Farmer Hannah’s Hoe Doe-Si-Doe

The European-Style Grape Hoe from Lehman's. The blade sharpens easily, and the broad head moves lots of soil.

The European-Style Grape Hoe from Lehman’s. The blade sharpens easily, and the broad head moves lots of soil.

Hoes are marvelous tools.  They come in so many shapes and sizes, and all are useful in their own unique ways!  As a gardener who does not use herbicide sprays, I have to deal with weeds regularly, and I have plenty of other jobs to do related to cutting, turning, and moving soil… so a hoe turns out to be my best friend most days.

A large number of people in this day and age have no idea how to use a hoe, and this has led to more hoes being made poorly, since people don’t know what they’re looking for. 

There are some styles of hoe that are best for tiny weeds, even before you can see them poking out of the soil—just disturbing the surface of the soil on a dry day will desiccate freshly germinated seeds and will keep beds of vegetables clear and clean for weeks to come.  Other hoes are better for chopping down individual large weeds, or for making a furrow.

My hoe of choice for moving large amounts of earth quickly and happily is the European Grape Hoe.  This hoe’s beauty is in its weight.  It is not a hoe for precision or small movements—it is a hoe to heft high and let gravity pull back down to the ground.  I hill my rows of potatoes with it, moving dirt up around the potato stems and burying weeds at the same time.

I’ve also been known to use the grape hoe to make a furrow in freshly-tilled soil.  All I do is pretend I’m a tractor, lower the hoe into the soil, and drag it down my hundred foot row to make a clean, even furrow.  Then, I plant my beans, or my potatoes, or whatever I happen to be planting, and finally I run it lightly down the side of the furrow again to cover up the newly planted seeds.  Quick and satisfying work!

The one issue I have with Lehman’s italian grape hoe is that the handle it comes with is a short, waist-high one.  It makes sense to some degree, encouraging the kind of gravity-utilizing movement that I’ve been talking about, but often times I’d rather be able to stand up to use the hoe, and having a long handle gives me closer access to the ground while I’m still upright.

Every vegetable farmer I’ve met has a variety of hoes for a variety of tasks–I’ve known some fierce advocates of diamond hoes while others will swear by wedge hoes.  Mostly, I recommend getting to know your hoes and the kinds of things they can do, and then choosing the best hoe for the job when you get the choice.