Gardening

Proper cutting edge for a garden hoe

I’ve hoed a lot of long rows this season. Now it’s time to touch up the edge on my garden hoe.

The hoe I’ve been using for more than 15 years is a Dutch-made, swan-neck style. Its lightweight head combined with a curved shank makes it a pleasure to use. As an added bonus, it has an extra long handle that makes it easier for a taller guy like me to operate. I don’t have to bend over in an exhausting, awkward position to reach the ground.

Nearly every hoe I’ve seen has the wrong bevel on the cutting edge. Right from the store, hoes often have a flat edge with no bevel at all. People take them home and immediately grind a sharp, angled bevel, like a wood chisel edge. That makes a very sharp edge but it does not last very long. It soon gets dull cutting through the soil. So gardeners end up working in their garden with a perpetually dull tool.

The proper way to form an edge on a hoe is to file a curved profile on the back of the hoe blade, i.e. the side facing away from you when you use it. Keep the front of the blade metal flat, don’t grind it.

Carefully clamp your hoe in a vise. Use a file to round over the back edge of the blade.

Carefully clamp your hoe in a vise. Use a file to round over the back edge of the blade.

Imagine if you were to cut the blade in half with a hack-saw. Looking at the cross section of your blade edge with a microscope, you would see the front face ending at a right angle while the back face curves to meet the front edge.

Most of the wear on a hoe blade happens on the back side of the blade edge. A rounded back edge leaves much more metal on the side of the edge that is prone to wearing down.

You won’t be able to shave with that edge but it will last much, much longer in the garden.

Bob Dluzen

As a result of being a gardener for more than 40 years, 30 of those as a professional, Bob’s gardening has become an integral part of his life. “It’s the ever-changing seasons and the wide variety of plants and gardens that keeps me intrigued,” he says. Bob lives and gardens in rural Monroe County.