What is a Hoe?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

A hoe is a tool used for cultivating, weeding, and breaking up earth. There are three major kinds: an excavating machine, a tool mounted on wheels, and a hand tool.

Some hoes are made specifically to harvest beets.
Some hoes are made specifically to harvest beets.

Backhoe. A backhoe, which is often seen as a backhoe loader, is used to dig up compacted earth. These tools pull the load back toward the operator and are used for digging holes and trenches, as well as for lifting heavy loads. They are operated using hydraulic controls, and have stabilizer legs for balance.

Garden hoes are used to turn soil and eliminate weeds.
Garden hoes are used to turn soil and eliminate weeds.

Wheel hoe. A push hoe mounted on wheels, this tool is used for cultivation and creating furrows. This can speed up the job and allow larger areas to be turned by hand. Some are constructed so that other implements can be attached to the frame.

Handheld hoe. A garden hoe is a long-handled tool attached to a thin, flat metal blade, used for cultivating, weeding, and breaking up earth. Depending on the type and weight, they may be used with a chopping, pulling, pushing, or pull-push motion. There are many types, though some are proprietary. It will work best if its blade is kept sharp, and it should be cleaned after each use and protected from the weather to prevent rust.

Eye, Pattern, Grub, or Farmer's Hoe. This early model features a blade with an "eye" through which the handle fits. It is used internationally.

Common, Garden, Pattern, or Draw Hoe. One can correctly conclude from these various titles that this tool is in wide use, and that one uses it by pulling it towards oneself.

Dutch Hoe. These tools are made for pushing, rather like a wheel hoe: you place the blade in the earth and walk, pushing it ahead of you.

Paxton Hoe. The Paxton hoe, originally designed in Scotland, is differently configured, designed for a pull or push motion, either forming a trench while dragging soil away, or pushing up soil to mound it. It has a short blade with a curved lower edge, and it's possible to fit it into a small space.

Stirrup, Scuffle, Action, or Hula Hoe. This tool, shaped like a stirrup, is used in a pull-push motion, "scuffling" along the ground. This kind cuts without lifting.

Warren Hoe. The Warren hoe, designed in the U.S., has a blade shaped like an arrowhead and is used for digging and filling furrows, as well as creating holes.

Specific Task Hoes. You can also find a tool specially made for some very specific tasks. There are floral models for weeding flower beds; the onion or Southern hoe, made for shallow weeding and fitting between onions when turned sideways; and beet/turnip hoes with triangular blades.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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