Two of the most important tasks in gardening are planting and weeding, and the best tool for this is usually a hoe.
For a while, I’ve been looking for a smaller hand tool for loosening dirt and planting.
I could use a small trowel, but it’s a pain to use where the soil isn’t really soft.
Or I could have used my beloved Falci grub hoe, but this is overkill for smaller areas, as well as the long handle being difficult to work around existing plants.
I’ve seen some small hand tools available at the big box stores, but none I liked enough to buy.
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The Japanese Ika Hoe
But I found a great little hoe that solved my need.
This great little hand hoe has a double-sided head, with a 3-tined fork on one side, with a spade on the other.
Because of this it will do two operations in one tool, both loosening soil/weeding and planting/digging.
It has a good handle length for me, and it’s light enough to swing without getting tired too quickly.
It also is coated with some kind of preservative, probably lacquer, which helps keep the wood from cracking and drying out.
Personally, I prefer linseed or other wood oil for preservation.
It also comes with Japanese writing on the labels, which of course increases the cool factor!
Using the hoe
For transplanting or loosening the soil, this little hoe is quick and easy to use. It’s also great to use around existing plants where you have to be careful about damaging herbaceous growth or roots.
I usually use the forks to loosen first, then flip it over and use the spade to open a hole for the plant start.
The fork also makes it easier to do weeding, just loosen the soil and pull the weeds right out.
I mentioned this before, but it’s nice and light, and won’t wear you out swinging it.
You will be using this sitting or kneeling, so you probably won’t be in one place for a long time.
I do wish the handle diameter was bigger, and had a larger palmswell.
The handle lacquer when combined with hand sweat makes the handle start to get slippery. I may attach another piece of wood to make it larger or wrap it with grip tape to get a better hold on the tool.
When I started using it on really hard dry dirt (which is not what it’s made for), I noticed that the forks started to bend a little.
This is not a big deal, since I just tapped it on the ground until the forks were back into place. I guess some people would want a heavier-duty tool, but I think you would tire out faster.
There are better tools more suited for digging in that hard dirt, like a hoe or pick. Or you could water the dirt and let it set for few hours.
This hoe uses a metal wedge for tightening the head in the socket. This wedge will be proud of the top, just tap it in when the head starts to get loose.
After several weeks of use, the handle started to feel a little sloppy, so I tapped it in and it tightened right up.
The fork and spade edges can be sharpened with a good file, which should be done before using if they aren’t sharp already.
A sharp tool cuts into the dirt easier, and mean less work for you. Sharpening is quick to do, and will maintain the tool’s effectiveness longer.
So make sure that you maintain a good sharp edge!
This is a good little garden tool from the land of the rising sun. It filled the gap for me between garden trowel and grub hoe.
It’s quite good at loosening soil and small digging tasks, for weeding and planting, and I’m very satisfied with its performance.
I used this hoe in the DIY Backyard Greenhouse Aquaponics Project to loosen dirt for leveling the growbed support posts.
Get yours here: Japanese Ika Hoe
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