My earliest garden memories are those of dropping potatoes in the holes which my mother dug and then later weeding those same hills. There was no mechanized garden tiller, only a hoe which really took the joy out of gardening. If we didn’t hoe in time, we ended up hand pulling copious amount of weeds. That was no fun although the pigs enjoyed the tasty treat of green plants. Once I married and started to garden, the hoe remained my main weapon against weeds. Then my husband purchased a motorized tiller which he used to work between the rows. That was fine for the potato patch but it tended to throw clods of earth on newly emerging seedlings and caused a bit of domestic strife.
It was decided that I would look after the vegetables and hubby would do the potato patch. I quickly learned that in order to keep ahead of the weeds it was absolutely necessary to work the soil as soon as the little green sprouts came up. Using the rake early in the season was effective in removing the weeds but was also hard on the sacroiliac. I tried various designs of hoes and a hand cultivator but all put a kink in my back. This gardening was not fun.
On visiting a master gardener friend, I noted that she had a blade mounted on a wheel with handles which she held while propelling this invention through her garden. I sketched a rough design of this and brought the plans to our son-in-law’s attention. Donald is mechanical minded so I asked if he could make me one of these handy-dandy weeders. Some time later he surprised me and also my daughter with a weeder for each of us. Built of lighter metal than the model I had viewed makes it a whiz to push through the soil. Weeding the garden is now so much easier.
The photo shows how it is built. Anyone handy with tools could make this lightweight weeder. A wheel with a radius of about six inches forms the basis of this design. The handles are of lightweight aluminum tubing approximately 56 inches in length, counting the bend made to form the handles. The same lightweight metal is used to form the struts that hold the blade. The blade is a piece of metal, made like a blade with a sharper edge to the front, 14 inches long and about 1-1/2 inches wide, fastened with screws to the struts. The wheel-to-blade supports are 20 inches in length. The crossbars to support the struts are 24 inches long. All the pieces are connected together with screws. The length could vary by an inch or two depending on the height of the operator. My daughter and I are of medium height so these proportions work well for us.
Note: The blade could be a bit longer depending on how far apart your rows are. I find that twice up and down the row takes care of the weeds as I plant my rows close together. Using lightweight materials is what makes this weeder easy to use. Whenever I go out to check the garden, I push this “machine” and the weeds rarely get ahead of me. If the weeds are larger this will still work very well, but it will require a little more effort to make the blade cut cleanly.
This weeder is as green as one can get; requiring no fossil fuel, powered by human energy thus giving me a bit of exercise while cleaning the garden. Finding suitable materials may be a bit of a challenge but it is an opportunity to recycle. If you have a handy person in your family or an acquaintance who likes to make things, your cost for labour will be reasonable. Perhaps some homemade vegetable soup or promise of fresh, tasty vegetables will further reduce the cost.
Naden Hewko writes from Cactus Lake, Saskatchewan