Weeding is generally one of the gardener’s least favourite tasks, but a good hoe can make the task not only easier but often, in my experience, actually enjoyable.
Now, I had better qualify that last statement. A lot depends on the type and quality of your hoe. So, let’s look at these points below.
When to use a garden hoe
Hoes are designed to clear weeds by skimming just under the soil surface and cutting the weed off at its roots. It follows, therefore, that the hoe is most effective when used to clear annual or very shallow rooted perennial weeds.
For weeds that have a taproot or which spread through their root systems (through rhizomes or stolons, for example), hoeing will remove the surface growth but will not prevent the weed from regrowing at the root. However, continual hoeing of perennial weeds in this way will weaken them over time, because the removal of the top growth prevents the plant from being able to photosynthesise.
Hoeing is best carried out in warm and dry conditions because the uprooted weeds can be left to shrivel up and die off on the surface of the soil. If conditions are damp, there is always a risk that the weed will re-root. So in that case, you need to make sure you pick up and dispose of the uprooted weeds.
But when conditions are right a good hoe will make short work of a weedy patch of ground, allowing you to make a big improvement in a relatively short space of time.
Choosing the best garden hoe
There are several different kinds of garden hoe (including some used specifically for digging, which I’m not covering here), and to add to the confusion they tend to be called different things in different places.
So, for the sake of simplicity and to illustrate the main garden hoe types, I will focus on a selection produced by the Dutch company Sneeboer. My lovely wife bought me a Sneeboer hoe (pictured above) – and a Sneeboer garden rake – about 15 years ago, and (along with my Felco number 2 Secateurs) these are probably the best tools I’ve ever had. In the UK, Sneeboer tools are available from Harrod Horticultural. In the USA, they are available here.
The pull or draw hoe
The pull hoe, unsurprisingly, is designed to be pulled towards you as you scrape under the surface of the soil. The angle of the blade and, in the case of the Sneeboer, the swan neck, ensure the blade can be positioned to gain good traction as you drag it towards you through the weed roots.
As you can see, the pull hoe comes with different shaped and sized heads. These Sneeboer hoes come with 10, 15 or 20 cm rectangular heads, and even with a half-moon shaped head. This means you choose the kind that suits you based upon the areas you will be working in and the use you want to put the hoe to. The narrower headed hoe, for example will be useful for working between narrowly spaced rows of vegetables.
Another advantage of the pull hoe, if it is of sufficient quality and strength, is that it can be used for some digging tasks, such as breaking up a hard surface, drawing out furrows or drills for seed planting or hilling up the soil around potato plants.
The push hoe
The push hoe – and here is another surprise – is designed to be pushed through the soil to cut off the weeds at their roots. This pushing action means you can put a lot of force behind your hoeing, which can be can be an advantage with particular overgrown areas, tough weeds, or hard ground.
This Sneeboer push hoe is available in 3 different widths – 15.5cm, 22.5cm and 27.5cm and like all Sneeboer hoes has an ash handle and a toughened steel blade. The push hoe’s blade is sharpened on all four sides, so you can clear weeds as you pull the hoe back or move it from side to side, as well as with the pushing motion.
The Dutch hoe
As you can see from the pictures at the tope of the page, the Sneeboer Dutch hoe is the hoe I favour.
It has a fairly wide, 14cm, blade. So you have to be carefully if weeding in narrow spaces between plants. But the sharpened steel front and rear blades cut effortlessly through the soil – and the weeds roots – making weeding a genuinely satisfying experience.
The Ash handle is solid but smooth and comfortable to hold. The angle of blade to handle means that with a slight adjustment of the height at which you hold the handle you can easily find a position that is both efficient and comfortable for you to work in.
The whole tool has a balance to it that makes it feel quite weightless as you use it. So I have no hesitation in recommending these hoes.
Main points to consider when buying a hoe
- Based on the descriptions above, think about the kind of hoe that is likely to suit you personally and the kind of hoeing you are likely to be doing.
- A hoe should reach between the heigh of your armpit and the top of your shoulder to be suitable for you. Some shorter handled versions are available – usually called ladies hoes.
- Choose the best hoe you can afford. Look for hardened steel, solid handles and extended manufacturers guarantees.
Alternative hoe selection
The hoes below are generally a bit cheaper than the Sneeboer hoes recommended above, but worth investigating. If you clink on the links you’ll be taken to the Amazon site where you are located.
Note – As per our general disclosure notices, all product links are affiliate links which mean I can receive a small commission if you purchase an item after clicking one of these links.