There is an art to effortlessly slipping young plants into the dark earth in such a way the plant and the earth hardly notice what happened. There is an art to slicing just below the crust of the earth at the junction of root and shoot in a way that, with the most instantaneous shock, weeds flinch, and fall dead. The tool that facilitates such an art is the hori hori.
It is a Japanese tool, the name meaning ‘dig dig’ in their language. Across the many designs, most have a simple knife-edge on one side, a serrated edge on the other, a sharp, tapered tip at the end.
You would not believe all the uses of a straight edge serrated blade like this in the garden. Over years of use I have gotten a knack for twisting the blade as I skim through the upper layer of soil, popping thick and thin roots alike, swiping young seedling.
To insert a small plant in the soil, I plunge the end into the ground, pry away from me to lift, sweep around towards myself, and lift the soil. Even in grass turf, I have the same technique – plunge, pry, slice, lift. To make a larger hole for larger plants, I just make bigger circles with my slice.
I can’t imagine going back to heavily angled, blunt edged trowels after getting one of these in my hands -unless it was a really bad hori hori, which I have come across. I have large hands, so many designs with excessive notches and rivets intended for providing the perfect grip are terrible for me. The notches often ware on my hands, causing blisters in short order.
My favorite hori hori (the first one pictured in this post. Link for this model at the end of this post) is in fact one my sister bought for my mother as a Christmas present. When I went to get one myself, I found it had sold out across the internet so far as we could find; so my mother just gave hers to me as a re-gift.
It has straight edges, and is large enough my hand doesn’t rub on the ends as I work. The open front and back of the handle allow me to pinch lightly with my thumb and index finger, swirling it from upward to downward position in one easy motion. Aside from looking slick as heck, this is a most efficient method of use.
Sharp little indents at the base of some blades are another problematic addition of many designs. Aside from the fact I never use these for cutting because either of the two side-blades does the job quicker and better anyway, this little notch is always catching debris, or catching strings, rocks as I pull it from the soil. Not helpful.
Extra long guards on the base of the hilt can be problematic too. They can get in the way, and rub on the hands if too shear. I have quite enjoyed working with hori horis that a have straight, rectangular handle, mildly smoothed around the edges without a guard similar to the one pictured. The problem with that one was its weak attachment to the handle, which bent too easily.
For anyone’s unique grip and method of use, the styles of hori hori may change, but in general, space for the hand to move without rubbing, less du-flinkies to snag things, and a strong connection between the blade and the handle are the hallmarks of the best models of this ninja gardening tool.
Unfortunately, I can’t play the videos but I get the idea. Glad you have found such a useful tool.
Is that because of internet or are they not responding? Thanks for mentioning it. Do you use trowels or would you ever consider getting a similar tool?
I use a trowel – I bought a set for my daughter when she was small but she has never shown an interest in gardening, so I’ve kept them for myself. I might get a hori hori but I try not to buy unnecessarily. Also, I don’t have space, so less is more, if you see what I mean.
I think the issue with the videos is my WIFI or the fact that my phone is getting old. It keeps telling me it no longer supports WordPress, although clearly it does!
Very wise to consider before adding another tool. If you do opt for a hori hori, I would love to hear how it works out for you. What model do you think you would get?
Sorry the videos didn’t work. The stats report the videos are being played by other users; so it may be that your phone just needs a little boost in self-confidence!
I think it does lol.
As for the hori hori, I hadn’t thought about what type I’d get. I had to buy a new washing machine today, so I’m not in the right frame of mind to consider how else I might spend any money 😉.
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You are really presenting these practices well. Great tools. I need to get you another for Christmas.