Caring for Your Garden Tools

Now that your fall garden chores are completed, it’s time to give your trusty garden tools some attention before storing them. By properly cleaning and making the necessary repairs now, your tools will be less apt to corrode. When spring rolls around, they will be ready to be used.

Wooden Handles:To clean the handles, wipe them with a dry cloth. Use little, if any, water. Fine sand paper can be used to smooth the surface. Remove the sanding dust, rub linseed oil into the handle and let it soak in. Continue this process until it doesn’t absorb any more oil. Wait about half an hour and dry any oil that remains on the surface. This will help prevent drying out and splintering. Another option is after cleaning and sanding the handle, coat it with neon colored oil-based paint. It’s a lot easier to find that misplaced trowel when the handle is painted neon yellow or orange.

Metal Surfaces:
Clean as much dirt as you can from your shovels, hoes, and other digging tools. Then shove them into a large bucket containing about 5 pounds of builder’s sand mixed with one quart of motor or vegetable oil. Work the metal end of the tool up and down in the sand a few times and then wipe off the excess oil. The sand cleans the metal and the oil coats it to prevent rust. You can also store your tools in the sand mixture for the winter. Keep a smaller bucket of this mixture handy for whenever you use your tools during gardening months. For garden tools that are really rusty, soak them in white vinegar and use steel wool or a wire brush to remove the rust. Once the rust is removed and the surface is clean and dry, apply a rust-proofing primer.

Pruning Tools:
Wipe the metal parts of pruners, shears and loppers with an oily rag. WD-40 oil is a good choice. File the cutting edge to keep the tool’s blade sharp. File away from you at the same angle as the original bevel using long even strokes. Then, file the opposite side lightly to remove any burrs for a clean, sharp edge. Be sure to wear your safety glasses when working with files or power tools. If this isn’t in your comfort zone, have a professional sharpen your tools.

Lawn Mower and Tiller:
Drain the gasoline from the fuel tank or add a stabilizer to a full tank of gas and run the equipment for a few minutes to be sure all the internal parts of the engine are coated. If the equipment has a separate oil reservoir, change the oil. Replace any air and oil filters. Check the spark plug and clean or replace it. Tighten all bolts. Remove all the matted grass on top of, underneath or around the blades. Have your mower’s blade sharpened.