- Author: Erin Mahaney
I know I have a good garden tool when my husband keeps stealing . . . er, “borrowing” . . . it from me. The Hori Hori garden knife is one of my favorite multi-purpose tools. I use it to dig holes in clay soil, cut open bags of soil amendments, dig weeds in tight places, create furrows for seeds, measure items, cut twine, divide plants, and hack at miscellaneous small things. It truly is an all-purpose tool! In fact, I rarely bother to carry a trowel, weeder, or other single-purpose garden tools anymore.
First, nomenclature. The Hori Hori knife was originally designed as a bonsai gardening tool. (Hori Hori is translated as “dig-dig.”) Some companies call them soil knives and others use the shorthand “garden knife.” For ease of reference, I'll use “garden knife.”
There are several styles of garden knives available, but they have certain features in common. Most garden knives have a dual-edge with a serrated edge on one side, depth markings, and a twine cutter. Depending on your preferences, different features to consider are wood or composite handles (wood is heavier but feels more solid to some), ergonomic handles, rounded or square handles, depth measurements in inches or millimeters (or both), blade length (typically 6-8”), type of hilt, availability of a sheath, and perhaps even aesthetics. Most important, however, is how the garden knife feels to you. It should be comfortable, capable of frequent use without fatigue, and provide a solid, secure, grip.
I have two very different garden knives. My first one, a Hori Hori knife, is quite basic compared to modern versions. It has a rounded wood handle and a sheath, but no twine cutter or depth markings. After losing it in the yard for a period of time, I couldn't do without and so I ordered a replacement from A.M. Leonard with a bright orange (harder to lose) composite handle and a 6” stainless steel blade, depth markings, and twine cutter. (Then, of course, I found the Hori Hori knife, but this was fine because now I have an extra one to share with my husband.) I don't prefer one version over the other. The Hori Hori knife has a pleasing weight and solid feel to it. But the soil knife has a different style of serrations that are sharper, and it is lighter and more ergonomic. In researching garden knives for this article, I learned that the tool keeps evolving with even more ergonomic versions and different features. Maybe I need to try one of those someday . . .