I’ve just finished up the huge task of creating a Ranters’ Recommendations page on GardenRant – a page that tells you a little bit about each of our gardens, and the tools and products we instinctively reach for when we head outside to tackle it. 

ranter recommendations


It’s an affiliate page – currently through Amazon – which allows us to link to a specific product because we think it’s the best (such as Scott’s love affair with his Senkichi Nejiri Gama hoe), or just a generally useful thing that some gardeners might not think about having on hand, (like Ben’s generic seed envelopes).  There are quite a lot of books too – Dirr and Lloyd figured very prominently across the board.

But as much as I want to encourage you to check it out, and perhaps grab a mug while you’re at it, that’s not the point of this post.

Everyone’s Entitled to Their Opinion – Even on The Hori-Hori

It was a challenging exercise to chase up the other seven Ranters on this one – one Ranter in particular had to be hunted down by phone and threatened with terrible things if he didn’t stop whining about his back pain, get off Facebook, and immediately give me his picks in the eleventh hour of my arbitrary deadline. You can probably guess who. 

scott beuerlein, andrea gasper, marianne willburn

I can neither confirm nor deny that it was in fact Scott.

It was also fascinating, because we all have different opinions about what we wouldn’t be in the garden without.  It’s why our gorgeous logo by Jim Charlier is so wonderful.

But when you feel so strongly about your tools – as I do with my 4” pointing trowel – it’s quite frankly weird to hear that everyone besides Elizabeth and me are drinking the hori-hori Kool aid. Big, deep, draughts of it.

Ranters Go Big on The Hori Hori

They’re not completely in agreement – Anne, Susan and Ben prefer a wooden handle, while Allen and Scott are A.M. Leonard orange men, and Lorene confesses that, although she finds them very useful, she can’t get to know one long enough because she invariably accidently throws them out with the weeding cleanup and that’s why she didn’t list it. But bottom line, they all love this thing. And I just can’t.

I’ve tried. I’ve got two.  One with a leather holster that my husband bought me years ago because a friend told him if I was a gardener, I should have one; and one I was given for my 10-year anniversary as a Master Gardener. I smiled broadly and tried not to look with longing at the gifts given to the 5-Years – hoping for a quick swap over the coffee break by someone who might think I was the lucky one. It didn’t happen.

hori hori

Proof that I own one and have used it hard. That’s soil on that soil knife. 10 year old soil, but still.

Last week at The Garden Fling while shopping for overpriced but gorgeous impulse purchases at Terrain in Glen Mills, PA, I overheard two Flingers standing over the Barebones walnut-handled hori-hori display, telling each other how much they loved it.  My cynical nature wondered how much they felt they needed to love it (as everyone does), how much they loved the look of it (it is beautiful), and how much they actually loved working with it. 

It’s not fun to be in my brain some days. I should have been concentrating on my impulse purchases, not analyzing human nature.

What is a Hori-Hori?

Perhaps you aren’t familiar with this miracle tool.  From Wiki:

“A hori-hori, sometimes referred to as a “soil knife” or a “weeding knife”, is a heavy serrated multi-purpose steel blade for gardening jobs such as digging or cutting. The blade is sharp on both sides and comes to a semi-sharp point at the end.

The word hori (ホリ) means “to dig” in Japanese and “hori-hori” is the onomatopoeia for a digging sound. The tool itself is commonly referred to in Japan as a “leisure knife”

That fits. Mine have been at leisure for the last ten years.

Why Don’t You Get On The Hori-Hori Train Marianne?

My biggest beef with it I suppose – and this goes for ANY hand tool with which one is expected to dig – is the handle is not offset.  And I felt like this long before I turned 50.  Perhaps it was because I was so used to digging, scraping and picking out, with my trusty offset 4” pointing trowel — the cheap, cheerful, tool of choice for archaeologists and masons (and hopefully, smart gardeners).

And what do I need to saw at roots for?  That’s what my pruners are for.

Many companies make an offset version, but since it still has that thin blade, I can’t help thinking that my pointing trowel with a wider flat blade wins that race. And seriously, who needs a 6-inch ruler for planting bulbs?  18-24 inches I get, but if you can’t estimate anything between 1-6 inches, I’m concerned you may be in the wrong profession.

In any case, the whole process of once again questioning my hori-hori aversion in light of my obviously talented fellow Ranters taught me a few things:

  • One tool is not the answer for everyone. (Which is why we provided recommendations from ALL our Ranters individually, rather than a huge conglomeration.)
  • Don’t ever use something just because you think everyone else is.
  • Don’t ever like something just because you think everyone else does.
  • You’ll probably try a lot of hand digging tools before you hit that sweet spot – that beautiful place where you feel you own the soil with the tool in your hand, and feel unarmed without it.  The hori-hori is definitely that tool for some gardeners.

In time we hope to host our affiliate links with the individual companies and Bookstore.org, but this is a first baby step. In any case we hope you’ll enjoy the new page, and get some wonderful ideas for tools, books and products that some very experienced gardeners recommend.  We’ve all been looking at each other’s picks and building wish lists too — Allen’s use of a sled-like plastic hauler (originally from A.M. Leonard) strikes me as nothing less than brilliant.  It’s now sitting in my cart. Figuratively.

A.M. Leonard’s Polyethylene 3 in 1 Hauler.


Final Word on The Hori-Hori

Out of curiosity, I emailed Elizabeth (not one to hold opinions to herself) just to check if she used or even liked one. She’s chosen a host of books as her recommendations, instead of tools. Her reply was beautifully validating and totally Elizabeth.

“Meh. I think it’s overrated.” she said. “I get much more traction from a saw with dividing tough roots and often use a Cobrahead for digging into tough spots. A good spade will also do better.”

“Can I quote you?” I asked.

“Absolutely.” She replied. “I think it’s the name. And it comes with a scabbard and all that so you feel like a badass.”

Scott, you may want to stop overcompensating.  – MW

You can access the Ranters’ Recommendations Page, and Garden Rant Themed Merchandise from the SHOP graphic on the home page, or under About in our Main Menu.