Weeding was slow and tough until I started using a hori hori knife – now I'm a convert to this versatile Japanese tool that makes light work of garden chores

Using the right tool for the job can drastically speed up your weeding and planting jobs

(Image credit: Getty Images/Ashley-Belle Burns)

As summer rolls on, weeding in the yard can seem never-ending. Dandelion, plantain and crabgrass seem to grow here, there and everywhere. Without regular weeding, the borders can quickly become more weed than plant. Fortunately, I have a tool that makes quick and easy work of these pesky garden weeds.

Several years ago, one of my gardening friends bought me a hori hori knife. Gifting someone a garden knife might seem odd - and perhaps a little threatening - but it is the best gardening present I have ever received. Ever since, I have been a hori hori convert. Just this week I have been out in the garden using my knife, quickly and easily pulling dandelion weeds - root and all - out of the borders.

Gardeners will know that there are many different essential gardening tools, and whether you are an experienced gardener or a beginner, finding a tool that works for you can transform your garden maintenance jobs. Here, I share how to use the hori hori knife and how it can make light work of those jobs on your summer gardening checklist.

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What is a hori hori knife?

The hori hori knife is a traditional Japanese gardening tool. Hori hori translates to dig dig and is the name given to these small garden knives. Typically made with a wooden handle, the sharp metal blade can be used for a variety of gardening jobs, making light work of arduous chores.

The knife can have a smooth or serrated edge, the latter being useful for sawing or cutting plant material. The metal blade is typically made of steel, meaning it can be maintained and kept for many years. I have had my knife for several years, and it is still going strong.

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How to use a hori hori knife

Hori hori knife in a raised bed with planting behind

(Image credit: Getty Images/Ashley-Belle Burns)

The two main uses of a hori hori knife are weeding and planting. This small knife can allow you to be more targeted when weeding, as opposed to using a large tool such as a garden spade or fork.

What's more, the blade can reach a good depth, so removing those weeds that have a long tap root is made significantly easier. One of the most common weeding mistakes that gardeners make is to remove only the foliage, leaving all or some of the root system intact underground. The hori hori knife will allow you to remove all parts of the weed, without damaging surrounding perennials or shrubs.

Planting jobs are also made easier by using this gardening knife. For planting small, starter plants that arrive in dainty pots, this knife is ideal for digging small holes in busy and crowded borders.

I have also used my hori hori knife for bulb planting. The blade will often display engraved measurements, making it easy to ascertain depth when planting spring bulbs. In addition, the thin blade will allow you to work quickly, planting each bulb in record time.

How to maintain hori hori knives

Weeds growing in gravel

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As with any garden tool, maintenance is important. Clean, sharp tools are the gardener's best friend, making easy work of your garden chores. Try to remember to clean your hori hori knife in cold water after every use. If you forget, just give the blade a quick wash before you use it next.

Some knife or tool oil - such as camellia oil - can be applied every few months, helping to protect your blade against rusting. I would advise sharpening your blade as and when necessary, to keep your gardening work effective and efficient.

During the busy spring and summer months, you might find that you are sharpening your knife every week, but this quick maintenance task should not be skipped.

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FAQs

Are hori hori knives safe?

As with any garden tool, safety is the number one priority. Always keep tools out of the reach of children, and never pick up your knife by the blade. I would recommend keeping a protective case or sheath on you at all times, to safely store the knife when you are not using it.


Using a hori hori knife in the yard can help to make easy work of those tricky and time-consuming tasks, including weeding the borders. For more advice on maintaining garden tools, see our guide on how to clean garden tools, helping to keep your favorite spade, fork and shears in good working order.

Content Editor

Thomas is a Content Editor within the Gardens Team at Homes and Gardens. He has worked as a professional gardener in gardens across the UK and in Italy, specialising in productive gardening, growing food and flowers. Trained in Horticulture at the Garden Museum, London, he has written on gardening and garden history for various publications in the UK, including The English Garden, Gardens Illustrated, Hortus, The London Gardener and Bloom. He has co-authored a travel book celebrating trees, due out in late 2024.