Looking at how other cultures garden can really expand a gardener’s horizons, and discovering garden tools that have evolved over thousands of years can make work in the garden so much easier!
I had the pleasure to test the F.D. Ryan Aussie Ho-Mi Asian Style Hand Cultivator, and I was really impressed with this tool and the multitude of tasks which it could perform.
What is a Ho-Mi I hear you ask? A Ho-Mi (pronounced Hoe-Mee) which translates to “little ground spear” in Korean is variously described as a hand plow, a miniature plowshare or hand hoe. First developed in Korea during the Bronze Age, this ancient tool is said to have been in use for the last 5000 years and is used widely at present throughout many Asian countries.
The unique design makes the tool perfect for performing a variety of tasks such as digging, weeding, furrowing, cultivating and seed sowing.
More specifically, the Ho-Mi can be used to dig holes for planting seedlings and bulbs or furrows for sowing seed. It can then be used to fill the holes or cover the seeds that have been sown. As a precision tool it’s great for thinning out seedlings, digging weeds without disturbing nearby plant roots, and transplanting bulbs and seedlings. It’s also a very capable tool for use in in heavier gardening tasks such as cultivating, levelling and mounding the soil One tool does it all!
The Aussie Ho-mi is made by F.D. RYAN artisan toolmakers, an Australian artisan which produces high quality handmade garden tools.
It’s pretty clear what they’re about from the mission statement on their website:
“Today we make tools of strength, function and beauty, using the materials and techniques of a bygone era. Our tools are unique yet practical, hand made for the discerning gardener who appreciates quality.”
Their catalog describes their Ho-Mi tool as follows:
“This hand forged tool is a joy to use for a multitude of jobs. You can dig holes, make planting trenches, weed and cultivate. Swan neck, Angled blade and comfortable wood handle form a natural extension to your arm and wrist.Heat treated blade is light in weight, but strong and beautifully balanced.”
These are the specifications of the tool I tested:
- Weight: 270g
- Total Length: 28cm (11”)
- Handle Length: 12cm (5”)
- Length of Blade (from back to point): 12cm (5”)
- Blade Thickness: 2mm (5/64”)
- Stem diameter: 10mm (3/8”)
This Ho-Mi is hand-forged from 1055 spring steel with 0.55% carbon, and it’s hardened and tempered to 50 Rockwell C. This makes it harder than a mower blade but not as hard and brittle as a kitchen knife. At this hardness it has good edge holding ability, but it’s not too brittle to chip or crack.
The Aussie Ho-Mi has a retail price of around $30, and is sold directly from the manufacturer’s website at https://www.fdryan.com/store/p2/Aussie_Ho-Mi.html
It can also be purchased in Australia through the Diggers Club and CERES permaculture nursery.
The blade is a useful length at 12cm (5”) long, allowing it to dig deeply when weeding. The blade is forged from 2mm thick steel, which is much thicker than most garden tools. The blade is properly heat-treated and hardened, the blade pleasantly rings like a bell when struck!
The folded design of the blade makes it incredibly strong, and it’s attached to the 10mm thick stem with a decent welding joint which is totally solid.
The edges are ground nicely and evenly to produce a good bevelled edge which assists with cutting through roots. The blade retains its edge after extensive use, pictured below is the blade with soil still clinging to it after weeding 20 square metres of new lawn and removing four large buckets of weeds. There are no chips or dents in the edge, proof that the heat treatment has produced a blade of high hardness with great durability.
The sturdy tang crafted from 10mm rod is well fixed in the handle, which has a brass-coloured metal ferrule to prevent splitting. The ferrule is non-magnetic so is most likely non-ferrous and will therefore not rust.
In the hand, the Ho-Mi cultivator feels very light and balanced, yet very strong and solid. As this is a hand-crafted artisan made tool, it has that traditional old-world feel of a tool that is built to last a lifetime and them some! It will definitely outlast most hand garden tools and also duplicate their functions.
After using the tool for a two hour weeding session, I can say that the tool can be comfortably used for hours without any problems thanks to its ergonomic design, which has been refined by practical Asian farmers and gardeners over the centuries.
Since the blade is mounted at a right angle to the handle and offset by the swan-neck shape of the shaft, it puts the hand and wrist in such a position as to avoid strain to the wrist and arm, making it great choice for older or arthritic gardeners.
It can take the place of a garden trowel and is equally at place in flower gardening as it is in vegetable gardening.
A good test of a hoe is how well it can weed, so put this tool through its paces weeding a newly rolled out Sir Walter Buffalo lawn in which weeds had been growing for two weeks. It’s important to be very gentle when weeding new lawns to not tear up the grass roots which are still establishing.
The curved blade is unique in that it can cut around and under a weed simultaneously, loosening the roots all round and underneath at the same time, something most weeding tools can’t do! The blade has enough length to get in nice and deep.
One weed removed, with its long tap root perfectly intact, and no visible holes in the lawn!
Seedling Planting Test
So this tool can weed, but can it plant seedlings?
I used the Ho-Mi to plant lettuce seedlings in a large self-watering vegetable planter, and I found that the tool easily pulled aside the soil medium to create a nice deep planting hole. It’s easy to create cone-shaped planting holes which guide the the seedling roots straight down as they’re lowered in. Filling in the hole was equally easy and straightforward. I was amazed at how adept the tool was at such precise tasks.
When digging bigger holes, I was able to use the tool to hold back the soil medium to prevent the hole collapsing as the seedling roots were lowered the full length of the blade. The wider back portion of the blade can be used to hold the soil at the top of the hole where it caves in more easily, and the tapered tip of the triangular blade leaves plenty of unobstructed space within the hole so the seedling roots aren’t pulled back up as the tool is withdrawn from the hole.
I also discovered another use for this amazing tool. Teamed to with a trowel, the Ho-Mil is perfect for planting seedlings onto trays of clay balls in hydroponic systems. With the hand trowel inside resting against the back of the Ho-Mi blade. they can easily be pushed into a container of hydroponic clay balls, and when they are pulled apart slightly at the top, they part the clay balls enough to slip a seedling in quite deeply.
Keep in mind that it’s not possible to dig into a container of small hydroponic clay balls, it’s like trying to dig a hole in a jar of marbles, when some are moved out of the way others roll back in to fill the hole. In the past I had to empty al,the clay balls out of my hydroponic pots, place the seedlings into position roots first, then fill with the clay balls, but using this tool that is no longer necessary.
On first seeing such an unusual looking gardening implement I was unsure as to how useful a Ho-Mi would be, but I was not only pleasantly surprised, I’m totally sold on the idea now. I always had my trusty hand trowel handy as my go-to tool for day-to-day garden tasks, but now I have a garden hand tool that can do much more.
To wrap it up, this is an awesome garden tool that is good at almost everything but is probably one of the most effective weeding tools I’ve ever used, and I can definitely recommend it!
Deep Green rating for the “F.D. Ryan Aussie Ho-Mi Asian Style Hand Cultivator” is 5 stars!
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