Garden Cultivator: Hoss Tools Wheel Hoe Is Boss

| 6/1/2010 12:06:00 PM

Tags: gardens, tools, hoes,

GRIT Editor Hank Will at the wheel of his 1964 IH pickup.When it comes to weeding, nothing beats a wheel-hoe-style garden cultivator for getting the rows cleaned up quickly, efficiently and easily. I recently obtained the Hoss Tools Deluxe Wheel Hoe garden cultivator ($295 and worth every penny as a functional art form) and put it to work last Saturday knocking down the weeds that sprouted up between the rows of my heirloom, open-pollinated corn. The Hoss Tools Deluxe Wheel Hoe is a beautifully crafted (made in U.S.A) garden cultivator that harkens back to the good old days when quality American-Made tools were the norm, not the exception.

Hoss Tools Deluxe Wheel Hoe at work

According to an article in the June/July 2010 issue of Mother Earth News, in 1890 the wheel hoe was considered an essential tool for making the garden pay because it reduced labor costs and made the arduous task of weeding more enjoyable. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve enjoyed using wheel hoes in my own gardens over the years, and although I misplaced my most cherished antique Planet Jr. several years ago (a casualty of some move), Hoss Tools’ Deluxe Wheel Hoe is every bit as satisfying to use – and frankly the quality is 110 percent that of the old Planet Jr. Most notable with the Hoss Tools model is the quality of the Red Oak handles (bent, not sawn) and the nearly flawless powder-coated castings. My wheel hoe came with three cultivator shovels and two sweeps.

I was first introduced to the wheel hoe as a youngster at my family’s nursery and seed company in Bismarck, North Dakota. However, I was more fascinated with the front-mounted cultivators attached to the B John Deere than I was with any walking implement at the time. Later, while in college at The University of Chicago, I was fortunate to be able to carry out my research project (competition among native prairie grasses) in a corner of Nobel Prize winner George Wells Beadle’s corn field. Dr. Beadle was officially retired from the University at the time, but he maintained emeritus status and was working on proving that the ancient grass, Teosinte, was the wild ancestor of modern maize (corn in North America). Raised on a Nebraska farm, Dr. Beadle possessed what most certainly were natural abilities with both wheel hoe and hand hoe – I studied his technique when taking a break from my own tedious work and it was nothing short of mesmerizing.

Hoss Tools Deluxe Wheel Hoe

Beadle’s cornfield was located on the South Side of Chicago in the vicinity of 55th and Ellis, if memory serves me correctly. The plot seemed like it must be an acre at the time, but I bet it was closer to half an acre. Dr. Beadle was in the field every day hoeing, hand pollinating and bagging. When he’d break for lunch Dr. Beadle often called me over to share his shady bench and offer humor, advice and best of all, chips and/or tortillas he made with flour he ground from Teosinte or Teosinte-corn crosses. At the end of the day, or when the work was finished, he’d head off to the bus stop – imagine a 1930s vintage Nebraska farmer on a busy street corner with hoe in hand. A farmer fresh from the field takes the bustling city bus home – like an incongruous scene from Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone

Rick Rodzewicz
7/7/2010 8:33:50 AM

Great piece and pictures. I'd like to hear more or find a site that would discuss specific techniques. When to use blades vs. tines. Drier soil conditions seem to work best. Cutting techniques with the blades? Are the Hoss blades shaped right out of the box? Mine form a 'V' instead of running flat behind the wheel. I have mine spread full width, almost, but not overlapping in the middle. Is this optimal? I just broke new ground with a chisel plow early this year while it was still wet. I ran a tiller before planting but between the 2 it is still in pretty rough shape. I put in 20 100' rows of heirloom corn but grasses and weeds followed soon after so I use the wheel hoe 2 passes per row, once on either side of the corn. I can only get to my plot about every 2 weeks ( I am developing my retirement home here while still working full time and living in town). I wouldn't even attempt to hand weed this large plot if I lived there full time so I'm happy that the wheel hoe allows coarse weeding in about an hour and a half (with breaks). I'm not sure I'm using it in the best way but expect it to get easier in subsequent years when the ground is better broken. Right now I'm concentrating on getting the blades sharper and haven't even used the cultivating tines yet. Any advice?

Cindy Murphy
6/3/2010 7:33:26 PM

Hi again, Hank. I checked out the Sears and Roebuck link. It could be a Planet Jr., I suppose; it looks closest to the Planet Jr. Double Wheel Hoe - the wheels are exactly the same, anyway. There were no other attachments on the side of the road, aside from what was already attached, which was the prongy-thing. It's got six prongs (teeth?), that look as if they could be removed separately - like the individual ones shown in the picture. I couldn't find any markings on it, but I could be missing something (at present, it's got foxglove growing around and through it, so it's kind of hard to get a clear view). I was mistaken about the looks as if there was only ever one; there doesn't seem to be a place for the second handle to have been set. Whatever it once was, it's now a cool hunk o' metal.

Hank Will_2
6/2/2010 1:44:47 PM

Cindy -- I love that story. Did your double-wheeler come with any attachments? I wonder if it is an old Planet Jr. model.

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