You might be surprised by how many tools there are to make your gardening life easier. Do you have everything you need for your garden? What about a soil knife? Did you know that this handy implement can replace a weeder, saw, scissors, and a trowel?
We've taken a look at some of the top soil knife options on the market, along with some handy information about what to look for in the right product.
Top 4: Best Soil Knives
Japanese Gardening Knives
Hori hori knives are the original form of soil knives. They are named for the Japanese term for "digging." This is the top item on our list because of the consistently excellent performance, traditional design, and ease of use.
The blade is crafted from high-quality stainless steel. It has been treated with a scratch-resistant and rust-resistant coating, which also helps prevent it from wearing down over time. You don't need to sharpen it as often as the competing blades.
The blade is marked with an inch ruler, which tells you exactly how deep you've dug into the soil. You can create uniform holes for planting your seedlings and bulbs. This helps increase overall success during the growth phase, since each plant is exactly where it needs to be.
The serrated edge of the blade can easily saw through roots and small branches. Meanwhile, the smooth edge can be used for defining garden beds and scraping lichen. It's a popular model used by landscapers and campers who want to build their own campsites.
The blade is 7.25 inches in length, while the wooden handle is 5.25 inches. You have enough room for a steady grip, and the blade is big enough for most basic garden needs. At the same time, it's steady and versatile enough to handle precision tasks.
The knife weighs ten ounces in total. This model also comes with a faux leather sheath that will protect the edges. You can snap it to your belt or clothing while you work, so you always have the knife on hand when you need it. It also hangs in your shed or garage when not in use.
If you're willing to budget a little more for your knife, this nifty blade is one of the most quality options on the market. The six-inch steel blade is more durable than most competitors on the market, capable of withstanding a whopping 300 pounds of pressure.
You can use the slicing edge to make precise, delicate cuts. At the same time, the serrated edge allows you to saw through branches and snarled roots with ease. The jagged teeth are strong enough to tackle most garden needs without wearing down over time.
There's a notch built into the blade that lets you easily snip twine. In addition, the steel has depth markings etched directly into the surface. You can see in an instant how deeply you've dug with your knife. The spear point lets you break up tough soil and push further into the earth.
Also included with this purchase is a genuine leather sheath. Unlike synthetic leather, genuine leather won't degrade over time. It gets better with age. A leather sheath can last for decades, and it will protect the knife blades from the elements.
No matter what kind of work you're doing, this knife design is convenient and helpful. It even comes with a lifetime warranty. If any of the parts break or stop working properly, you can get a replacement without any fuss. The manufacturer is confident that you can use this knife for decades.
Though the knife doesn't have a squishy rubber grip, it does have a molded handle. This composite grip is specifically molded to the shape of your hand, making it easier to hold and reducing overall fatigue.
Best Pruning Saws
This durable tool comes with both a leather sheath and sharpening stone. If you've been worried about your blades wearing down with time, this kit takes care of that! The blade itself is crafted from Japanese stainless steel.
This is one of the most versatile options on the list. You can prune, plant, weed, dig, and slice without issue. The seven-inch blade may appeal to people who want a larger knife blade, while the ergonomic wooden handle makes the tool much easier to wield.
The depth measurements are printed in both inches and millimeters, so it's a great choice if you prefer the metric system. You can easily create uniform holes for transplanting.
The leather sheath is crafted to last a lifetime. When you aren't using the blade, the sheath protects it from the elements and prevents it from becoming dull. If the edge ever does wear down, you can use the sharpening stone to quickly pick it up again.
Gardening Knee Pads
If you prefer a smaller and more compact soil knife, this Zenport model might be perfect for you. It has a six-inch blade, smaller than the previous item on the list. The knife weighs barely more than half a pound.
The handle has been colored bright orange to make the knife easy to find while you're gardening or camping. Instead of using traditional wood, it is crafted from durable ABS plastic. ABS plastic is known for standing up to wear-and-tear without breaking down the same way wood does.
The knife functions as a weeding tool, saw, and scooping tool. It's a little too thin to replace your handheld trowel entirely, but it will scoop out small amounts of dirt for your needs.
There is a sheath sold separately for this knife model. If you purchase the sheath, you can clip the knife to your belt so your hands are free while you work in the field. Commercial horticulturalists are fond of this model because of its versatility and compact size.
Even if you don't have a commercial horticultural business, you can use this knife for most tasks in your home garden. It eliminates the need to drag around a dozen specialized tools when you want to weed, prune, and transplant.
All in all, this is a solid model if you're shopping on a budget. It's well constructed and has everything you could want in a soil knife. Just keep in mind that the sheath must be purchased separately, and the blade's design is fairly short and thin.
When you're choosing a soil knife, the quality of the construction is important. You want a tool that can handle your tough garden needs and keep performing for season after season. The basic design of every soil knife is the same, but some have much better construction than others.
Our overall top pick is the Nisaku NJP650 knife. It remains sharp through years of use, and the tough blade doesn't rust or stain. The included sheath makes it easy to store and carry, so it might appeal to campers and other outdoorsy adventurers. Whether you're looking to garden or to hack through the wilderness, this basic knife has you covered.
If you're willing to invest a little more in your knife, we love the A.M. Leonard Deluxe design. Not only does it come with a genuine leather sheath, but the serrated blade is strong enough to saw through rope and branches. The measurement markings make it easy to dig the perfect hole, and the handle has a comfortable contoured grip.
Another solid choice is the Black Iron garden knife. It uses a traditional hori hori design to allow pruning, weeding, cutting, and other activities. The hardwood handle is durable and comfortable. Not only is a sheath included, but there's also a free sharpening stone that will keep the blade pristine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Hori hori knives are the first type of soil knife that existed. They are a traditional Japanese tool that is used in Japanese gardening.
Nowadays, there aren't many differences between the design of a soil knife and hori hori knife. Most hori hori knives are made with materials sourced from Japan, while generic soil knives might have materials sourced from anywhere.
Soil knives can be used for almost any basic gardening task, from planting to weeding to harvesting. These simple tools are so versatile that they can take the place of multiple expensive garden implements. Soil knives originated with hori hori Japanese gardening knives.
Traditional tools are built from a steel blade with one serrated edge. The opposite edge is smooth and sharp. You can use the serrated teeth to saw through branches, trunks, and other debris; meanwhile, the smooth edge lets you cut cleanly through your garden.
In addition to being helpful for pruning and landscaping, you can use the knife to dig, till, aerate, and maintain your soil. If the roots of a plant are getting out of control, you can cut them.
Today's soil knives usually have depth markers on the side in inches, centimeters, or both. By using these measurements, you can make precise holes when transplanting or planting fresh seeds. Since you can use the knife for so many tasks, it takes a lot of the hassle out of managing your garden tools.
First of all, consider how you're going to carry the knife. The easiest solution is to get a clip-on sheath that attaches to your shirt or belt. That way, the blades remain sheathed until they're needed, and your hands are free to do other garden tasks.
You can also just carry the knife around if you want. But there's a high chance of misplacing it once you have a task that requires both hands. With a belt sheath, you always know exactly where the tool is when you need it.
To weed with a soil knife, you'll use the pointy tip. Dig the tip into the soil around the weed and lift the roots. Because the blade is made from steel or another tough metal, it should be able to remove even difficult roots. If you're having trouble, cut through the root with the toothed edge.
Soil knives are shaped similarly to trowels, though they have a thinner head. Because of this, they aren't necessarily the most efficient tools for digging. But it is easy to use them to make precise holes for transplanting and planting.
Since the knife can dig deeply into the soil, it's ideal for compacted gardens. You might consider using the tool if your yard freezes every winter, and you have trouble digging through the compact earth afterward.
You can use the knife to cut twine, open bags of soil, and do other small handyman tasks. Because the knife is so thin, you can use it to fill small pots for seedlings. Most seedling pots can't be filled with a trowel or spade because the head is too wide.
In addition, you can use the knife to create precise seedling lines within your garden itself. It's easy to transplant neat rows of seeds into their new soil.
You can use the knife to prune small branches and stubborn lichen. If there's any debris that needs to be cleared from a tree trunk, you can use the smooth edge to scrape it off. Keep in mind that this doesn't completely replace pruning shears, as you'll still want those for thicker and more snarled branches.
If you find that one of your potted plants has a matted ball of roots, you can use the knife to break it up. That allows the roots to spread through the soil and get new oxygen and nutrition. Plants from the store often need to be pruned slightly before they can be placed in a new pot or garden bed.
Whether you get a modern soil knife or a traditional hori hori knife, there are several things to consider.
First, think about the handle. It's common for knives to have a steel blade and a wooden or plastic handle. Plastic tends to be cheaper, but it breaks more easily. Wood will splinter over time, and certain durable plastics might outlast it. Some knives might have a metal handle, which is the sturdiest option, but also the heaviest.
The length of the blade also matters. You want a knife that's small enough to clip comfortably to your clothes, but large enough to efficiently move through the soil. Most knives will be about a foot long, including both the blade and the handle.
If you're not sure what length you want, longer tends to be better. Longer knives can handle the same jobs as shorter ones, and the difference in weight is usually negligible.
Next, consider the blade. Different blades have different designs, some of which perform significantly better than others. If the serrated teeth aren't jagged enough, they won't cut through more than a few weeds. Strong serrated blades can slice through roots and small branches with ease.
It's also helpful to make sure that the blade has a ruler in whatever measurement you prefer. Many designs label the ruler with both centimeters and inches. This lets you know how deep you've dug to the exact millimeter, which makes it much easier to transplant and seed successfully.
You'll want to choose whether you want a straight blade or an offset blade. With an offset blade, you get more leverage, so you'll have the strength to cut through more roots and soil. But these designs can also be a little cumbersome when compared to straight blades.
The final consideration is whether there are any accessories included. Some knives come with their own sheath and clip to attach to your belt. If your knife doesn't have one, it's not the end of the world. You can purchase a sheath separately. But it is nice to have a perfectly-sized sheath ready to go right out of the package.