, sharing my personal knowledge of the various types of farming tools that are available is almost an obligation. Most of you likely also have a long history of farming or of keeping a garden; some of you are just developing your interests and want to learn all you can to improve your chances of success in the “field”. It doesn’t matter where you are on the farming timeline, we will start by discussing different types of commonly known and used garden tools that most of us can find in our shed (if there’s not one there – get one): the hoe. Because it is such a familiar piece of equipment, simple in design, and effective in purpose, we can safely discuss the various types of this gardening hand tool and their proper uses. I think it was the first gardening implement for me. In my case, my father would head to the garden and tell me to go get the hoe from the shed. It was always hanging from a couple of nails and I doubt that I mistook another tool for it (unlike learning about the different types of mechanic’s wrenches).

The following will provide you with information on types of hoes that fall under two categories: thrust hoes and draw hoes; read on.

The Thrust Hoe
You may have heard the thrust hoe, or push hoe, referred to as a “Dutch” hoe. The thrust hoe is equipped with a blade which is positioned in at an upward leaning position. Because of this design, the hoe is easily worked into the dirt when pushed, tilling the soil to a controlled depth. Thrust hoes are very helpful in getting rid of surface weeds and for use in cultivation.

The Draw Hoe
Also known as a “pull” hoe, draw hoes have been designed with a right-angle set to the blade. During use the blade is dug into the soil by the hoe operator and then pulled backward. One is able to change the angle which they are holding the hoe and thereby change the direction of productivity. This type of hoe is also useful for surface cultivation and weed removal.

Types of Thrust & Draw Hoes

There are a number of different hoes which are designed for more or less effectiveness, depending on size of garden being tended, type of soil being worked and many other factors. Below is a list of many types of hoes which fall under the categories above:

√ The Wheel Hoe
Just like it sounds, the wheel hoe consists of two wheels, and at times have two blades. The wheels assist with ease of use and dual-blades get the job done double-time and just right. This hoe can be used in coordination with other farm implements.

√ The Collinear Hoe
The long, narrow rectangular blade on this type of hoe is extremely sharp enabling it to cut weeds with ease by simply slicing through the loose dirt in which they are rooted. Because of its design, it is best to use a “sweeping” technique, with the handle nearly upright, when engaging in weed removal. You can imagine yourself ‘shaving’ the garden. Because of its designed purpose, this hoe is not the best choice for tilling soil or for engaging in any act of chopping or heavy cutting and won’t work well in hard soil with large clods.

√ The Swoe Hoe
This hoe is a relative of the Dutch Hoe (discussed later in this article), which is a type of thrust, or push, hoe. The blade on this hoe is on one side only, and it is primarily used in tasks which require cutting. Its blade shape and position design enable the user to get the job done easily.

√ The Dego Hoe
Here is your common farming hoe, with a good blade positioned on a swan neck and that has sufficient weight for effectiveness, and a wide, triangular-shaped blade which is highly effective for regular gardening or smaller scale farm tasks. Great for weeds, tilling and cutting.

√ The Stirrup Hoe
This hoe sports a two-edged blade which is designed in shape (a continuous loop of metal that is flattened on the base edge) to resemble a stirrup; hence the name. This feature allows for easy blade introduction, as well as a great “push-pull” ability. This hoe comes in a few different widths, anywhere from 3 to 7 inches, and is great for all aspects of garden hand tool hoeing tasks. It’s design and use make it easy to see where the cutting surface is. This is great when you want to cut only the weeds.

√ The Dutch Hoe
Here is a type of thrust hoe we discussed a bit earlier. This hoe is referred to by other names, such as oscillating, Hula-hoe, scuffle hoe, and others. The head of this hoe consists of a flat, circular blade of sharp metal which is perfect for surface weed removal, but is much less effective for tilling and cutting.

√ The Skindvic Hoe
Invented by a man who farmed timber-wood, this hoe has been designed with a rounded blade which has been set at a curved position. Good for all hoeing tasks, this remains one of the most popular hoe types in use to this day. Mostly used during the planting of trees, this is also referred to as the Hoedad.

Consider the fact that the hoe was initially invented to make things easier on the gardener or farmer hundreds of years ago, it is quite intriguing that its effectiveness and popularity have not diminished. Not only do they remain an excellent tool for gardening and farming on a smaller scale, but they allow the user to enjoy the “hands-on” experience of working the earth. My grandfather walked his fields, hoe in hand. For me, not my grandfather, hoeing actually offers a bit of therapy. It’s a simple but useful task requiring not a lot of concentration. The mind can relax or take on some other endeavor – your choice.

In addition to the hoe types listed above, there are others designed to provide ease and efficiency in other fashions. It is important to research your options and locate a hoe that is suitable for your individual circumstances and purposes.

Finally, take care of your fine tool. You might use a bucket containing coarse sand and a quart of motor oil to clean and oil your hoes (other gardening tools, too). Push your hoe into the sand to knock off any remaining dirt. The action will apply a thin coat of oil to the surfaces. Wipe off excess. Simple. Also, keep your hoe sharp. (Hint – you’ll like it better sharp.) Easily done with a few strokes with a mill file.

Sold? Check out what is available to you at your local garden center and begin to get your hands dirty. You will be amazed at the usefulness afforded to you by this ancient farming implement and you will love the time it saves and the great results you get. Have fun!

Author: Rod Widener

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