Ah, this was the suggestion of rapper ‘Ludacris’ in his 2001 track ‘ho’ from the album ‘Back for the first time’. Although I don’t at all like rap music, I must say; I am absolutely with him on that one.

I ho, I ho, it’s off to work I go…and all of those other funny things to say about hoing!

During the early months of winter, I managed to dig a quarter of my large plot on Gun Hill Allotments, New Arley. The winter weather; plenty of hard frosts, rain, snow and wind reduced the large clumps of soil to a workable tilth. However, I didn’t really get to finish my plot in time for the worst of the winter. As a result, I felt that I had missed out on winter’s aid.

Now the soil is starting to ‘flower’ (at it’s best for workability) and digging only leaves the soil heavy and difficult for planting.

I saw this coming and I decided to walk the talk and initialise a ‘no-dig’ policy for the rest of the plot. Instead, I have been leisurely ‘hoeing’ the ground since February and the results are amazing.

Firstly, the soil in nice a workable. A good tilth idea for sowing and planting. Secondly, I have become master over the minions of annual and perennial weeds that had in the latter part of last year, set up camp on my plot. There is not a single leaf in site. They will come back, but at least I have my control back. Also, the plants that have been hoed have rotted down into the soil, releasing a little of the nutrients that they took without my permission. Okay, I don’t believe in true ownership, just good stewardship and I’m a pedantic and zealous worker!

Hoeing, as an alternative to digging, can be on many levels a far better option. Not only is it easier work, it causes less damage to the soil structure, it will make life easier for the many useful creatures that live in the soil, such as worms and nematodes (slug killers!). It will also limit the amounts of Carbon Dioxide being  released into the atmosphere.

On the downside, you may find that slug populations increase a little as less die in the turmoil of single or double digging.

Really, the method choice depends on a variety of things; is your drainage poor? If so, then double dig and irrigate. If not, try just hoeing, see how you get on. Also, if you have a lot of densely packed weed growth a grass, you might have no other choice but to dig it over.

This year, so far, my allotment looks great and I spend about 10 minutes a down hoeing my 25 x 32-foot plot. Light work if you ask me.

Now I started this article by complimenting Ludacris’s endorsement of using hoes, but I feel it important to point out; hoe is spelt with an ‘e’ at the end of it.

James Middleton

An obsessive gardener since 1982. Day-time job - web designer and developer and University lecturer.