Recommendation 1: Invest in a quality weeding hoe. No, I’m not suggesting the standard hoe you see hanging with the shovels and rakes at big-box stores or even neighborhood nurseries, the kind many gardeners buy but seldom use.
I’m talking about a long-handled but light weeding hoe, such as the one I use (see photo). Mine is a winged hoe, but it doesn’t have feathers. Its wings are the two points. A sharp cutting edge, about 4.25 inches wide, runs between the points. The points make it easy to get at weeds that hunker close to garden plants. On the pull stroke, the edge between the points easily skims along or just below the soil surface to decapitate or uproot weeds. On the push stroke, the back of the cutting edge knocks soil from uprooted weeds.
Result: Fewer stoops, squats, and bends, and fewer aches and pains.
Generic names for this general design abound: half-moon, scuffle, shuffle, and diamond hoe. The diamond hoe, with four cutting edges, arguably is top of the line.
Unfortunately, local retailers seldom stock weeding hoes. If you can’t find one locally, search “halfmoon hoe” or “diamond hoe” on the Internet. Prices range from the mid-$30s to about $100. If someone in your family wants a hint for a gift you’d really appreciate, suggest, with a wink, “A diamond.”
Recommendation 2: Set time limits on your hoeing. Garden work is good exercise, but don’t overdo it. Hoe only 15 or 20 minutes, when soil is on the dry side so it falls off the roots of the weeds on your back strokes with the hoe. Bare roots + sun/air = dead weeds. Short, repeat hoeing sessions a day or two apart result in fewer weeds over the long run.
Recommendation 3: Let your hoe do the tough work—not your arms or your back. If your hoe has a 6-foot handle, you can stand upright, as you should. The long handle will give you leverage over bigger weeds. If you confront a leafy monster, attack it modestly from all sides rather than using your brute power to try to uproot it on your first chop. If you have to force the hoe to work, the soil may be too hard, and you may need to delay your project until after the next rain.
Recommendation 4: When you finish weeding, retreat to your lounge chair and enjoy a frosty glass of tea you’ve brewed from spearmint cuttings from your garden. Naps are eminently sustainable. Mine have minimal negative environmental impact—just my snoring.