hori hori knife

The Hori Hori Knife

If I had to pick one tool that’s indispensable for a gardener, it would be the hori. No other tool is more useful.

When pulling weeds, grab your hori as shown and plunge in behind the weed to loosen it and pull it out. Resist the inclination to hold it like a serving spoon (or trowel) because it’s hard on your wrist.What is a hori? It’s a formidable knife that looks like something a hobbit might carry to fight orcs. It’s also a fantastic weeding-planting-digging tool. The hori — also called a hori-hori — was first used in Japan for digging up small plants. The word “hori” means “to dig” in Japanese.

This item is so useful that it’s standard issue on the gardening crew I work with. On the first day of work, each gardener is issued a pair of pruners and a hori — with holsters. It’s also top recommendation for all of my gardening friends and family. This, from my cousin Julie: “I used my hori, pruners and the tubtrugs yesterday up in Ojai in 90-degree heat. Man, did they work well — and LOOOOOVE that holster!”

I call this fall cleanup technique “the zip”, perfect for cutting back perennials for winter. Grab the foliage with one hand; use the serrated edge to zip through the stems; toss the debris into your weed bucket.

Here are some of the ways you can use a hori:

  • Pull weeds
  • Dig holes for planting annuals or small perennials
  • Tease out or trim roots from compacted root balls
  • Check the depth on planting holes for bulbs
  • Cut back perennials in fall

And, of course, no one will mess with you when you’re out in the garden carrying a 7-inch blade.

For more ideas, read Essential Tools for Fall Cleanup.

David Grist, Gardener’s Supply