Updated: September 2018
A few months ago at the Jackson County Master Gardener Fair, a gentleman approached my booth. He gestured to the table of short handle garden tools in between us and asked directly, “Which tool here is the best in the garden?” “Well, sir,” I replied, “that all depends on what you’re trying to do….”
It might seem like a vague answer, leading into some speech on the virtues of the various tools that he should buy, but the truth is that there is no all-around best garden tool. Just as the “best car” depends on where you’re going, or the “best knife” depends on what you’re trying to cut, the best garden tool depends on your situation: the type of weeds, the soil moisture, the time of year, your preferences etc.
That said, over the last few years of gardening, I’ve noticed that certain tools almost always come out to the garden with me, and that many others have been left behind to collect dust in the shed.
Our Favorite Short Handle Garden Tools
The three tools that have risen to claim the distinguished honor of our-best-short-handle-garden-tools are the Japanese Ika Hoe, the Nejiri Scraper and the Dewit Dutch Hoe. As a gardening super tool team, these can handle just about any task I’ve asked of them, and I’ve yet to find another short handle tool that can do what these can do, as well as they do.
So what makes this tool combo so great?
Japanese Ika Hoe
The Ika Hoe is fantastic around perennial shrubs and trees where weeds and grass tend to be tough. It has a heavy forged head and a strong oak handle that can penetrate into a mat or clump of roots, and then lever them up and out, often times roots and all.
The 3 tines penetrate easily, while the flat blade is nice for scraping. This sturdy chopping hoe is also great for making holes for transplants or planting bulbs.
The Nejiri and the Dutch hoe are ideal weeders for annual crops. They prefer to slice (not chop), and are designed for quickly and accurately slicing out small to medium weeds in cultivated ground. Read loose, friable soil.
Both these hoes are used on the pull stroke, cutting weeds as you bring the tool back towards yourself. They are easy to control, so perfect for working right up to plants or weeding dense plantings.
The differences between the Nejeri and the Dutch hoe are as follows:
The Nejiri is exceptionally light and very reasonably priced. This is our best selling hand weeder.
The Dutch Hoe is heavier, longer, stronger, has a lifetime warranty and is more than twice the cost. The Dutch hoe is ultimately more versatile because its strength allows it do some chopping of larger weeds and grass. This is my favorite hand hoe.
So, in honor of the questioning gentleman and for all of you gardeners looking for a good deal on some good tools, we’ve created a hand tool set which includes two fine short handle garden tools: An Ika Hoe and either a Nejiri or a Dutch Hoe, your choice.
This kit saves you 15% compared to the cost of buying each individually, and could (just maybe) be the last short handle garden tools you’ll ever need.