A Cutting-Edge Garden Tool

– Posted in: Miscellaneous

I really meant to join in on the Garden Bloggers’ Hoe Down sponsored by Carol over at May Dreams Gardens last Saturday. Really I did. But [insert list of poor excuses here, because I know all the rest of you are busy gardening too, and yet many of you made the time to participate…]. To be honest, my collection of hoes is rather pitiful, and I very seldom use them anyway, so they’re pretty crummy-looking, and they’re buried somewhere in the back corner of the shed. Instead of taking the time to extricate them, I figured I’d write about a hand tool that I rarely have to hunt for, because I guard it carefully: my hori hori knife.

Also known as a soil knife, this fantastic tool has a thin but strong steel blade and pointed tip. One side of the blade has a serrated edge, and one side is honed to a straight cutting edge. It’s invaluable for weeding and handy for harvesting, too. The cutting edges also make it my tool of choice for dividing perennials, because it can easily saw through tough asters and other plants with dense or woody crowns. The blade on mine is also slightly concave, so it doubles as a narrow trowel, and it has measurement markings so I can use it for spacing seedlings.

Hori hori knife with sheath

My hori hori knife has a wooden handle, which I find very comfortable to hold. It does have one drawback, though: The brown color makes it a little too easy for it to blend into the soil if you happen to drop it and forget to look for it for a day or two. I’d bought one for Mom last Mother’s Day because she liked mine so much, and she cherished it until this spring, when it either got lost or was otherwise appropriated. So this year she got an early Mother’s Day gift: a “new and improved soil knife”(shown below) with a bright orange composite handle. I found the grip a bit larger than on my original, and the whole thing seemed a tad heavier, but she’s been using it daily for the last week and says she likes it even better than the original.

Soil Knife from AM Leonard

If you’re interested in trying one of these terrific tools for yourself, you can find them both through A.M. Leonard’s Gardener’s Edge: the original hori hori knife is here and the soil knife is here. (A hint, though: If you buy directly from the A.M. Leonard site at www.amleo.com, you can get the orange-handled soil knife on sale for $16.99 until June 30, 2008.)

Nancy J. Ondra
Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as "Hayefield." There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies--all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.
Nancy J. Ondra

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14 Comments… add one

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Carol, May Dreams Gardens May 5, 2008, 10:51 pm

I also have a hori-hori knife, the one with the wooden handle. I keep forgetting to use it, but when I do use it, I find it very useful, especially as you noted, for dividing perennials.

We are fortunate to garden at a time when there are so many well-designed garden tools available, which can be easily ordered online.

Thanks for sharing about this one, and if I ever have another Hoe Down, no excuses!

Thanks back to you for “hoesting” another fun event, Carol – and I promise to plan my posts better next time!
-Nan

David May 5, 2008, 11:20 pm

The A.M. Leonard hori hori is one of my favorite gifts to give gardener friends. Best tool in the garden that I know of.

Thanks for the comment, David. You’re right – they make great gifts for good friends, too.
-Nan

Frances May 6, 2008, 6:14 am

Oh sing a song of praise to the hori hori. Mine was a gift from the financier one year, along with several other tools, and was not used for a while. Then the day came, out of it’s handsome sheath and into the gloved hand, and the rest is history. ;->

I have to wonder why they make such a point of selling sheaths for this kind of knife. You take it out once, and you never put it back! It’s neat to know that you love yours too.
-Nan

our friend Ben May 6, 2008, 7:46 am

Great post, Nan, and thanks for the tip about the sale! I can hear A.M. Leonard calling my name…

Oh, yeah – if you want great gardening tools at good prices, they’re a super source, I think. Have fun!
-Nan

Nancy Bond May 6, 2008, 9:21 am

Would you believe I’ve learned about another new tool? I hadn’t seen a hori-hori knife before, or if I did, I thought it was used to chase the slugs. 🙂 Another one of the things I love about Blotanical!

Great, Nancy! I love the idea of chasing slugs with the knife. Yeah, that would work! It seems a bit off-putting to people who want to stop and chat, too.
-Nan

Sylvia May 6, 2008, 11:46 am

I had thought my next new tool would be a hand hoe (Carol has convinced me I need one) but now I want a hori-hori knife, oh dear choices, choices!

Best wishes Sylvia (England)

Sorry to present you with a dilemma, Sylvia. I’m sure you’ll be thrilled with whichever one you find first.
-Nan

Lisa at Greenbow May 6, 2008, 9:25 pm

I have long thought I would like to have one of these knives. Hmmmmm Mothers day is coming up. Maybe Luna should be informed that I need one of these. Thanks for the tip.

Oh, yes, I’m sure Luna would appreciate the fact that it’s on sale, too. Maybe she can find someone to help her place an on-line order. They ship quickly!
-Nan

Kim May 8, 2008, 8:42 am

My buddy Karen gave me one of the orange handled soil knives for my birthday last year. I’ve been gardening for over 20 years, and I have no idea how I ever did without a soil knife – EVERY gardener needs one!

Welcome, Kim! Great to hear from another soil-knife fan.
-Nan

Layanee May 8, 2008, 11:05 am

Nan: Love the soil knife. I have blogged about my new A. M. Leonard knife and purposely picked it over the wooden handled hori hori because it is bright orange and I have lost many tools to the garden. I don’t know how I did without it. I encourage all to pick one up!

Yikes, sorry I missed your post, Layanee. For anyone who wants to check out your comments on the soil knife, they’re in Garden Cleanup in the East Border. I also found that Caroline at Earth Friendly Gardening posted on the AM Leonard knife a while back. Here’s a link to her post too: My Favorite Gardening Tool, The Soil Knife.

I *really* need to try to keep up better with my blog reading!
-Nan

Duane Gissel May 13, 2008, 9:46 am

Another soil knife/all around great tool is the Lesche Digging Tool. Very sturdy with an off set handle. I have been using this tool for over 5 years as a trowel, weeder, root cutter, etc. Highly recommended! Just enter the name above in your search engine and many suppliers come up.

Thanks for the tip, Duane. I saw that AM Leonard was offering an offset-blade knife too. It looked a little awkward, but based on your recommendation, I’m tempted to try one.
-Nan

SIGMUND KERNS November 21, 2008, 7:48 am

AIN’T THE “DIGGY-DIGGY” KNIFE JUST AS HANDY AS A POCKET IN A SHIRT?
I THINK I GOT ONE OF THE EARLIEST HORI-HORIS, BACK IN 1990–THE KNIFE’S LIKE THE CARBON-STEEL KNIVES, AND’D HAD REDDISH WOOD GRIPS.
(DRUMROLL AND TRUMPET FANFARE, NOW:) WHEN I SAW IT, IT’D BEEN PUSHED BY A GUY SELLING JAPANESE-MADE METAL DETECTORS! “GOTTA HAVE ONE FER DIGGIN’ UP TREASURE, YA KNOW!” I DIDN’T HAVE A METAL DETECTOR (STILL DON’T!) BUT I THOUGHT IT’D BE GREAT FOR TRANSPLANTING “WILD” FLOWERS, VIOLETS, AND SO ON FROM MY WOODLOT TO A SPECIAL SHADED GROTTO. AND, THAT IT’D BE GREAT FOR HARVESTING WAPITO AND CATTAIL ROOTS, AND CHICKORY, AS THE FEATURED WILD EDIBLES, FOR THE BOY AND GIRL SCOUTS’ (AND 4-H KIDS’) CLASSES I’D TAUGHT!
AND, AND, AND! AND MORE AND MORE! EIGHTEEN YEARS OF PRETTY HARD USE, TWO DIFFERENT SETS OF REPLACEMENT HANDLES OR GRIPS, AND BOUCOUP (BOO-COO?) RERSHARPENINGS! AND A COUPLE NEW SHEATHS!
YEP!
A HORI-HORI KNIFE’S JUST AS HANDY AS A POCKET IN A SHIRT!
I’D GOT A SHINY STAINLESS 6 1/2″-BLADE KNIFE TO BACK UP THE CARBON-STEEL ONE (SAME SIZE) AND’LL GET YET ANOTHER PRETTY SOON–BUT I GOTTA ADMIT THAT I’M CURIOUS TO TRY A LONGER, OR WIDER, HORI-HORI IF I EVER HAPPEN ACROSS SUCH.
ALMOST GOT ONE THAT WAS 14 1/2″ LONG, WITH A 9″ BLADE . . . BUT PUT IT OFF ‘TILL THEY WERE SOLD OUT.
ANYBODY WHO KNOWS A DEALER WHO’D HAVE BIGGER H-H’s PLEASE LET ME KNOW, OKAY?

I too would like to know if a larger version is available, Sigmund. Hopefully someone will give us a lead!
-Nan

George Pattinson August 23, 2016, 5:53 am

Really like your concept, very innovative. I should buy one for my own to get my lawn resources. It looks easy, fresh. Thanks a lot for the post and sharing with us.

Morton Turner December 22, 2016, 1:19 am

exciting record & useful for shopping. nancy thanks a lot for sharing.

Fran Sorin December 23, 2016, 6:48 am

With pleasure Morton. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season. Fran

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