Weeding is definitely the bane of the organic farmer, especially on farms that are considered small (less than 50 acres).
Larger organic farms are generally set up with wider rows that tractors can drive through with weeding implements, and small organic gardens are generally weeded by hand without too much trouble.
Our farm is 23 acres, but we “only” need to weed about 5 acres. We have researched and tried all of the various weeding methods, from flaming to black plastic, with only a modicum of success. I hate black plastic and have pulled it up from every bed it was used in. Basically, we have come back around to hoeing the annuals, hand weeding the perennial beds, and tilling the paths. After 14 years of this, the blueberries and perennials are fairly weed free and the tomatoes and annual beds are easy enough to hoe….if you get them early and stay on top of it.
Pictured above are my favorite hoes for weeding the annual beds. The key is to use them early, when the weeds are very small and you can get around the tomato and pepper plants and any other annuals you may grow. Then make sure you hit them 3-4 more times during the growing season as new and different weeds start to grow. With the right tool at the right time, it’s not hard work and can actually be quite enjoyable. Remember though, these implements are for use on young weeds, not in beds that have never been worked before.
My absolute go-to hoe for paths or larger areas is the stirrup hoe or scuffle hoe. One that I have tried and liked is the Flexrake 1000L Hula-Ho Weeder Cultivator with 54-Inch Wood Handle. The blade of a stirrup hoe easily cuts through young weeds at the soil line, or lifts them out of the ground together with their roots. The great thing about the hula hoe is that the easy back and forth motion of this tool goes across the same patch of weeds twice with the same amount of work that a conventional hoe would on one pass. One person compared it to the motion of vacuuming a rug, which is a good analogy. You can clean out large areas of weeds in a short time and frequent use will stop weeds from returning. The blade itself is not very sharp, but the design and technique of using the hoe doesn’t require a sharp hoe. This hoe is not made for breaking up heavily compacted soil, and you will be disappointed if that is your task. The handle is also tall enough that you don’t have to hunch over and put strain on your spine.
For the smallest areas, between closely spaced seedling plants for example, I love the Fisher Enterprises WW100 Winged Weeder 60″. There is a caveat here however. I have had my winged weeder for 10 years, and it has been very reliable for me. Based on the comments on Amazon on this hoe, the quality has changed over time and the newer versions might not be as sturdy. If you can still find one with the wood handle instead of the plastic, I would recommend that. This weeder has a push-pull motion and the head is small enough that I don’t have to worry about accidently weeding my small seedling plants. It comes in different sizes now, and I think I might try a junior size for hand weeding up close to the plants.
The diamond hoe, specifically the Corona Clipper SH61000 Diamond Hoe, is the sharpest hoe of the three and works the best for me when the soil is a bit compacted. If the soil is too soft or has been tilled recently, I go with the hula hoe. The secret to the diamond hoe is technique and using the blade design correctly. If you keep the blade just barely beneath the surface as you push and pull back and forth, it will get the new weeds without bringing new weed seeds up to the surface. If you use this hoe at the right time (on newly germinating seeds) it will only take one or two times and the weeds won’t come back. I would highly recommend this hoe, but use it correctly for the best results. I see that DeWitt also makes a diamond hoe, and although I have no experience with that particular hoe, DeWitt is generally a quality brand. It is a little more expensive.
Well those are my favorites for my farm and my purposes. It basically comes down to the right tool, at the right time, in the right conditions. That is something that only comes with experience in your particular garden or farm. I’ve tried a truckload of tools earlier on in my farming adventure, and these three are my favorites hands down.
**None of the products featured in this post were gifted or given to me free of charge in exchange for links or press. No part of this post was paid for by any company.