What does a gardening hoe look like? Besides their long handles, different garden hoes can look almost nothing like each other! What makes all hoes belong to the same category is what they’re used for — removing weeds, digging, shaping soil, and harvesting underground crops, such as potatoes.
What is a gardening hoe? This is challenging to answer, as a “gardening hoe” refers to a broad category of tools that can look very different from each other.
What all gardening hoes have in common is their long handle and many uses, such as removing weeds, shaping soil, or dislodging root crops. Not every hoe can do all of these things well – the wide variety of options means there are specialized hoes for different uses.
Feel confused? So did I, at first.
In this article, I’ll cover a diverse variety of hoes to give you a more concrete understanding of what they are.
- 1 Different Types Of Garden Hoes
- 2 Grub (Eye) Hoe
- 3 Stirrup Hoe
- 4 Circle Hoe
- 5 Digging (Potato) Fork
- 6 Collinear (Onion) Hoe
- 7 Warren Hoe
- 8 CobraHead Hoe
- 9 Cultivating Hoe
- 10 Wheel Hoe
- 11 One Last Thing: Don’t Forget To Buy A Blade Sharpener
- 12 You Now Know About Several Different Types Of Garden Hoes!
Different Types Of Garden Hoes
There’s no official expert panel that decides how to name or categorize all the different types of garden hoes. And believe me, the list is huge and ever-growing. Greg Baka of Easy Digging found 48!
If you honestly want to read about that many garden hoes, go for it. But I’m a pragmatic person, so I’m here to help you do two things:
- Gain a general understanding of garden hoes
- Find the right hoe for your needs
Some gardening gurus group hoes by shape and others by their function. What I think you need to understand about them is their diversity.
Some things can’t be described with words, alone. Hoes are one of those things best explained with concrete examples — if you see enough garden hoes, you’ll know one when you see one.
This approach can also simplify your shopping since the different designs exist to serve different needs. Here we go:
Grub (Eye) Hoe
Ideal for: Digging trenches, making mounds, breaking through sod, and removing deeply-rooted weeds
If you only intend to get one hoe, you can’t go wrong with a grub hoe. A grub hoe has a flat, non-tined blade that sits about 90 degrees to the handle. It’s so versatile that I’ve broken this section into several of its uses:
Digging And Shaping Soil
Digging with a grub hoe is very different from using a shovel. Instead of sinking the blade into the ground, lifting up dirt, and throwing it somewhere, you hack at the ground and draw the loosened dirt towards you.
It may sound like more work than using a shovel, but it’s actually faster and gentler on your body. If you find this hard to believe, here’s a fun fact: firefighters create trenches with grub hoes to contain forest fires!
And of course, its flat shape makes the grub hoe great for shaping dirt however you need to.
Use the same hack-and-pull technique to draw soil into mounds for watermelons and pumpkins. If you want, you can even use either of its corners to make a furrow for seeds.
Chop Through Sod And Roots
A well-sharpened grub hoe can chop through sod and roots like a knife through butter, as you can see in this demonstration:
If you have deeply-rooted weeds, you can use a grub hoe to kill them in either of two ways:
- Dig them out of the ground.
- Keep chopping them down until they die.
For weeds that you can’t simply dig out of the ground, a grub hoe is a great way to kill them without using herbicides.
After you cut a weed down to the ground, it’s likely to send up new shoots. Keep destroying the shoots and the plant will eventually give up the fight.
If you decide to move a plant to a new location, a grub hoe is a perfect tool for the job. Not only is it good for digging, but you can push on it to pry roots upward. If they don’t budge, you may be able to cut through them without killing the plant.
A grub hoe can also divide one root ball into several for easy propagation of certain species.
With a steady tapping motion, you can use a grub hoe to slice through the ice! While this isn’t a typical gardening task, it showcases this hoe’s amazing versatility.
Make Sure You Know What You’re Doing!
For safety and effectiveness, it’s important to use a grub hoe the right way:
- First of all, wear safety goggles. Every time you pull the hoe upwards or slam it into the ground, debris could fly into your face.
- Also, your hoe’s handle should be the right length — if it is too long, you may be able to cut it down to the right size. Ideally, when facing straight up, the end of the handle should be between your armpit and shoulder, like a crutch.
- Place one hand on the very end of the handle and place your other hand a little less than halfway down. Your thumbs should be facing the blade.
- Now, raise the hoe at least to your hips but no higher than your chest. You should do this to keep debris away from your face and because it doesn’t take much momentum to get the blade into the dirt.
- Swing the blade down at the soil and pull a chunk of it towards you. Be sure to swing from the waist level, both to keep debris away from your face and because it doesn’t take much momentum to get the blade into the dirt.
- Walk forward as you work, not backward as you would with some other hoes.
If you are looking for one, check a grub (eye) hoe from Truper, which is heavy-duty and light-weight.
There’s not much to say about it, except that it gets the job done and customers love it.
Ideal for: Light weeding, especially around desired plants
Though a grub hoe is great for removing weeds, one misdirected swing could destroy a beloved tomato plant.
If you need a hoe for light weeding near desired plants, get a stirrup hoe. It’s an especially great option for raised bed gardens, where garden plants and weeds co-exist in tight spaces.
Named after what it looks like — a saddle stirrup — a stirrup hoe has a looped piece of metal with a flat, sharpened edge for scraping the ground.
Whereas a grub hoe is swung downward, a stirrup hoe is rubbed against the ground. Also, the sides of a stirrup hoe are not sharp, allowing them to gently brush against whatever they touch.
Watch how this man effortlessly clears the Bermuda grass around his garden plants with a stirrup hoe:
Note that while he uses his hoe in a raking motion, a stirrup hoe has an oscillating blade that allows it to be used forward or backward.
If you need one, a Hoss Stirrup hoe is ready to transform your garden!
If I’ve convinced you to get a stirrup hoe, here’s a well-loved, American-made product you can depend on. The blade is already sharpened on both sides so you can use it immediately.
The handle is waxed to prevent it from splintering and cracking over time. Hoss claims that this is the sturdiest stirrup hoe there is — whether or not that’s true, customers say it’s sturdy.
Ideal for: Removing weeds while barely disturbing the soil
You’d think the circle hoe would be a type of stirrup hoe, but it’s used very differently.
Instead of scraping it against the ground in a back-and-forth motion, you pass it through the soil, perpendicular to the ground. Most of the dirt goes right through it — weeds don’t!
Most organic gardeners probably know that soil is home to important microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi. This may be one of the more environmentally friendly hoes on this list because it disturbs them the least.
Of course, when you only want to remove weeds, the disturbed dirt left behind by other hoes can be unsightly, leading you to smooth it out. This clever design can save you that step.
A 14.5-inch circular hoe by Carrot Design will leave carrots undisturbed!
Only the bottom of its blade is sharp, allowing it to cut through any roots in its path. The sides of the circle are dull, so they can harmlessly brush up against your desired plants.
Digging (Potato) Fork
Ideal for: Harvesting root and/or tuber crops
Even though it’s called a fork, a potato fork is a type of tined hoe. It’s also not just for potatoes — whatever you decide to call it, this tool is awesome for getting large tubers and root vegetables out of the soil without damaging them.
Many potato forks have blunt or bulbed ends to prevent them from stabbing through vegetables, although as a trade-off, some designs have sharper ends to penetrate compacted soil.
If you get a sharp-tined potato fork, the tines should at least be broad and flat to help them scoop your veggies. You can avoid stabbing them by pushing the hoe’s tines deeply into the soil and prying them upwards to get under whatever you’re harvesting.
Harvest spuds with a Hoss Potato fork.
Here’s a fork of the sharper-tined variety, made in the U.S.A. Customers say that it’s powerful and sturdy, which suggests that Hoss isn’t bluffing when it calls this fork the best one on the market.
This potato fork’s aircraft-quality steel handle is covered by a 5-year warranty.
Collinear (Onion) Hoe
Ideal for: Light weeding in rocky soil
In its appearance and function, a collinear or onion hoe is kind of like a giant version of a disposable shaving razor. It has a long, thin blade that sits parallel to the soil. This causes rocks to go over or under it, enabling you to cut weeds in a nice, straight path.
Because it’s so good at maintaining a straight path, this is a great hoe to use between crops grown in rows. This design is also good for your back, as you don’t have to lean over to use it at the right angle.
Don’t be alarmed that this product is called an “onion hoe”. That’s just another name for a collinear hoe since it’s ideal for using near onion beds.
This highly-rated hoe features a flexible, yet resistant handle made of professional-grade white ash wood.
Though intended to be used on a farm or ranch, it would do just as well in your home garden!
Ideal for: Weeding in small spaces, uprooting tough weeds, and digging furrows
A Warren hoe has a triangular blade seated at a 90-degree angle to the handle. It’s a good, simple hoe for weeding in small spaces, especially corners and edges.
If your soil is loose enough, you can easily use a Warren hoe to carve out a furrow in one swipe. You may also be able to use this hoe sideways to get through more compacted soil.
The Warren hoe’s shape makes it especially good for getting under tough weeds and prying them upward. In this way, it’s almost like a shovel without curves.
Try a Tru Tough Warren hoe by Truper.
This light-weight, yet tough Warren hoe features a durable handle made of North American ash wood and a clear-coated steel head.
Truper instructs buyers to spray this hoe clean with water and coat it with a silicone spray for longevity. Customers say it’s dependable for all sorts of garden projects.
Ideal for: Digging furrows, pulling vining weeds, and cutting through compacted or clay soil
Though a Warren hoe can get into tight spaces and dig furrows, its wider shape can cause it to meet resistance from stubborn soil. And though you could get through the soil by turning the Warren hoe on its side, it simply wouldn’t be as easy or effective as a CobraHead.
Like the fang of a snake, the CobraHead hoe’s cultivating tine rips through anything from compacted clay to the roots of stubborn weeds.
It’s especially convenient for pulling prickly, vining weeds that you wouldn’t want to touch with your hands, such as Virginia creeper and wild blackberries.
This is actually one of two versions of the CobraHead — the other one has a short handle. This one’s North Carolina ash handle comes in three sizes for people of varying heights.
Customers say they love this hoe’s unusual shape and effectiveness for removing weeds. CobraHead hoes are proudly made in Cambridge, Wisconsin.
Ideal for: Loosening soil and weeding tight spaces
Like the CobraHead hoe, a cultivating hoe makes use of cultivating tines.
Due to its flat tip, the CobraHead is better for chopping at stems. However, having three tines instead of one may prove advantageous for pulling weeds and tilling soil. This type of hoe is great for stirring amendments into soil.
Here’s a fun history fact: giant versions of a cultivating hoe used to be pulled through fields by horses.
A version of it made by Fiskars is tiny in comparison!
This one-hand hoe features a soft-grip handle and a hole for hanging it in your garage. It may not be good for a large area, but it’s great for tilling in raised beds.
Ideal for: Cultivating large spaces without a motor-driven machine
This one is my favorite hoe on this list. Out of all the hoes in this article, the wheel hoe is an oddball because it can be any of the aforementioned hoes, except it’s on wheels.
Wheels make a massive difference in functionality. Even though the other hoes on this list make it much easier to do certain tasks, wheels make those tasks even gentler on your body and help you to move your hoe in a straight line.
Perhaps the strangest thing about wheel hoes is that they used to be very popular in the 19th century and somehow fell out of style. Perhaps people took to motor-driven machines, such as tractors?
Wheel hoes deserve to make a comeback for a number of reasons. Besides the reasons above, they’re also excellent from an environmental perspective. They consume no fossil fuels and their weed-pulling efficiency makes herbicides a lot less tempting.
Want a wheel hoe?
You can take a look at Single-Wheeled Hoss model. This highly-rated, American-made product features:
- A low center of gravity for easy maneuvering
- A universal toolbar for different attachments
- High-quality hardwood handles and a steel frame
One Last Thing: Don’t Forget To Buy A Blade Sharpener
Here’s one more thing worth mentioning — with the exception of the potato fork, the hoes on this list are only as good as their blades are sharp.
When working with sharp objects, always be careful not to cut yourself. Here’s how to sharpen your hoe with a file:
- Have the blade you intend to sharpen face the ceiling.
- Use the coarse side of your file to sharpen the outer edge of the blade to about 30 degrees.
- Position the softer side of the file flat against the inner edge of the blade and smooth it out a little.
- Use the softer side of the file to make the outer edge of the blade sharp and even.
To preserve your blade, it’s a good idea to clean it off after each use and oil it before putting it in storage.
You Now Know About Several Different Types Of Garden Hoes!
Again, what is a gardening hoe? Gardening hoes are a diverse set of tools used to work soil, remove weeds, and harvest underground crops. Options include but aren’t limited to:
- Grub (Eye) Hoe
- Stirrup Hoe
- Circle Hoe
- Digging (Potato) Fork
- Collinear (Onion) Hoe
- Warren Hoe
- CobraHead Hoe
- Cultivating Hoe
- Wheel Hoe
Did I answer your question and did you enjoy my article? Please let me know in the comments and, if you enjoyed it, please share this article with like-minded friends!
wondering how to utilize this tool properly? Read my post about how to use a garden hoe.
Need more help choosing the right hoe? Check out my blog with a review of what I consider the best garden hoe.