Keep the Hoe Moving Regularly
9th Jul 2003
My father had a favourite saying at this time of year in the vegetable plot, 'keep the hoe moving regularly' How true this is as it saves do much time and it can actually be quite pleasurable when you are on top of your work.
Types of Hoes
There are two main types of hoes, the Dutch hoe is the old traditional type that gets rid quite effectively of the weeds by moving it back and forward. My preference however is for the more modern style which is called a Swoe and is a totally different concept. I bought mine well over 15 years ago and it will probably outlast me.
The one I have is stainless steel and works totally different to the Dutch hoe, it works backwards and forwards as well as from side to side. This makes it a very handy tool when you are hoeing between rows of transplanted vegetables, it means that you can actually weed in between the plants as well.
You should really think about hoeing as soon as you see some weed starting to pop their head through the soil. You will actually be quite amazed as to how much white roots will come to the surface. These roots of course need to be prevented from re establishing themselves. The best way to kill them is to make sure that you only use the hoe in the morning and on bright dry sunny days. This way all the weeds will have shrivelled up by night fall and unable to re generate themselves.
The hoe has another important function as well which we tend to overlook. As the hoe needs to be moved back a fore into the soil to a depth of an inch or so it creates a fine tilth on top which acts as mulch during dry weather. This is perfect for conserving water that is already in the ground and available to the plants root system. I can never understand why people leave their plots to get so full of weeds, if you are not on top of them they will soon throw seeds over the ground and you have to contend with these for years to come. Why bother adding valuable fertiliser into the soil for the vegetables to grow well and then let the weeds use the bets part of the nutrients, it"s daft. Get the hoe out and keep it moving regularly on bright dry sunny days.
My celery is doing well this year after the beds were well prepared last Autumn with plenty of farm yard manure incorporated right through bed. When I came to rotovate the raised beds, I couldn't believe where all the manure had gone to, after the rotovator had done it"s job, there was no trace of it. It does show how important it is to prepare well before hand, the manure had actually been in the beds for six months and all the Winter rains had thoroughly broken it down.
The collars at the moment are 15 inches tall and are formed from a special silvery construction material that is excellent for keeping the heart of the celery cool. This is similar to a sandwich of bubble polythene which is at least ¼ inch thick and the beauty is that it can be used for many years to come. Remove the collars on a regular basis and have a thorough look at its form, you don't need any spindly stalks at all on the plant. You really have to be quite brutal with it in order to get down to the really thick solid sticks that will form the main frame of celery. Remove all the outer spindly stuff and you will know instinctively when you get down the real material. Your plant initially will be a bit smaller but just watch the growth rate afterwards. The final collars will be a minimum of 18 inches in height and depending on the growth rate, they could well be even higher.
While you are at it removing the outer stalks as well as any side shoots that may be developing, have a look inside the heart as well. What you don't want to see are any aphids munching their way around there as well as any browning of the tips of the young shoots. The browning of the tips is the start of what could become heart rot so preventative measures need to be taken on a regular basis. Since I have been using Calcium Nitrate or Chempak Calcium Multi Action as Chempak calls it, I haven't had any bother. The heart rot is not a disease but rather a cultural problem when the young shoots that are deep inside the heart of the plant are so soft that the cell walls break down because of a lack of calcium within them.
Personally I use it all over each plant allowing the diluted mixture to trickle down into the heart as well as soaking around the base of the plant, at every other application I also add a Pesticide to keep any aphids at bay. Calcium Multi Action contains a total of 15.5% Nitrogen made up of 14.5% Nitric Nitrogen and 1.0% Ammoniacal Nitrogen and 26.6% Calcium Oxide (CaO) which is soluble in water. I have found that it does take a while to break down in cold water so I generally take a jug of boiling water from the house to my potting shed and add it to 1 teaspoonful of Calcium Multi Action in a small plastic pot. This is mixed in seconds and added to a gallon of water in my watering can.