Famous Gardeners’ Favorite Hoes

Garden hoes have been around nearly as long as gardening. Despite their timeless design, different gardeners reach for certain hoes first.

  • Garden hoes are among the oldest tools of agriculture. Records exist of their use by Egyptian civilizations from about the same time the first wheels turned, more than 5,000 years ago.
    Photo by Heather Cole
  • “Through my 30-plus years of gardening, particularly heirloom tomato growing, I’ve found that I’m a pretty basic gardener — a tool minimalist, but a hands-dirty specialist (no gloves for me). With our rocky, clay soil in Raleigh, North Carolina, my most useful hoe-type tool is a very old (20 years or more) blade weeder, second in use only to my short-handled, three-tine cultivator.” -Craig LeHoullier
    Photo by Susan Angus-LeHoullier
  • “I love both of my scuffle hoes — the stirrup hoe and the diamond hoe. They slide just under the soil’s surface, effortlessly killing young weeds and leaving a ‘dust mulch’ to conserve moisture. I keep my hoes clean, dry, and sharp so they’re always ready to save my aching back if I weed early and often!” -Ira Wallace
    Photo by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
  • “It might be best not to tell the CobraHead folks that I use this hoe to scrape down the chicken roosts, or that I stained the handle a strange color because it’s my go-to tool for many tasks and I needed it to be easy to find. This thing will shave down any weed when it’s sharp, and it’s great for making shallow planting furrows. I also use it to pull down row cover the wind has blown into trees, and I’ve picked up a rat snake with it, too. As a weeding tool, the long-handled CobraHead is in a class of its own.” -Barbara Pleasant
    Photo by Barbara Pleasant
  • “Our favorite hoe is the Rogue hoe. We use it in the garden and (as you can see) in our burn piles. It’s sturdy, strong, and is the one we reach for first.” -Cody aka Wranglerstar
    Photo by Mrs. Wranglerstar
  • “My hoe has ‘deep-seeded’ history! Not only is it my go-to tool to move soil around easily, but it represents a significant change I made in my life 10 years ago. It’s part of my story and journey when I left my corporate job to pursue my landscape and gardening business, Two Women and a Hoe. Who knew a hoe could literally change someone’s life?” -Jan Bills
    Photo by Aly Darin Photography
  • “The long-handled CobraHead weeder and cultivator is the only hoe I need to get everything done in the garden. It can be used either shallow or deep and allows me to precisely cultivate. It’s also indestructible, which is good for someone like me who leaves it out in the garden frequently during the frantic spring season.” -Doug Oster
    Photo courtesy Doug Oster
  • “From my collection of vintage hoes, this old Dutch hoe is my favorite. My dad had one just like it, and when he gave me my first patch of garden to tend as a child, I used to get this hoe from the shed and try to wield it to work the earth to a nice fine crumb like he did. The handle on that old hoe was longer than me, but I felt like I was a proper gardener! For me, this design seems to get the job done in a gentler manner than the pull or draw hoes, gliding through the soil with a light push of the hand.” -Heather Cole
    Photo by Country Trading Co.
  • Heather Cole's diverse collection of vintage hoes.
    Photo by Heather Cole
  • A close-up of Heather Cole's favorite hoe from her collection.
    Photo by Heather Cole

“Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.” So the old quote goes, and to this day the garden hoe remains one of the most popular tools in the garden shed.

As long as we’ve cultivated crops, we’ve hoed. Garden hoes are among the oldest tools of agriculture. Records exist of their use by Egyptian civilizations from about the same time the first wheels turned, more than 5,000 years ago.

Hoes fall into two main families: long-handled and short-handled. The latter have become more popular with home gardeners in recent years because of the rising popularity of raised garden beds. But a short-handled hoe is hard on your back if you have a large garden to tend. Within the long-handled family of garden hoes, there are push hoes and pull hoes, with many designs for each.

Push hoes, such as the triangle-shaped scuffle hoe and the Dutch hoe, are designed to glide through the top layer of soil with a gentle push of the handle. The blades are sharp on each side for slicing weeds. My favorite push hoe has a wide blade on an open hoop that lets the earth flow back through without clogging. When the fork and shovel have done their job, this old hoe works the earth to a lovely crumb, demolishing clods and leaving a fine tilth that’s perfect for sowing or planting.

Pull hoes, also known as draw hoes or field hoes, include heads of various shapes designed to cut weeds and move earth with a more vigorous pull on the handle. Their solid, angled blades (either on a swan neck or a short neck) tend to be larger and heavier than those of push hoes. Pull hoes are good for deeper cultivating, soil mounding, and grubbing larger weeds.

Form and Function

The hoe endures because it works, delivering results for the garden and the gardener. For the garden, hoeing helps control weeds, allowing vegetables to perform their best. For gardeners, the regular act of hoeing lets them commune with the garden in a rhythmic form of meditation that does as much for the soul as any mindfulness session or health spa. There’s something deeply therapeutic about decapitating weeds with a gentle push or pull of the hoe. The long-handled hoe is also the best friend of a gardener’s knees and back, especially in larger plots where hours of hoeing may be required. One gardener I know enjoys pottering in her patch in the evening with a long-handled hoe in one hand and a beer in the other. A nice kind of therapy!



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