Driving up to Wiltshire last Friday, Gardeners' Question Time was on the radio and Matt Biggs was encouraging us all to keep borders weed-free to stop the weeds robbing our plants of water. Here's the URL - play about 32 minutes in.
He then came out with this absolute gem. "If you hoe when you haven't got any weeds you won't get any, because you'll disturb the germinating seedlings."
Matt's observation is so right, a quick hoe of a border BEFORE the weeds emerge keeps the weeds properly under control – and the tilth created by the hoeing also acts as a mulch
We've been advocates of hoeing over the years, and we always knew when we were winning with a garden when hoeing became one of the main tasks. And when asked by clients what should be the one thing they could do themselves, the answer was always "hoe".
Our personal favourite is a classic, long-handled dutch hoe and we have three in the shed with varying widths of the head.
Another favourite is our Slava Sickle, which is really a hand hoe with which you can work very rapidly and efficiently. Last summer it was a constant companion whenever working in borders.
An old client of ours said her mother used to call the hoe "the lazy man's tool" and shunned the use of them. Used regularly they certainly make light work of border maintenance and using them is not strenuous in any way – but I'm not sure that's what she was getting at.