Dateline: 2 March 2009
Updated: 24 May 2009
|This is my new Planet Whizbang wheel hoe design. Welcome to simple, efficient, and affordable garden weed control!|
It used to be as American as apple pie to grow a big garden. Back before grocery stores were super-sized and packed with convenience foods, people grew much of their own food. Those in the rural areas certainly did this, and even people in small towns and cities had big backyard gardens. We were a gardening nation.
Planting a garden is one thing. Keeping it cultivated and free of weeds is another. The traditional tool for keeping weeds under control is a hand hoe. Every gardener had a hand hoe (or two) and was well acquainted with how to use it.
The secret to keeping weeds under control is to hoe the soil before you see the weeds. If you periodically disrupt the little underground weed seed sprouts when they are tiny white filaments, just looking to make their way in the world, you will have the upper hand. Gardening is, after all, a form of warfare; it is you against the weeds. Attack the enemy when it is weakest, before it has a chance to gain a foothold and fortify its position, and you will be victorious. The old-timers knew this very well.
The only problem with a hand hoe is that is is slow, tedious work. If your garden is big, hoeing can be somewhat of an overwhelming task. This situation led to the invention in the 1800s of the wheel hoe. A wheel hoe consists of a soil disturbing blade attached to a wheel with a couple of convenient handles on one end. You grasp the handles and push the implement ahead of you, through the soil. Weeding with a wheel hoe is fast and easy on your back.
There are wheel hoes with high wheels and there are wheel hoes with low wheels. The low-wheel hoes are far easier and more efficient to use.
Wheel hoes were once almost as common as hand hoes in this country. Everyone with a garden had a wheel hoe. There were several companies that made wheel hoes but the most popular wheel hoe in the world was the Planet Junior, made by the S.M. Allen Company.
In addition to the Planet Jr. Wheel hoes, there were Planet Jr. seeders and Planet Jr. horse drawn farm equipment. When the gasoline engine started replacing horse and mule power, Planet Jr. came out with a line of walk-behind tractors with a variety of attachments.
Sometime after W.W.II, America lost interest in big gardens. To a significant degree, even on a small scale, gardening itself went by the wayside. As a result, Planet Jr. wheel hoes went from being useful tools to being relics of a bygone era. The company that once made Planet Jr. wheel hoes by the truck load, went out of business.
But, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in personal gardening and small-farm vegetable production. Those old Planet Jr. wheel hoes (the few that are still around) have been in big demand. To meet this demand, a Planet Jr. knockoff wheel hoe has come onto the market. It is made by a Swiss company. You can see it here. Take note of the price of the wheel hoe at that link. Three hundred and forty five dollars (plus shipping charges) is quite a chunk of change for a hoe—even if it is an amazingly effective wheel hoe.
After procrastinating for a long time (like a couple of years) I bit the bullet and parted with the big bucks. I bought one of those fancy schmancy Swiss wheel hoes. I put it to work in my garden. I liked what it did. You simply can not beat a wheel hoe for fast, easy, systematic weed control in the garden.
Nevertheless I must admit that the almost $400 price tag seemed overly excessive to me. As I used and studied my very expensive imported wheel hoe I could not help but think that I could make a wheel hoe of my own design for considerably less than almost $400. And, so, that is exactly what I did.
Year before last, I bought numerous chunks of metal, which I cut, drilled, and bolted together into a variety of wheel hoe configurations, none of which was entirely satisfactory to me. Then, near the end of the growing season, I felt like I had a worthwhile design; an intelligentWhizbang design.
The next growing season (last year) I really put that homemade wheel hoe prototype to work. I felt it performed as well as that fancy Swiss model. Here is a picture of me with my homemade prototype wheel hoe:
That picture shows the hoe with an 8” hoe blade (the most common and useful implement). The blade oscillates, which is to say, it pivots back and forth, just a bit, as is needed for efficient hoeing action. That’s exactly what the expensive Swiss wheel hoe does.
I tested that prototype all spring and summer in my garden. I also used it to slice through weeds that were encroaching into my gravel driveway. The stone in my driveway is hard-packed crusher run. I forced my hoe blade through the densely-packed stone and it sliced through the weeds about 1/2” down. This kind of work was, essentially, wheel hoe abuse, and I abused that prototype repeatedly all summer long. I can report that the tool took such abuse without complaint or ill effect. I was impressed. No, I was amazed.
My homemade wheel hoe was clearly a Whizbang tool. I felt compelled to tell the world about this awesome gardening tool. It is typical for me to come up with a Whizbang product and write a how-to book about it. But this time, I have decided to do something very different. This time I have posted a step-by-step photo tutorial to the internet telling everyone in the world how to build their own Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe. This tutorial is free. Here is a picture of a spiffy new homemade Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe like what I tell (and show) you how to make:
For those who need some help with the project, I supply parts kits that will include all the metal components you’ll need. I am having these components cut to size by a metal fabrication shop. From there, they will go to a machine shop to be drilled precisely. All bolts and washers and nuts and so on will be included in the wheel hoe parts kit.
I have purchased a metal bender. My sons and I will be bending the parts that need bending. The objective is to supply you with an easy-to-bolt-together parts kit. I can pack all these parts in a Flat Rate Priority mail shipping box and send it anywhere in the world at a reasonable price.
Those who purchase my Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe parts kit will need to buy a $15 tire from Northern Tool (Item #145126). Besides that, you will need to make your own wood handles and spreader bar.
My photo tutorial tells exactly how to make the handles using common pine lumber. The handle shape is patterned after the handle shape on the old Planet Junior. In fact, I found an original Planet Jr. wheel hoe at a flea market, and bought it, and copied the handle shape. For those who don’t want to make their own handles, I hope to establish a database of amateur woodworkers across the country who are willing to make these handles (for a reasonable price) for people in their area.
I’m still working out the price of the metal parts kits. I hope to keep them under $100.
If you are a serious gardener, you need a wheel hoe. It will make your work so much easier, and gardening so much more enjoyable. A weed-free garden is not only beautiful, it is more productive. Instead of spending a small fortune for the tool, you will be able to make your own dependable hoe for a third of the cost of those overpriced imports. And this will be a tool that you can hand down to your children and grandchildren.
Here’s to your success as a gardener!