Reprise: Six Garden Lessons From Hoes

Garden gate in garden in Dallas, Texas
Sometimes gardeners who read my blog and then meet me in person will confess to me that they have never used a hoe in their garden.

Some will admit to not even owning a hoe.

Depending on my mood, I might feign shock and surprise that these hoe-less people have the nerve to call themselves gardeners. Other times, I nod my head in understanding. I’ve gardened long enough to realize that a hoe is a helpful gardening tool in some gardens, but is not an essential tool for every garden.

When touring gardens with others, if there is a hoe hanging on a fence or leaning against a tree, someone will point it out to me. Multiple people will point it out to me. And if we run across a gate that is decorated with garden hoes, I’ll hear about it before I see it!

I am forever linked to gardening hoes, so I might as well “hoe that row’ while I can.

With that in mind, here is a reprise of six gardening lessons you can learn from hoes.

1. Sharp hoes work better than dull hoes.
As a gardener, you’ll work better, too, to if you are mentally and physically sharp.

2. A hoe gets dull with use, so every once in a while you have to stop and sharpen it.
The same is true of gardeners. Over time, all work, even in the garden, can dull the senses and wear you down. Sharpen your gardening senses by getting out of your own garden every once in a while to see what else is going on in the gardening world. Visit other gardens, read good gardening books, check out your favorite garden blogs, talk to other gardeners. Or, gasp, you might even get out of the gardening world to see what else the world has to offer to sharpen your senses.

3. A hoe just hanging out in the shed doesn’t get anything done.
Often gardeners just hang out waiting because they think it might rain or it is a bit cool or a bit hot or whatever. Stop waiting and making up excuses. Get out of the shed and go out into the garden where gardening gets done.

4. Not every hoe can do every kind of hoeing; some are good for breaking ground, others for weeding in tight spaces.
No gardener can be good at every kind of gardening task that there is to be done. It’s frustrating using a small hoe to break up the ground in a large area, and equally frustrating to use a big hoe to do weeding in tight spaces. Avoid your own frustrations in the garden by figuring out what you are good at, and consider hiring out or trading with someone else to do the other work.

5. Different hoes work in different ways.
Some hoes work as they are pulled toward you, a few do their work as they are pushed through the soil, and still other hoes work in both directions. Every gardener works in different ways, too. You can watch how other gardeners work, but for many gardening tasks there is no right way or wrong way. You should find your own best way to work in the garden, to get your best results.

6. A clean hoe lasts longer.
If you take care of your hoes by cleaning them after use and storing them properly, they will last longer. You will last longer, too, if you take care of yourself. After a long day of working in the garden, clean yourself up, eat right and get some rest, then you’ll be ready for the next day in the garden.


  1. That's a great gate. (Wish I could find old garden tools to use in a sculpture or gate). It's wonderful how you've accepted your status as the Queen of Hoes. Your lessons are so wise.

  2. The gate is spectacular! I own several hoes and some years I use them and some years I don't. As I build more raised beds I use the hoe less. But my knees & Back hurt less too so it's give and take :)

  3. I very rarely use a hoe, but it's one of John's favourite tools. Not sure what the lesson is there, but something about the division of labour maybe.

  4. Awesome post! I love that gate, too.

    I use all of my hoes. I like variety. I need to do a better job of keeping them clean and sharp, though.

  5. Dear Carol, Great post! Now I feel guilty that I don't take good care of my garden tools. I do use my hoe, though.

    Love that gate. Pam x

  6. I coveted the hoes my grandparents used in their garden. And after they passed, of all their household treasures, it was their garden tools I longed for the most. Grandma's rudimentary hoe is in my collection and is used by this fledgling gardener often and used with unrelenting love.
    Lena Johnson
    Murfreesboro, TN

  7. I kept an eye out in Warrenton for hoes but spotted none. That's another reason to go back this week! That gate was just the coolest and I'm eager to see what YOUR gate will be!

  8. I loved this post. I'm over 50 years old, so I was raised knowing how to hoe. My grandmother taught me...don't stoop/ save your back/ let the tool do the work.
    She lived to be 86 and my great-grandmother, who probably hoed most of the years of her life lived to be 94! You have such clever ways of thinking about garden life and I enjoy it!
    May life give you an easy row to hoe. :-)
    David/ Tropical Texana/ Houston TX

  9. I rarely if ever use a hoe and almost did not admit it, but no sense in being a coward. The tips are good and the gardening still gets done, hoe or no hoe. I will give the hoe a go next time. It always looks a little forlorn hanging in the garage.

  10. A wonderful post that takes me back as well. I still have all my Grandfathers yard tools.

    Along with a hay fork that I remember watching him use and several other tools, there are two hoes with warped gray wood handles. They're in my list of greatest earthly treasures.



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