HOEING

The hoe is still not used so often as it should be in keeping plots in good condition. Its value is to keep the soil from cracking and getting hard and so delaying growth, to help conserve moisture and to reduce weed competition. The Dutch hoe is easily thrust through the surface at a slight angle and so keeps the tilth loose for air and moisture to benefit roots. It is also invaluable for keeping down small weeds which gather closely round plants. The draw hoe has its blade at right angles and has its use in keeping soil level, breaking lumps, and drawing soil round roots where rain or wind have loosened. After digging and in preparing ground for sowing, some prefer it to the rake. A novel hoe more useful for weeding near roots than the Dutch hoe can be made by fixing a fern trowel on a long handle. The spud is a miniature thrust hoe, not more than 2 in. wide and usually fixed on a walking-stick. One form of the Dutch hoe, instead of the usual blade, has a high-tensile steel wire stretched taut between the prongs of a spring steel fork. It allows a continuous draw hoe action as well as to and fro; slices off weeds below the surface, and in loosening the tilth does not heap it. The wire can be replaced when it wears out.

The Sproughton hoe invented by the famous Victorian amateur rose exhibitor, the Rev. A. Foster-Melliar, who was Vicar of Sproughton in Essex, should be used more widely by amateurs. It is really a variant of the Dutch hoe, having a double-edged blade, attached to the handle on one side only. This can, of course, be worked more closely round plants than the standard type of Dutch hoe.
The Canterbury hoe usually has 3 prongs or teeth, fixed at right angles to the handle. It is used for earthing up potatoes, removing surface-rooted weeds, and breaking up heavy, lumpy ground. The ‘Swoe’ is a fairly new tool with a hollow-forged rust-resisting blade ground on three edges. It enables one to work backwards and forwards with the blade flat in the top inch layer of soil and is an excellent tool for surface cultivation of rose beds, where soft annual weeds like chickweed and groundsel are a continuous menace.

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