Grow your own world!

This month in the garden - 2020

March in the garden

March and the garden is teaming with life! The insects have woken up, the birds are making plenty of noise and the swallows are back from their winter break and are getting to work building their nests. Blossom surrounds us and the weeds ….

Gardening is a repetitive cycle, spring, summer, autumn, winter, sow seeds, plant plants, harvest, save seeds, repeat. We get into our rhythm and form habits. Some of these habits are detrimental to our health. I'm talking about our use of tools. Having the right tool for the job and maintaining your tools can make or break your gardening experience. Trying to prune a tree with a blunt saw will cause you hours of frustration and being bent double hand weeding all morning because you can't find your hoe leads to a soul destroying day in the garden.

Using the right tools can save us from back ache, knee ache, finger ache and head ache. In The New Organic Grower, Elliot Coleman says “I became aware of the reasons why small scale farming had died out. The product was excellent but the process was exhausting”. His manual does not have a separate chapter on tools but looks at every aspect of growing through the lens of tools. It's a fascinating approach and makes us think not about what we are doing but how we are doing it. He talks about tools all the way from cards used to plan crop rotations to hand tools, wheel hoes, soil blocks, tractors and green houses.

The tool of choice here in Southern Spain is the azada, which is a good all rounder. A variation on this is the azada de rueda or wheel hoe. The wheel hoe is a very simple design which has barely changed for generations. It was first mass produced in the USA in 1890 but was already being widely used in Europe by then. Many campesinos here in Southern Spain remember their grandparents using one and I have seen one or two lurking in the corner of a dark shed. They were replaced by tractors and rotovators as mechanisation became more accessible.

This tool is incredibly versatile. A wide variety of attachments, adapted to different tasks, can be fitted to the hoe. It's a human powered tool and it's design allows large areas to be weeded or cultivated with very little physical effort. The gardeners back is also saved as you are in an upright position the whole time and if you do this first thing in the morning, it's a great warm up to get your blood flowing and helps you keep ahead of the weeds. There are no fossil fuels involved so it's not surprising that wheel hoes are making a comeback as a green technology solution. Urba plant sell one that you can order online, that will be posted to you, flat packed, for around €130. There are also many designs online for making your own DIY version.

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