Using a Digging Knife
We are always looking for an opportunity to lug fewer garden tools around, to always have the right tool handy, and to have effective, safe and useful tools at hand. Life is too short for lousy tools!
What does this knife do for us? This knife is a good digging tool, it’s a very easy bulb planter, it has a sharp knife blade, usually two (one smooth and one serrated). It cuts through smaller roots, vines, divides perennials handily, (well, you need to be there) and cuts through weeds and then digs them up.
You can dig around roots and then saw them out. It cuts turf. The point neatly marks seed trenches. You can make quick work of bedding plants with this tool. Bags are quickly opened, and twine cut. This all happens without hunting around for the next tool.
Why “Hori Hori”? There are a few closely related translations of this Japanese phrase, but my favorite is “diggy diggy”. The tool was invented for enthusiasts who went up into the Japanese mountains to dig very tiny trees to turn in to Bonsai.
Features to Look For:
- The blade is usually stainless steel or carbon steel. It is a long oval shape and slightly convex, it should have measurements on the face. (Good for bulb planting.) The blade is sharpened, usually these are smooth on one length and serrated on the opposite.
- The handle is polished hardwood primarily rectangular but tending wider toward the blade. Ours is comfortable in the hand.
- Many have a horizontal guard as protection where the blade and handle are joined.
- The Tang is the part of the blade that goes into the handle. Don’t overlook this part. We think it’s a safety issue. A half tang knife goes the length of the handle but only half of its width. A full tang knife is one solid piece of steel with the handle attached. Look at the knife from the side. You can see the line of metal sandwiched between the two wood sides like the frosting in an Oreo. These tools are fun and useful, you will find yourself digging with enthusiasm. Which would make you feel safer?
- Some brands have added a few flourishes such as a dandelion puller at the tip of the blade. People complain that the little slit gets caught on things, roots, stones, mulch pieces. We decided to avoid it. If dandelions are a big problem, Fiskars makes an inexpensive version of the Hori Hori. It’s not the best, but you could afford one just for the dandelions. It’s also nice for those who lose tools! Another flourish is a twine cutter carved into the base of the blade. We thought this feature to be overthinking the problem, until I saw a guy on a video who said it was a perfect bottle opener! Gardeners are always innovative!
- Many models come in the traditional holster, this one has thick, layered, protective leather with a belt hook. No quick draw contests in the garden!
Care of the Tool:
It is easy to rinse off, dry (remember the blade) and store in the holster.
It needs to be sharpened periodically.
Points to Consider:
- Stainless or Carbon Steel?`
High Carbon Steel is used in high end kitchen knives because it is so wear resistant. It stays sharper for longer. It is stronger and harder than stainless. It is, however, less corrosion resistant than stainless steel. Moisture is its enemy; it will rust and corrode when damp.
Stainless Steel will produce a sharp edge and is more resistant to corrosion.
Is your storage tidy enough for carbon steel?
This tool is sharp; lots of tools are sharp. As garden tools go, this is a sharp one and it needs to be treated respectfully. Some good safety ideas are -keep it sharp to discourage rough behavior. Chose a hand guard. Wear flexible gloves, keep it clean and use the holster.
We went for safe and sturdy. The brand we bought is Mt. Tree and was $29.99 on Amazon. The company website offers a 25-year warranty. We only expect to buy another if we keep squabbling over this one. A small sharpening rod should cost $9-$10:00. It has a narrow end to sharpen the serrated end, the wider part is for the smooth side.
We thought this was a great tool to add to the toolbox. I hope it suits you as well.