Trowels and weeders and little rakes that look like oversized forks all have their place, but the one and only small tool that any gardener needs is a hori-hori. Japanese for “dig dig,” this little tool is the best. Unlike a trowel’s blade, this one is narrow, steel, and stiff. It’s not ever going to bend or slip or not be able to cut into the soil the way you want it to. It slides in beside a weed and lifts its roots like a charm. If it hits a rock, no big deal, just use steel wool to soften out the nick. One side is serrated so it’s great for sawing apart roots or slicing open a bag of compost. The other side is a not-that-sharp blade that can cut twine or those stretchy strings plant tags come on. When you have to get tough on soil, you turn this puppy around and stab at the dirt like you’re murdering some ancient king. Believe me, the soil will acquiesce.
I’ve used my hori-hori for as long as I can remember. Lost one at a client’s house once because I dumbly left it on a fence rail. I should have lost it many more times than that though, considering the wooden handle fades into the dirt as the wood grays with age. My friend Angela painted hers orange and this, I think, is the way to go. But somehow I haven’t lost my second one. It fits perfectly with my pruning shears in my big leather scabbard that I hook onto my jeans’ pocket. After losing my first, I now always do my hori-hori check when done with any gardening job.
I recommend you get this for yourself as a Christmas gift or for the gardener in your life. You can find it at most local nurseries or order it from A.M. Leonard. If you’re in Seattle, you can get a more reasonably priced one from Steuber in Snohomish, WA. God Bless the Hori Hori, everyone.