San Diego Floral Association
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Favorite Tool: Stirrup Hoe
Reprinted from: May/June 2009 Volume 100, Number 3
The stirrup hoe is an excellent tool for weeding and cultivation. Photo: Amy R. Wood
If a good garden tool is worth its weight in gold, a favorite is darn near priceless. One of my favorites is a wood-handled stirrup hoe. The stirrup hoe—or saddle, scuffle, action or oscillating hoe, among other names too long to list—is the perfect tool for weeding unruly planter beds in an efficient and ache-free manner, and my trusty tool has saved me from a lot of sweat, sore muscles and frustration.
A stirrup tool features a loop of metal, flat on the side perpendicular to the handle that is sharpened on both sides. This stirrup pivots slightly where attached to the handle. The primary use of a stirrup hoe—as opposed to a scuffle hoe (which looks like a square of metal that you pull toward you to use)—is to weed and lightly cultivate the soil. The stirrup hoe can also help save your back, as unlike the scuffle hoe or collinear hoe (which looks like a long, thin razor blade with teeth that you use to ‘shave’ weeds from your beds), it can be moved both forward and back. This is thanks to the pivoting stirrup. The pivot allows you to tuck into a comfortable position and use your momentum and a rocking motion to move the tool beneath the weeds and through the soil.
You can buy stirrup hoes at most garden shops and nurseries; they tend to run between $10 and $35, depending on the materials used for the handle and blade. There are a lot of handle options; they come with wood handles, metal handles and even plastic handles. Pick a handle material that feels best for you, and if you have small hands, try looking for something a bit thinner than standard. Trust me, the joints in your hands will thank you for it later. A long handle is recommended so you don’t have to crouch over too much while you work, and so you can reach into tight or overgrown spaces.
Proper care for your tool is important, so remember to remove dirt every time you’re done using the piece, taking care to dry excess water so the metal doesn’t rust. If the moving pivot part begins to lock up, use a little WD-40 to get that motion back. You’ll also want to sharpen the tool after time so as to get the best result when weeding, which is, after all, the whole reason you’d want a stirrup hoe in the first place. —Amy R. Wood
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