Page 1 of 2

Looking for a top-notch digging hoe

Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 12:27 pm
by Stonehead
I like using a heavy (1.2kg plus), ring-socketed hoe with a long handle for breaking new ground. My Dad and grandfather both had old ones - made of forged carbon steel that held an edge - and they were excellent for cutting through the turf and deep into the ground, and then for breaking the clod. They were well balanced and, despite the weight, you could work with them all day.

However, I haven't yet found found one in the UK. Does anyone have any suggestions as to where I might get one? I've been talking to my local blacksmith about getting one made, but without one to work from there's bound to be a lot of trial and error (therefore cost and waste).

Any suggestions appreciated.


Posted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 6:07 am
by Millymollymandy
I don't know what that is that you have just described because I'm finding it hard to imagine a hoe that can cut through turf :shock: .

My hubby uses a pickaxe (think that is what it is) for making planting holes for me - uses the cutting end for hacking off the turf and the pointy end for breaking through the compacted soil.

Posted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 7:33 am
by Stonehead
A digging hoe has a wide, very deep blade with a ring socket at the top. It's very heavy, and historically was used instead of plough by some cultures.

The weight, depth and a very sharp edge make it very quick for opening up new ground.

There are two ways of using it to work ground. In the first, you dig a trench at one end of the bed you're digging (much like you do for double digging) and then work at right angles to the trench.

You take off the vegetation using a shallow angle (swinging the hoe down in front of you) and slicing off the turves. Then you go around a second time at a steeper angle, digging thick slices of soil and pulling them forward so they topple into the trench and then onto each other.

The second method is to dig out a long trench along the side of the bed. You walk backwards and parallel to the trench, on the ground you're about to dig. Then, and this is brutally effective, you swing the hoe from the side so that it slices through the vegetation and deep into the ground. A quick pull on the follow through and the slice topples into the trench, with the vegetation being buried as you work. (It's easier to demonstrate than describe and there is a knack to it.)

It's about three times faster than using a spade and much less back breaking, especially on virgin ground. You can also swap positions a lot more than you can with a spade, so it's a lot less taxing.

A heavy digging hoe is also good for clearing out roots, stumps and stones, but you will need a good file and sharpening stone as the edge will get damaged. It's also great for digging trenches for water pipes and electric cables (although a proper trenching hoe is even better).

There used to be a much wider range of hoes than are now available, including ridging hoes (with a leaf shaped blade and also good for stony ground), pronged double hoes (two flattened forks on one side, heavy but narrow hoe blade on the other), fork hoes (three flat blades at right angles to the handle and brilliant on matted weeds), etc.

You also have the mattock, with it's very heavy hoe blade on one side and an axe-type blade on the other. I have a heavy mattock and it's brilliant for digging serious trenches (five to six feet deep, three feet wide), chopping out big tree stumps and roots, and for breaking up really compacted ground (like the chicken run).

However, you should only use a very heavy mattock like this if you are quite strong, have good control and steel toed boots. The blades should be very sharp and if you can't control the swing, you will do yourself serious damage (either by chopping yourself or damaging your muscles, back etc).

So, start with a lighter mattock and work your way up.

Oh, and with all the above mentioned hoes (except the mattock), you need a good, long handle as this gives you both reach and leverage. Obviously, you need to balance handle length with your own height and built, but within reason the longer the handle, the better the leverage and the easier the work.

A mattock needs a stronger, shorter handle but it should still be as long as you can comfortably manage and control. The exception is the single-bladed mattock for working in confined spaces - it has quite a short handle and with the weight of the blade is an absolute brute to use.

Hope this is useful to someone. As I've said elsewhere, I'm a bit of a mad digger!


Posted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 11:50 am
by Millymollymandy
:shock: !! It's hard to picture what you mean by any of these tools and if you google 'digging hoe' not a lot comes up, let alone a photo! I just use a regular garden fork for digging!

Posted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 12:16 pm
by albert onglebod
Stonehead try googling 'Azada' I think that might be the same sort of thing.
I use a pickaxe too but i suppose a Mattock would do it too.

Posted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 12:27 pm
by Stonehead
albert onglebod wrote:Stonehead try googling 'Azada' I think that might be the same sort of thing.
I use a pickaxe too but i suppose a Mattock would do it too.
Brilliant! It's obviously a trade name. If I known that two months ago, I wouldn't have bought a rotavator.

For those who are wondering what these various hoes look like, have a look at Get Digging,

Only problem now is, how many different ones will the OH let me buy...

Many thanks for that tip - greatly appreciated.


PS The photo at top right on the Get Digging page shows a chap using a hoe in the manner I described in method two.

Posted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 12:30 pm
by Stonehead
And I now know Azada is the Spanish term for the digging hoe.

Lovely. I do love things made for digging! :mrgreen:


Posted: Thu Apr 20, 2006 5:52 am
by Millymollymandy
This is similar to the Wolf tool I bought to make my potato trenches. Only I'd never have called it a hoe! Just seems that the word hoe is used more widely than I imagined - I just think of them as something to cut off weeds in between the rows of veg!


I note those spades and forks come with the silly pole with no handle - same as here in France. However we always use English handles - I couldn't dig without one. :shock:

Posted: Wed May 10, 2006 10:15 am
by Stonehead
The first two Azadas arrived with the postman this morning. One is a heavy duty one for me, the other a light medium for the OH.

With the little 'un bundled off to playgroup, I went out for a play of my own.

First, the downside - the handle is about two inches too short for my liking. I have to bend slightly, which is not a huge problem but it would have been nice to get one that fitted my height and style exactly.

However, that is being picky. The 3.3lb mattock blade chops deep into even hard soil, the long handle gives plenty of leverage to break the clod free and you can work so much faster than with a spade or fork. I can even attack areas that previously would have need a crowbar and mattock.

It's great to find a tool I've been looking for for years and find it is still as effective as I remembered. Thanks Albert, much obliged. Now, where did I put that Azada... :cheers:


Re: Looking for a top-notch digging hoe

Posted: Tue May 10, 2011 10:48 pm
by Geebogs
Out of interest, Stonehead, (and I know this is a pretty old thread!) Did you get the hoe's from Get Digging and would you recommend them?

I've found one other company - Chillington hoes and without closer inspection, they look a little sturdier?

Re: Looking for a top-notch digging hoe

Posted: Wed May 11, 2011 6:19 am
by oldjerry
I'd not come across this thread.I've been using a chillington since the 70's.It's probably the most useful tool I've got.Does most things a spade will do,and I use it like a rake as well for earthing up,spreading and digging in compost etc,and loads of other stuff.Didn't know you could still buy them,so to celebrate our much delayed relocation,end of the month (please god),I'm going to order a new one.

Re: Looking for a top-notch digging hoe

Posted: Wed May 11, 2011 7:09 am
by Stonehead
I don't see how the hoes I use could be any sturdier—they're used hard and often. None have broken. The blades are a little worn down but are in better shape than my stainless steel spades, which have a lost about 10mm of the blade in the past 5-6 years. I work 19 large vegetable beds, two half acre fields and a quarter acre field, plus an assortment of herb beds, soft fruit beds and young trees.

Planting tatties

Breaking up a compacted field

Preparing a pig pen for reseeding

Four hours a day hoeing

Re: Looking for a top-notch digging hoe

Posted: Wed May 11, 2011 9:22 am
by Geebogs
Wow, they do get some serious use!
I only have a small allotment so I think one will definitely handle that.

I only ask as I'm up in Norfolk over the summer and was thinking of popping in and taking a look (being that there really isn't anywhere else I've found that sells them) and get a feel for them. I can see you can vouch for the quality. :icon_smile:

Might even come home with one or two!

Re: Looking for a top-notch digging hoe

Posted: Thu May 12, 2011 12:01 pm
by phil55494
I've got a medium digging hoe from Get Digging and it's great. My problem is I need to fix the handle, got the wedges for it but not got round to the fix yet.
My other half's favourite tool is a very small hand version. That one's great for when you're on your hands and knees pulling out yet more couch grass roots from the beds.

Re: Looking for a top-notch digging hoe

Posted: Thu May 12, 2011 12:02 pm
by phil55494
And I think reading this thread was how I stumbled across the site while looking for information on digging hoes :icon_smile: