On a recent spring volunteer clean-up day, the only time the little hoe left Jill's hand was to poise briefly, hooked by its blade in her back pocket, while she paused to answer questions or made her way along to the next unwitting garden bed.
A hand tool with a metal shaft and a sharp triangular blade, the hoe is literally Jill's right hand for weeding and cultivating, offering the control and precision that you can't get with a long-handled hoe. It can also dig ("in a pinch," says Jill), furrow, and cover seed. Best of all, its sharp edge cuts weed roots right below the soil line. (She keeps hers sharpened on a grinding wheel.)
"I like it because it allows you to extend your arm under shrubs," she says. "I tend to weed fast and furiously, disturbing the top inch or so of soil by scraping it. My habit is to leave the uprooted weeds in the bed--if they are not full of seeds, that is--or I toss them on the grass to dry out. They get finished off with the mower next time around."
In the photo, you can see Jill's less-expensive, right- and left-handed models, as well as a pricier stainless steel one. "All work well, but the head has come off the cheaper ones more than once," says Jill. "Luckily I have a welding shop."
Whatever the little-hoe-that-could can't handle, the dogged, if droll, army shovel can. "It's perfect for small and medium jobs," Jill explains. "I find trowels annoyingly small and do not use them. When kneeling I can plunge the shovel with the blade facing me and pull it toward me to make a sizable hole. I can step on the sides to pry out a fairly deep rooted phlox. Since I garden a lot on my hands and knees, it is perfect."
The right tools don't just make a gardener; used with Jill's expertise, creativity, and wit, they also help make stunning gardens. ~ Lisa O'Brien