The most recent addition to my quiver of essential landscaping tools is the stirrup hoe. The stirrup hoe is a deceptively simple device which, as the name implies, is a stirrup-shaped blade attached to the end of a stout wooden handle.
The stirrup hoe has two primary functions: First, it is useful for loosening the top layer of soil in a garden or flowerbed. The horizontal blade tends to glide about an inch beneath the surface of the soil without noticeably disturbing the soil. Weeds can deposit seeds that remain dormant in the soil until exposed to sunlight. While turning the soil with a spade brings these unwanted seeds to light the stirrup hoe leaves them in the dark. I prefer using a long pulling motion with this hoe while others recommend working it back and forth.
The second use for this tool is weeding. As the stirrup hoe glides through the soil, it snags weeds at their roots. The entire plant usually comes out of the dirt with less mess than if you pulled it by hand. Using my stirrup hoe, I recently weeded 30 feet of an abandoned flowerbed in about 10 minutes. Normally, this job would have taken at least an hour.
Prices range from about $17 for the Sears Craftsman model (with lifetime warranty) I use to $33 for the high-end Swiss-made Glaser (handle sold separately).06/2/09