7 Uses for Hori Hori Knives in the Garden

It sometimes seems we need a million tools for different garden tasks, but the Hori-Hori is a tool that could replace them all. Garden expert Christina Conner shares her favorite uses for this multifunctional Japanese tool.

Close-up of a hori hori knife stuck into a raised garden bed, with a wooden fence in the background.


At my first garden job, everyone I worked with had these cool knife/shovel-like tools holstered to their belts. I learned the tool was called a Hori-Hori, meaning “to dig” in Japanese. These tools were like a badge of honor, and occasionally, a colleague would let me borrow theirs. Whatever the task was, weeding, tearing bags of soil open, or repotting, a Hori-Hori could do it all.

A shared trait amongst gardeners: we love to putter. When gazing pridefully at our plants, we almost always notice something we need to do. Whether it’s picking a weed, cutting off spent flowers or a dead branch or stem, or just cutting a beautiful flower.

Sometimes called a serrated garden knife or a Japanese gardener’s knife, the Hori-Hori is remarkably simple yet versatile. It typically has a wood or plastic handle and a slender, sturdy six to seven inch stainless or carbon steel blade.  

There are a few knife styles to choose from. Some have a serrated edge on one side and a smooth blade on the other, while others have one or the other. The serrated edge is excellent for sawing through roots and thick or woody stems, while the smooth edge easily cuts tender stems and veggies. I prefer to have both options for the most versatility. 

Lower-end options start at about $25, and higher-end options at about $70. Hori-Horis, on the lower end of the cost spectrum, can be just as good as higher-end options. The best way to get the most bang for your buck is to look for reputable brands or Japanese manufacturers.

If I had to choose just one garden tool to replace the rest, it would be the Swiss army knife of garden tools, the Hori-Hori. It has probably a hundred uses, but here are my top 7 favorite ways to use this amazing tool

As a trowel

Close-up of a farmer's hand digging the soil using a hori hori knife.
Perfect for digging, planting, and measuring soil depth efficiently.

The Hori-Hori is a Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound of digging. The most obvious use of the Hori-Hori is as a trowel. With its sharp and tapered tip, the blade slides easily into the soil and easily shifts and slices through it. Use the tip to draw rows and dig shallow trenches for direct seeding.

For bulbs like garlic, onions, and flower bulbs, dig a hole and measure the depth using the Hori-Hori’s measuring marks. Keep the knife in place until you’ve popped your bulb into the ground. Then, release your knife and let the dirt spill over the top, taking care to fill in any gaps. 

To dig through difficult roots 

Close-up of a Hori Hori knife stuck into the soil in a garden among Sideritis scardica plants.
Ideal for sawing roots, loosening soil, and dividing plants easily.

The knife’s serrated edge is perfect for sawing through old roots and underground rhizomes and sawing away at thin yet strong roots. This practice helps to control the spread of invasive plants like bamboo or horsetail rush. Old stumps from past plants can be pried out of the ground using the Hori-Hori to loosen the soil and then pry them upward. 

It’s also great for breaking up even the most dense root masses on rootbound plants. First, use the serrated edge to saw off the thick root “callus” that forms on the bottom of rootbound plants. Then, rough up the sides of the root mass by making a few diagonal cuts along the roots. This technique will help them loosen up and grow outward in the ground or a larger pot. 

Come fall, the Hori-Hori will help to make division a breeze. This is a great way to reinvigorate old plants for the next spring and increase your quantity of plants.

To prune in a pinch 

Close-up of farmer's hands cutting ripe red lettuce leaves with knife in sunny garden.
Great for deadheading flowers and pruning thick plant stems.

While traditional bypass shears are ideal for heavy-duty pruning, the serrated edge of a knife is great for deadheading spent flowers and sawing through small branches, grass stems, viny overgrowth, and even cutting through sod. With tomato season nearly upon us, this is a great tool to prune the thick stems of tomato plants. Whatever you cut, be sure to clean your tool first with vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or isopropyl alcohol.   

Over time, the blade(s) will dull but can easily be resharpened. Use a sharpening rod on the smooth edge and a pointed sharpening rod between the serrated teeth. 


Close-up of a gardener's hands removing a Dandelion weed using a hori hori knife.
Perfect for uprooting weeds entirely, including stubborn deep taproots.

Weeds – the bane of every gardener’s existence. Pull them up but miss the roots, and they’ll come right back. By sliding the knife straight down into the soil and pivoting upward, the soil will loosen, and the weed should pop right out of the soil.

This is particularly helpful for weeds with deep taproots, such as dandelion, crabgrass, and thistle. Most Hori-Horis have a single pointed tip, while others have a split fork just for uprooting weeds. That said, I still prefer the single tip for versatility.  

To harvest flowers, herbs, and veggies 

Close-up of male hands picking fresh asparagus using a knife in a sunny garden.
Great for efficiently harvesting vegetables, flowers, and delicate herbs.

If you don’t have a harvesting knife on you, your trusty Hori-Hori can stand in for this, too! The serrated edge is perfect for cutting squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, and beans off the vine. For flowers like zinnias, sunflowers, and celosia and other vegetables like cabbage, lettuce heads, celery, and rhubarb, the blade can be used to slice the stem to harvest the plant or flower

To harvest more delicate plants, such as baby lettuce and herbs, I recommend using the smooth side instead of the serrated edge to avoid damaging the plant.  

Rip open soil bags and cut twine

Close-up of a large bag full of soil with a round cut in the front on a white metal wheelbarrow in a garden.
Easily open soil bags and cut twine with a Hori-Hori.

When you’re using multiple bags of potting soil or amendments, it can be such a pain to stop and mess around with opening the bag and awkwardly dumping it into your planting bed or pot. One of my favorite “hacks” is first laying the bag flat on the ground. Then, use a Hori-Hori to slice a large plus sign from edge to edge and flop it over into the bed or pot. The soil instantly falls out, and there’s no need to lift and shift the bag around. Problem solved!  

Another valuable garden item is twine. Use it to mark a straight line, bundle herbs, or create a DIY trellis for tomatoes and vining plants. As is the case for me, scissors are nowhere to be found when I need them the most. With a Hori-Hori, you can easily measure and cut twine without ever needing to hunt for the scissors. 

To use outside of the garden 

Close-up of a Hori-Hori knife, a garden fork and an empty pot in a large black bucket filled with clipped grass.
A versatile multitool for camping, backpacking, and occasional refreshments.

There are even uses for this tool outside of the garden – it’s the perfect multitool on camping and backpacking trips. It’s great for digging holes, whacking weeds and brush, hammering stakes, or even whittling firewood. And another bonus tip – pop open a beverage with your clean knife (at your own risk) as a reward for your hard work! 

Final Thoughts

In spring and summer, there is never a shortage of garden tasks that need doing. Searching for a specific tool for every task can be time-consuming and frustrating. Hunting down the shears, weeding forks, trowels, harvesting knives, and scissors can all take away from the zen experience of gardening and moving from task to task.

Almost any task you notice needs doing while puttering around the garden – whether it be quickly digging up a pesky weed, pruning a dead limb, or harvesting veggies – it all can be done instantaneously with this multitool on your belt.

Whether you’re a minimalist or maximalist gardener, a Hori-Hori could be your new best friend.


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