One of the oldest cultivating tools, a hoe has many practical garden uses, including tilling, raking, mixing and mounding soil around plants. Generally speaking, hoes feature a long handle like a rake or shovel and a thin blade. By pulling or pushing the blade, a user can cut through soil and manipulate it without having to get on the ground. Variations on the basic form allow for different techniques and applications.
A garden hoe features a blade between 2.5 and 8 inches wide that is curved or angled back at approximately a 45-degree angle. When in use, the blade makes contact with the soil and the user then pulls the blade back to pull up earth and cut through weeds. These devices are useful in keeping weeds down between rows. Smaller blades can be used to remove weeds between individual plants.
Nursery hoes look and function like regular garden hoes but feature sturdier blades and handles to manage more difficult soil. They have forged steel blades and can cut through heavy, low-lying growth more efficiently than garden hoes. They cost more than garden hoes, but remain relatively lightweight.
As the name implies, rather than having a flat blade at the end of its handle, a stirrup hoe has a blade that looks like a stirrup. At the end of the handle, this special blade creates a loop with a thin, flat surface approximately 1 inch wide making contact with the ground. It can be pushed or pulled with equal ease to remove weeds or to cultivate loose soil. A similar variation is a circle hoe, which has a looped blade sharpened on both sides.
A Dutch hoe is designed to cut through the roots of plants and remove sod and top soil. It has a flat, sharp blade between 4 and 6 inches wide and contacts the ground so that the cutting blade can slide under the surface of the soil and slice away sections of unwanted weeds or grass. Depending on the direction of the sharpened edge, Dutch hoes may be pushed or pulled through a garden to cut seed paths and perform edging duties.
This hoe features a long, thin, flat blade that makes it look something like a razor used in shaving. The user sweeps the device from side to side in short motions to essentially shave up the soil and remove shallow weed growth. It is best used on loosely packed soil after the plants are in the ground rather than during initial cultivation. Most are designed to allow for replacement of the blades.
As the name implies, a diamond hoe has a diamond-shaped blade. The blade is sharpened on all four sides and may be pushed, pulled or swept across the soil. Diamond hoes do not move a great deal of soil compared to most other designs, but the blades can be quickly flipped and they tend to cause less strain on the user's neck.
A Warren hoe has a double-sided blade approximately 3 inches wide. One end of the blade is triangular and can be used to dig, trench or scrape. The other end has two points on the outer edge of the blade that look something like rabbit ears pointing straight upward. This side can be used to pull soil back over plantings in a single motion. Other two-sided hoes feature flat edges for chopping and more teeth for raking or getting under the roots of unwanted plants.