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  • A Hori Hori is a traditional Japanese gardening knife which makes weeding, unearthing roots and cultivating an absolute doddle! You may have seen them but are still unsure if you really need one. I'm about to convince you otherwise! I've been converted as these Hori Hori gardening knives make daily chores an absolute breeze. This handy guide gives you the low down on the Hori Hori.

    Updated 2022: Now I know what you’re thinking, but you don’t need to be a Samurai to use one or train with a Sensei gardener for years on a remote Japanese island. Once you’ve got the hang of using a hori hori, I guarantee you’ll never look back!

    Whilst the Hori Hori gardening knife may look quite brutal they’re remarkably easy to use. I’ve put together this handy guide to help explain why every gardener should consider using a Hori Hori!

    1. What is a hori hori?
    2. What does Hori Hori mean?
    3. How to use a Hori Hori
    4. Weeding with a Hori Hori
    5. Digging Seed Drills
    6. Excavating roots
    7. Hori Hori as a trowel for planting
    8. Cleaning a Hori Hori
    9. How to holster a Hori Hori
    10. Whats the best Hori Hori to buy?
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    1. What is a Hori Hori?

    A Hori Hori is a Japanese gardening knife usually with a wooden handle. They either have a smooth or sometimes serrated blade and the blade is usually on a curve or bevelled. Usually, they are made of carbon steel which can be cleaned, sharpened and maintained for years.

    Blade of a hori hori being held by Garden Ninja

    2. What does Hori Hori Mean?

    The Hori Hori comes from the term ‘to dig’ in Japanese and that is something that a hori hori does very effectively! They are used for a variety of gardening purposes from weeding to excavating with precision.

    Often hori hori ホリホリ is referred to as ‘dig dig’ when translated.

    3. How to use a Hori Hori

    There are multiple uses for a Hori Hori which is why they are so popular. They are a super versatile garden tool and I use mine all the time. In fact, I wouldn’t garden without a Hori Hori!

    The hori hori is a gardening hand tool that enables you to dig, cut, move and extract from the ground in really swift and efficient movements. It’s a lightweight knife that you can carry with you in the garden on a holster or in your gardening bucket. The hori hori requires very little maintenance other than a clean and the occasional sharpening.

    The main uses for a Japanese gardening hori hori are:

    • Weeding
    • Digging
    • Excavating
    • Planting
    The hori hori is hte best garden weeding tool

    4. Weeding with a Hori Hori

    Weeding with the Hori Hori couldn’t be simpler. I don’t know about you but I used to use those fiddly long thin weeders which often missed the root completely. The Hori Hori allows you to quickly and cleanly dig up weeds with minimal effort even removing the root at the same time.

    Weeding with a hori hori gardening knife

    I use it like a corkscrew action to twist around the roots of the weeds. Then like magic the weeds pop out! To read more on organic weeding techniques make sure you check out my guide here.

    5. Digging drills with the Hori Hori

    For anyone who grows their own digging drills is a prefered method for sowing lettuce, peas or root crops. With the Hori Hori you can use the sharp edge t drag out neat drills in cultivated soil. The blade is concave meaning that it can help excavate a clean drill into the soil, saving time and effort!

    Creating drills with a hori hori gardening knife

    6. Excavating troublesome roots

    A neat trick of the Japanese gardening knife is to quickly and carefully excavate soil from around roots or other structures. You can do this really precisely and with far more care than a trowel or spade. Then once you’ve cleaned around the roots you can use a knife or hacksaw to cut out the offending root!

    Using a hori hori gardening knife to excavate tree roots

    7. Using a Hori Hori to dig in plants

    The Hori Hori is also a really useful tool for planting plug plants, bulbs and bedding in record time. It’s capable of excavating small amounts of soil, perfect for plug plants.

    Garden Ninja using a hori hori gardening knife for planting

    It means you don’t have to keep switching from tool to tool either! Great for 9cm plants, spring bulbs, plug plants or home propagated seedlings!

    Digging with a hori hori gardening knife

    Simply dig using the hori hori to create a hole big enough for either the bulb or the plug plant. Pop it in, backfill and then water the plant. Simple!

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    8. How to clean a Hori Hori

    It couldn’t be simpler. Rinse in cold water and wipe clean with a cloth. That’s it!

    If it does need some TLC using some Camellia oil and cloth can help, rubbing a small amount across the blade to protect it and prevent any rusting. The Hori Hori can also be sharpened with a tool file which helps keep it sharp to slice through those obstacles.

    Cleaning a hori hori gardening knife

    Keeping your gardening tools clean and sharp will ensure they last a lifetime and it’s good practice to ensure they are ready to use the next time you need them.

    9. Using a Hori Hori Holster

    You don’t want to be walking about wielding a knife when gardening, not only may it scare the neighbours but it’s much safer to use a holster. I’d highly recommend a holster to enable you to safely stow the blade until you need it.

    Hori Hori Gardening knife holster

    It means you can have it with you for when you need it but it keeps both hands free for other gardening related activities! The holster does certainly give you a John Wayne / Kill Bill style feel when in the garden!

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    10. Whats the best hori hori?

    Choosing a hori hori is relatively simple, though you’ll be met by hundreds when looking online. It seems like many manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon. Rather than recommend an exact brand of hori hori here are my top buying tips when choosing a hori hori.

    • Carbon steel or Japanese Steel is the best option; its tough, easy to clean and can be sharpened
    • Choose a hori hori that has at least one plain sharp edge (two is best) rather than two serrated sides. The serrated sides can be a drawback as they get stuck around roots and can becme damaged
    • I prefer a wooden handle which is warmer in the hand and a bit softer to the touch than metal
    • Ensure your hori hori can be sharpened with a sharpening stone (another reason to avoid two serrated edges)
    • Check the length of your hori hori 170cm blades are full fize. Some of them are only half sized which makes them pretty useless.
    • Make sure its not too light, lightweight hori horis usually mean thinner steel. Check its able to dig and take a bit of pressure! Around 250-300gms is best
    Japanese garden tools Garden Ninja

    All in all the Hori Hori can save you lots of time and effort if used correctly. Having it holstered on you in the garden means you’re always prepared for pesky weeds or minor tweaks to your flower beds. It can be used for a number of functions from weeding, digging to root cutting without the need for multiple tools. If cleaned and cared for it should last a lifetime.

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    Don’t be concerned that it looks lethal, with all tools if kept correctly it will become your best friend. I’ve even known people to use them to open tins of paint, beer bottles and loosen root-bound plants from pots. What a multitool!

    All hail the Hori Hori!

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    One thought on “Hori Hori Explained: The Best Japanese Gardening Knife Guide

    1. Lisa G says:

      Yes, I think I definitely need one of these (and not just for my zombie apocalypse arsenal). Looks like a handy item as we have a large garden and often find ourselves trudging to the other end of the garden to get another tool to get rid of that giant weed that suddenly appeared, or poke in a self-seeded plant in a more appropriate place.

      They don’t seem to be very common here; any suggestions on suppliers? I would ask my peoples who go to Japan on occasion, but I don’t see that happening for a long while!

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