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by Gord Chiddicks
For years, many of us have been using a primary tillage tool, the rototiller, for what amounts to secondary tillage, the control of garden weeds during the growing season. On the surface this seems like an effective way to weed because it leaves the soil seemingly friable, permeable, and weed-free. In fact, rototilling probably does more harm than good. Working the soil to too great a depth mixes in lots of oxygen and unnecessarily burns up organic matter during the hot summer months. Deep cultivation also brings dormant weed seeds to the surface to germinate, and harms the earth worm population. Some are finding the wheel hoe fitted with a stirrup, a faster, easier, and less harmful alternative. Besides the lower cost ($200-$400), and the fact it does not use fossil fuel, the wheel hoe also has advantages over hand-hoeing as well. A good wheel hoe makes aiming the hoe blade, regulating the working depth, and effectively transmitting all the body's power through the arms, more controllable and effortless than traditional hand-hoeing. Most of the power for hand hoeing comes from the arms. A wheel hoe allows the operator, working in a comfortable position, to transfer power from the entire body in a line of force aimed directly at the hoe attachment itself. Last summer I fabricated my first wheel hoe and a lot of local people seem interested in trying one of these simple machines. My hoe has both twin seven inch stirrups for straddling, and a single fourteen inch one for walkway cultivation. It can be fitted with a single central wheel or tandem wheels for straddling. I have been cajoled into building one more this spring and I would be happy to share the specifications with anyone who wants to make their own. Who knows, maybe there is an enterprise here?
Copyright © 1995 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
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