Cape Gazette
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Garden Journal

Hoeing actually increases the fertility available to plants

By Paul Barbano | Jun 18, 2014
Hoeing is most effective when your garden soil surface is dry.

Tried and true is a good rule in the garden and in life. When a new band had trouble getting repeat bookings in London, they just changed their name frequently, with the newest band name usually given by their booking agents’ staff. One of the staff was a history buff and lightheartedly named the band after an 18th century agriculturist. The band Jethro Tull was born, and their hit album “Aqualung” remains a rock classic.

The original Jethro Tull was a big advocate not of rock music, but of garden hoeing. Hoeing was, and still is, usually seen just as a quick way to cut down weeds.

Jethro Tull showed farmers and gardeners that hoeing has another function. By pulverizing the soil with a hoe, you allow the gases and moisture of the air to get down into the soil and reach the roots. In this way, hoeing actually increases the fertility available to plants.

Because weeds are always growing just beneath the soil surface, regular hoeing will easily kill them before they sprout.

Hoeing is most effective when your garden soil surface is dry.

To make hoeing easy on your back, be sure that you stand as upright as possible. Use a hoe with a long handle. You may want to wear gloves to reduce the chance of blisters or slivers.

Cut the soil with the hoe blade and pull it back toward you. Your hoe should dig down one to two inches deep into the dirt. Pull the hoe blade up and let the soil you moved fall back down onto the ground.

Continue hoeing all of the soil between the plants and between the rows. You can rake away any uprooted weeds and put them into the compost pile.

Don’t hoe too much soil at a time. Avoid stepping on the freshly hoed soil, or you will compress the dirt. Hoe over any of your footprints to loosen the soil.

Since a hoe is a cutting tool, it is important to keep the blade sharp. Use a flat, general-purpose file to sharpen the blade. Place the hoe into a vise with the blade of the hoe facing up.

File your hoe using strokes going in only one direction. Never use back-and-forth strokes. It will only take a few long strokes to sharpen the blade. You want to get an angle between 30 and 45 degrees on the blade. That’s it.

There may be a few burrs or roughness on the blade edge from filing. You can remove these with one or two gentle file strokes. After you are done hoeing, wipe the blade to prevent rust.

So put on music, “Aqualung” album or not, and hoe the garden. Hoeing the garden can take on a soothing rhythm, almost like a dance, or indeed a hoedown.

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