Keep that hoe moving!Posted By: rocket veg Category: Seasonal Tips
In complete contrast to this time last year when the sun shone and temperatures soared, June this year has been a dismal month – generally overcast, chilly and very wet. That said, plants have enjoyed the rain and put on amazing growth, and the early harvest of crops on my allotment – broad beans, peas, salads and the first soft fruits – has been really good with the promise of more to come.
Keep on top of those weeds!
One of the downsides of a wet spell at this time of year is that weeds have popped up everywhere and managed to put on an impressive growth spurt while your back is turned. Unless you want your precious crops to be swamped and vital nutrients sucked from the soil by weeds, now is the time to tackle the invasion – and what better tool to choose than a hoe.
Garden tools each have their season: spades for digging and clearing the ground over the winter months; forks for turning the soil and removing the roots of any weeds in early spring; a flat rake for creating the perfect surface prior to sowing when warmer weather comes. Summer is the season for hoeing and a trusty hoe is an essential item for all serious gardeners.
I’m a big fan of hoes and have several, each designed for a slightly different purpose. My Japanese hoe with its short, curved blade is perfect for putting paid to weeds by nicking through their stems just below the surface of the soil, but this involves bending or kneeling, a back-breaking task, satisfying when done, but one of those ‘grin and bear it’ allotment jobs. When weeding larger areas, I find it much easier to stand and wield a long-handled hoe which has the advantage of being able to reach along the rows between plants.
How to hoe
Hoeing can be a surprisingly relaxing way of doing what is essentially a gardening chore. Choose a dry, sunny day and set to work, pushing and pulling the hoe back and forth so that the blade slides under the soil close to where the leafy growth of the weeds appears from their roots. If the blade of the hoe is sharp enough, it will make a clean cut through stems of larger weed, exposing the fleshy top of the root for the sun to burn. Smaller weeds will simply be dragged up, roots and all, by the blade. Take your time, or a casual swing of the hoe will sever the stem of a plant instead of a weed. Easily done. I have written before about the virtues of hoeing as a way to keep weeds at bay, so seek out that article for more information about different types of hoe and their uses.
Once you’ve cut the weeds off, simply leave the remains to wither and die in the sun. I am a tidy gardener and cannot bear the sight of weed remains littering the soil between my neat rows of veg, so I find it hard to resist the temptation to tidy up. I’m trying to remind myself that it is far better to leave the old weeds to act as a mulch. Like all garden tasks, the best bit is standing back afterwards and admiring your efforts.