I can’t imagine gardening without the wiggle hoe, but I am publicizing it here because many experienced gardeners never heard of it. (Lowe’s lists it as an action hoe, so be aware of name variations. The one shown here is called a scuffle stirrup at Ace Hardware. Walmart calls it a hula hoe. Others call it a loop hoe. They are all basically the same. If you have something that looks like this, you already have one, so use it.)
The stirrup is sharp on both sides of the bottom edge. It is attached loosely, rocking back and forth, so it can work at the proper angle by both pushing and pulling. It slides about ¼ inch under the surface of the ground, cutting off any weeds at their roots. This gets 99% of them. The problem is with grass whose roots go deep and are supple. Sure, you could simply spray them with Roundup, but when I use Roundup, I kill half the plants in my neighborhood. A wiggle hoe is safer.
I learned of the wiggle hoe many years ago from a coworker, Connie Hoiness, a very pretty, very astute Ph.D. chemist of Mexican descent (she married a Swede.) She died in 1981 of breast cancer, so I am using her full name as a memorial to her. She was active in women’s rights back then, and raised my awareness of that, too, besides educating me on the wiggle hoe. Thanks, Connie. I learned a lot from you.
The wiggle hoe works most easily on soft, damp ground after a rain, so I was using mine this morning. The hoe is not lifted, but just pushed rapidly back and forth in a scrubbing motion. I leave the cutoff weeds lying where they fell. Within a day or so, they will shrivel up and become part of the soil, but the weeds I missed will become obvious, and I have to go back. Most of my mulch is now gone, so I just use the wiggle hoe on isolated patches whenever I have a few idle moments. I probably only hoe less than 15 minutes at a time, but you can accomplish a lot in those 15 minutes. It is not quite fun, but it is not a chore, either.
Remember that the weeds will eventually win. You can win the battle, but not the war. There is not enough poison in all of the hardware stores in the world. Better you should use a wiggle hoe again and again throughout the summer. If that becomes a chore, just forget it. The neighbors will think, “There lives an important person with better things to do.”
This is especially true in our area where global warming is allowing Bermuda grass to invade everywhere. Despite its pleasant name, only huge amounts of poison or effort can eradicate it, and then only temporarily. Even a wiggle hoe will not help. Bermuda grass is planted in the South where our grasses do not grow well. Up here, Bermuda grass is often descriptively called “wire weed.” The tendrils shoot out several feet and are as tough as wire. Cutting them off only stimulates new growth. Learn to live with it. It, too, is a creature of God.
(Important grassy areas at Longwood Gardens are re-sodded every year. That’s the effort required for a perfect lawn.)