KENNEWICK -- The selection of weeding tools for gardeners is endless: from hoes to hand weeders, from modern to antique family heirlooms, from manufactured to homemade.
When asked about their favorite weeding implement, most of the Benton Franklin WSU Extension Master Gardeners hold their hands out in front of them. It's not a gesture of dismay over the vast number of choices. Their favorite weeders are their hands.
Stirrup, or scuffle, hoe
Hands aside, gardeners also have tools they prefer for weed removal. The hoe is arguably the best known and oldest weeding tool used by gardeners. Hoes have a metal blade attached to a long handle. The main purpose of a hoe is to uproot or cut off weeds that appear in the garden, but some hoes also function as an implement for working the soil or creating shallow trenches for planting.
The typical garden hoe, one with a straight blade at a 90-degree angle to the handle, is familiar to many. It's designed to chop off large weeds and to loosen the soil. However, Benton Franklin Master Gardeners prefer more than the ordinary garden hoe. They say various blades work best for specific needs.
Virginia Mauer, a gardener for 40 years, doesn't remember when she bought her stirrup hoe, also called a scuffle hoe. The head is shaped like a stirrup with a flat blade across the bottom that is about five inches across. The head oscillates, allowing the blade to move back and forth about a half-inch in either direction, putting the blade at a better angle to cut downward when pushed and pulled, or "scuffled." The blade is beveled, both front and back. The push and pull motion easily slices off small, young, weed seedlings, especially if you keep the blade sharp on both edges, using a file or grinder wheel. Mauer likes that this hoe doesn't disturb the soil enough to bring new weeds seeds to the surface.
Tom Stock, a gardener for 30-plus years, says the Hula Hoe is one of his favorites because it is easy to use in the standing position. The Hula Hoe is the brand name for a type of stirrup or scuffle hoe. Stock places the blade just in front of an offending weed and by exerting just a little pressure and pulling the blade toward him, he can take care of most young weeds.
Hoes are not the only weeding implement Master Gardeners favor. Some are cleverly designed to yank weeds up out of the ground, roots and all. This comes in handy when weeds are in places like lawns, where a typical hoe can't be used.
Martha Coulter, a gardener for 20 years, inherited her favorite weeder that she calls a dandelion weeder. (This weeder is sold today as Grampa's Weeder.) She likes this weeder "because it's old, it still works, and it used to belong to my mother." It works by placing the four prongs of the weeder over the crown of a dandelion and pushing them into the soil using the footpad lever. The weeder is gently rocked back and forth to loosen the weed. Then the weeder is tilted toward the footpad lever and pulled upward. This action causes the prongs to come together, grasping and extracting the dandelion along with much of its root. It works best when the soil is soft and moist.
Similar, but more modern in design, is Eldon Cramer's favorite, the Weed Hound. It has a bunch of tines that are placed over an offending weed and pushed into the soil with the help of a foot pad. Then all you have to do is twist and pull. Cramer says it is really satisfying to walk around the lawn "getting sweet revenge on the little buggers before they can go to seed."
Of course, gardeners sometimes must get up close and personal with the weeds in the garden, so handweeders are helpful. Stock's favorite handweeder is an Easy Weeder invented and patented by Willie Rentz of Ellenburg in 1991. It has a simple metal band as a blade. Stock found his Easy Weeder in a Goodwill store about five years ago. It's a real treasure because he has never seen one like it for sale in the stores. It's easy to use -- just scoop down with the blade and pull at the dirt.
While many gardener seem to prefer the satisfying experience of pulling and digging garden weeds out by hand, there are a number of tools on the market that help take the stress and strain out of the work.
Consider one of these garden-tested Master Gardener favorites, or try something else that works best for you in your garden or lawn.
You can find many in Mid-Columbia garden centers or on the internet.