This undated photo shows two types of hoes in New Paltz, NY. The wire hoe and winged hoe are two hoes that effectively and easily slide just below the surface of the soil to keep weeds at bay.
From LEE REICH Associated Press
I’ll bet there’s an old hoe leaning against a wall in the corner of your tool shed or garage. A hoe that hasn’t been used in a long, long time and may have been replaced by a petrol or electric tiller, chemical weed killer, or mulching.
Chopping is not exactly fashionable these days, perhaps because it seems to require what Charles Dudley Warner said in his 19th century classic “My Summer in the Garden” that every gardener should have: “an iron back with a hinge in it “.
But, believe it or not, chopping is an easy and safe way to control weeds. Perhaps even easier than many of the “labor-saving” methods it has replaced.
The reason for hoes, rototillers, weed killers, and mulch is twofold: first, to keep weeds at bay, and second, to keep the soil surface loose so rain can penetrate rather than slide over the surface.
Chemical weed killers, which ultimately provide an open field for resistant weeds, also do nothing to keep the soil surface loose. Straw, leaves and other organic mulches keep the soil surface loose and suffocate weeds, but only if they are kept in a sufficiently thick layer.
Motorized cultivators break up weeds and loosen the soil, but in the process they burn organic material, destroy the soil structure, destroy earthworms and beneficial insects and damage the roots.