There are many kinds of cultivating tools, used to till and weed the soil, both before and after sowing. The most useful is the dutch (or push) hoe and the draw hoe. These can be used for effective weeding and also for making sowing drills and covering seeds with soil. Regular weeding and hoeing throughout the growing season will lessen the need to use chemical weed killers, which not only saves time but helps protect the environment.
The main purpose of a hoe is to cut or sever weeds near the surface, without disturbing the roots of other plants nearby. Hoes come in all shapes and sizes and their selection will depend on what job they are needed for, for example hoeing weeds in the borders or for earthing up work.
When choosing a long handled hoe it is important to get the length right. Make sure that you can use it standing upright, placing minimum strain on the back. However, nothing really beats hand hoeing at ground level, as you can see what you are doing and will cause less damage to nearby plants.
There are many types of hoe:
The draw hoe is used in the vegetable garden. Its primary use is to make seed drills (a shallow trench in which to sow seeds) then to cover them back over with soil. Another good use for these hoes is earthing-up or mounding the soil around plants such as potatoes, celery, leeks and asparagus during the growing season. When used as a weeding tool it copes much better with older tougher weeds than a Dutch hoe. Weeds are tackled using a downward chopping motion, striking the edge of the weed and severing it from its roots.
A key tool for weed control between plants and surface tilling to prevent the surface becoming hard or panned. Some special designs have a two-edged blade, so that by using a push-pull action can deal with weeds very quickly and efficiently. Others incorporate small side-guards to prevent damage to plants at the side, which is especially useful when weeding between closely-spaced rows in the vegetable garden.
This hoe has a cutting edge on all three sides to cut and weed in all directions. The cutting head can be smaller allowing it to get into tight spaces between delicate plants.
A small hand held hoe, ideal for weeding in-between narrow rows, but because of its short handle this can be back breaking work.
The double hoe has an angled blade on one side and prongs on the other. Thus it can be used for both cultivating the soil and for weeding.
Soil cultivators have a number of curved prongs or teeth, that when pulled backwards through the soil break up the top few inches, aerating the surface. Long handled versions are good for fine surface cultivation in light soils. Short handled versions are also available, which can be used from a kneeler. Cultivators are also excellent for working in top-dressings and fertilisers along plant rows.
These have four or more star shaped wheels which rotate on a shaft, helping to break up and loosen the soil crust to create a very fine texture ready for sowing seeds.