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Question of the Week

Diamond Hoes for Weed Control

Weed-infested topsoil can lead to new landscape plantings being quickly overrun by difficult to control weeds. Q. We had a new brick walk leading to our front door installed in May and planted the spaces between the walk and foundation with `Crimson Pygmy' barberry shrubs and perennials. Now there are all sorts of weeds coming up from the topsoil we used to fill the space between the walk and foundation of our home. We've spent hours pulling weeds, but more keep popping up. What are our options for dealing with these weeds?

A. Once again the dilemma of weed-infested topsoil rears its ugly head. While getting up on my soapbox regarding the perils of "topsoil" won't help you at this point, I hope others reading this column will take heed.

Topsoil can be a significant source of weeds in new landscape plantings.Plain and simple, it's very important to know where topsoil you bring on to your property comes from. You may even insist that the supplier guarantee in writing that it's at least free of invasive, almost impossible to control weeds such as field and hedge bindweed, horsetail (at right, below), yellow nutsedge and Japanese bamboo. (Though I've never heard of any suppliers offering such a guarantee, Horsetail is essentially impossible to get rid of once its established in perennial gardens.maybe it's about time given the large number of people that I've met over the years that have fought expensive, ongoing battles against the weeds listed above.)

Alright, now that I've gotten that off my chest, let me offer what may be a relatively easy, though not instantaneous solution to your weed infestation - a diamond hoe!

Sharp on all four edges, a six inch wide diamond hoe can slice through the stems of weeds that are growing right next to desirable plants.Finely honed on all four edges, the relatively small, diamond-shaped blade of this tool, at left, can be pushed or drawn just at or below the soil surface to cleanly slice through the stems, crowns and/or roots of herbaceous weeds and even the small, woody stems of seedling trees. And, because the blade is set at the end of a slender five to six foot long handle, it can be used while standing straight up, reducing the constant bending, stooping and crawling usually associated with weeding.

Once you've cut weeds off with this tool you can simply leave them on the soil surface to dry and decompose over the course of a week or two. And, because you can cover a lot of ground in a hurry with this tool, it's possible to move through your landscape beds every week or two to cut off any new growth that appears. By continually cutting off the leaves and stems of even the most well established weeds, you can eventually starve them to death, as they can't make new plant food (simple sugars) through the process of photosynthesis without leaves!

The blades of most diamond hoes are about six inches wide and quite narrow, making them very light and manuverable.While farmers and gardeners have used diamond hoes for well over a hundred years, you might not be able to walk into your local garden center or hardware store and buy one. I found mine for about $35.00 at Lee Valley Tools (www.leevalley.com, 800-871-8158). Other suppliers/manufacturers include ProHoe, (web.inetba.com/prohoe/index.ivnu, 800-536-5450), Corona Clipper (www.coronaclipper.com, 800-234-2547) and Gardener's Supply Company (www.gardener.com, 800-876-5520).