Okay, I admit it. I love tools–especially well-made hand tools. About a year ago I became enamored with purchasing a grub hoe. A grub hoe is a heavy-duty long-handled tool which can be used to dig and till soil much more efficiently than a shovel. It was once a common American hand tool, and even today it is the primary tool for countless South American, African, and Asian farmers. There’s just one problem: you can’t buy one here.
Most gardeners will agree that the choices among hand tools at most home centers and hardware stores is extremely limited. Only the most basic tools are sold, and options are dominated by poorly made imports with weak handle connections and dull blades. I always find it amazing that we can put a man on the moon but we can no longer make a decent garden hoe. I searched nearby stores and the Internet, but eventually our garden was tilled by a helpful neighbor with a John Deere tractor, and I ground an edge on our poorly made garden hoe which was passable for weeding.
Fast forward a year, and Robin again needs seed beds prepared for planting onion starts. If only I had a grub hoe … so I threw caution to the wind and ordered from EasyDigging.com. The sales-pitch style of their website puts me off, but it’s a small business and they appear to sell sturdy tools made in Brazil and Britain. (The fact that contrary farmer Gene Logsdon put in a good word for one of their products didn’t hurt either.) Of course, the biggest problem with ordering online is that the shipping for one tool rivals the cost of the tool, so you can’t buy just one, can you?
My tools arrived Tuesday in a well-packed box, and I set about assembling and admiring them. The castings won’t win any awards (none of the blades are dead-square to the handle), but they are plenty sturdy and pre-ground to a decent edge. From right to left, here’s a description of each tool:
- Fork Hoe – This is a cultivating tool that I plan to use to break up dirt clods, stir compost, and tear up weeds in loose soil. Further uses are described in this Fine Gardening article.
- 4″ Grub Hoe – The steeply set blade and long handle on this tool are optimized for digging. I plan to use this narrower grub hoe to break new ground for garden beds. I’m hoping this little human-powered tiller will be efficient enough for us to postpone any plans to buy a gas-powered tiller. I also plan to carry this tool on occasional pasture walks to quickly eradicate undesirable plants, such as blackberries and Bull Thistles. This is the tool mentioned by Gene Logsdon in his treatise on the hoe.
- 6″ Grub Hoe – A wider grub hoe for faster digging in looser soil or when I’m feeling more energetic.
- 8″ Italian Grape Hoe – This is the only true weeding hoe in the bunch as indicated by the shallower blade angle and the lighter weight. The wide blade should be great for clearing large swaths of weeds in garden paths and around established plants.
So, am I satiated with tools for a while? Not likely. Robin tells me that the weeding this year will be largely my responsibility, so I’m still going to need a nice light hoe for the fine work. I’m hoping to find something marvelous at an estate sale, but if that doesn’t work out I know where I can find a nice one locally. And of course, once you have one nice garden hoe, you’ll think of others you need: perhaps a scuffle hoe, a collinear hoe or even a wheel hoe …