Best Hoes for Heavy Soils

Hoes are used for several different tasks in gardens and fields. I’m sure some hoes that look useless to me have applications in light, airy soils.

In the heavy soils, often mostly clay, I’ve been associated with, it takes a substantial hoe to make much of a dent.

We make heavy use of mulches these days, which eliminates much of the weeding applications for hoes.

We still need hoes for laying off rows. We just use the edge of a hoe pulled along to form trenches for planting seeds. The size of the trench varies with the desired depth of the seeds being planted.

Most any kind of little hoe will do for just making little rows.

However, as with most tools, it’s somewhat satisfying to hold and wield quality tools. So even our little hoes are the best we can find.

When I was growing up, our hoes were almost always what we called cotton hoes. They looked much like what’s sold as a garden hoe these days.

garden hoes, garden tools

Cotton hoe

However, the real cotton hoes were often of a higher quality than commonly available. The steel was often forged and would sharpen to a very keen edge, not quickly dulled by hard use. Still, these were generally quite light and took some real swinging to get much done.

Cotton chopping accomplished thinning of small cotton plants plus dealing with weeds, often crabgrass or Bermuda grass, not eliminated by mule or tractor drawn cultivators.

I didn’t know until a few years ago that many of the world’s farmers use a completely different hoe design. Hoes in much of the world are used to break up the soil, almost like a plow, in addition to all the weeding, row making, and thinning tasks we think of as hoe work.

I have a copy of the book Farmers of Forty Centuries which described farming in Asian countries in the 1920s. Pictured throughout this book are the same type hoes used by people today in many parts of the world. This common hoe design is described as an eye hoe. It’s a blade with an eye for the handle.

Our first hoe like this was a made-in-Austria version purchased at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

garden tools, garden hoe

Austrian hoe

We also learned these are called Scovil hoes. Scovil was an American brand.

We put our Austrian hoe to work especially for building garden beds and for heavy work.

I immediately liked the heft for heavy work.

However, I disliked two things about the hoe. Firstly, this particular blade was very tough, but it was so hard I couldn’t sharpen it with a file. It would hold an edge, but required a power grinder for sharpening. This was a disadvantage to me, and it would be to other peasant farmers.

The second disadvantage was more serious. How do you keep the handle tight in the eye of one of these hoes?

The handles are shaped so the hoe head won’t come off. You slip the handle in the eye in such a way that it won’t come off. There’s a little hole in the eye to insert a nail or screw to secure the handle to head.

But, heavy use of the hoe loosens the fit of hoe to handle. The head won’t come off, but it wiggles around as you use it. Different screws and nails don’t help. Attempting to carve the handle to fit the eye didn’t work. I could go on.

Eye hoes just have loose handles. And that looseness just grates on my frail nerves. You just can’t keep it tight.

I fought this for years. Then I found the answer.

The Pro Hoe brand tools are the answer. These hoes are fashioned from tractor pulled disk blades. The manufactures have a model like the world-wide used eye hoe but without the eye.

The Pro Hoe model includes a socket on the head for the handle. The hickory handle is made to lightly fit the socket and glued in place. Nothing wiggles. Hoe and handle are as one piece.

I love it.

Plus the blades are hard, but not so hard a file won’t cut them. They can be file sharpened in the field. And they make many models other than the big digging hoes. Those little hoes beat our old cotton hoes badly.

We’re big fans of Pro Hoes for working in heavy soils.

To summarize: Pro Hoe uses proven hoe designs, quality steels, perfect handle materials, and solid connection of heads to handles. Plus, they’re made in Iowa and don’t cost much.

Pro Hoe is a better way to weed, mark rows, and dig in gardens and fields.

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