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The cultivators behind the tractor tires are called the middle-busters, and they lay the rows off at 45” centers. Along with the three cultivators on each side of the tractor, they fluff up the soil between the rows. But in the row we use the hoe.

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I can grow potatoes and sweet corn without the hoe, because they grow so fast, if I can time the cultivation properly. That depends on when it rains. I’ve grown butternuts without much hoeing, but this year the squash patch caught several weeks of wet weather and it got weedy, Loug Hungry’s dedicated helpers are doing a lot of hoeing.

The sweet potatoes, planted much later, are getting hoed now, too. They need the soil fluffed up in their ridges at least once, as do most of the field crops. Sometimes the bean rows get a head start on the weeds and don’t need much hand work, and other times they do.

Every year is different. But one thing is for sure, we will be hoeing. The reasons to hoe are 1) to check evaporation, 2) to aerate the soil, 3) to control weeds.

After a rain, a crust forms on the soil surface, the moisture in the soil wicks out and into the air through capillary action. We stop this by breaking up the crust and creating a dust mulch. This allows us to raise crops in dry weather with no irrigation.

The rains also pack the soil. Our crops depend on a live soil humus to get their nutrients. The microbes who fix nitrogen, potassium and phospherus, and the fungi who help transport these nutrients, all need air to live. So we have to continually fluff up the soil by aereation, or hoeing.

We make our living from our crops. I can’t afford to grow weeds. Every one has got to go. Letting weeds grow in the garden sends a signal for other weeds to sprout and grow. One weed is too many.

I like the triangular, Warren hoe. We also uses rouge hoes, which are made out of discs and curve both horizontally and vertically. There are a lot of regular shaped hoes here, also. They don’t do much good when hanging up in the barn.

With our backs straight, the hoes chop up the spaces between the plants in the rows. Hoeing before the weeds get a stronghold is much easier. Long strokes along the edges disturb the sprouting seedlings. The curved forks are great for breaking up the crust and bringing in the air.

Once the weeds are more than a few inches tall we have to pull them. This becomes a rescue mission. If it gets out of hand I simply bushhog the crop and replant. I try to use the helpers time wisely, and there is always something else to plant.

Hoeing in the morning helps dry the soil, hoeing in the evening conserves moisture. Hoeing in mid-day sends us to the creek. Gardening is hoeing. We get tired, hot, and frustrated, then find our second wind and keep on. Our reward is living on a farm.