Thursday, 7 May 2009

Down with Hoes and Blades

Hoe Culture

O.K. Let’s not get upset, I've not turned into a rapper or gangster. I am talking about garden implements, tools of the soil. As it now turns out, I’ve become rather fond of my Hoes .

I used to find the Draw hoe of very little use as my soil was too hard and dry to be drawn and the Dutch hoe was a complete mystery to me. I would stab at the sun baked clay and watch the sparks fly off the dull blade. Now, some tears later and with well manured and toiled soil, I find my hand reaching for the Dutch hoe on almost every visit. The trick, I stumbled upon, is to slice thin layers of soil with the blade set at just the right angle, like a carpenters plane taking slivers of wood off a door. Once those slivers of soil are released, they break down to a fine crumb very quickly. Hoeing through small weeds is a simple slicing action as the blade travels through the dusty soil. The larger weeds I can stab at until the blade chops through the thick fleshy stalks. Hoeing down the emerging weed seedlings usually uproots them and they die on the soil surface, cutting through the stem of a fleshy developed weed, such as a Dandelion, won’t stop it growing but will weaken it, so eventually it will die. It also serves to stop the plant from flowering and spreading its unwanted offspring all wherever the prevailing breeze carries them.

The action of constantly pushing the Dutch hoe through the soil deepens the workable depth of soil, so making it easy to draw the loosened material up around plants when banking or earthing up. The Draw hoe isn’t as much of a weed control tool as its Dutch cousin, preferring to act as an earth mover. When sowing peas, it’s a simple task to draw out a shallow channel for broadcast sowing. When making a trench for adding compost or other material, the Draw hoe is the tool for the job. Banking soil up to blanch Celery, earth New Potatoes or encourage more roots on a Cucumber falls into Draw Hoe territory.

Now, I get disappointed if there are no weeds for me to chop with my hoe, or any soil to loosen.

I just like the meditational rhythm of the to and fro action of the hoe, breaking through another thin layer of soil, letting the soil absorb the rain more readily, aerating it and creating a depth of soil that roots can penetrate with little resistance.

It’s another one of those peaceful, calming almost hypnotic past times I find just lifts the problems of the world from my shoulders and eases me into a quiet family evening and following it up with a good session of watering just rounds things of nicely.

But be warned: a sharp blade can slice through an emerging seedling indiscriminately and will kill off a prized plant as easily as it will a weed, so stay alert to just where you push that tool.

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