It’s time to pack up the summer gardening and get ready for the fall and winter. October is the perfect time to plant all those spring bulbs like daffodils, tulips, crocuses, and hyacinth. It’s also time to plant pansies, mums, and ornamental cabbages. But, a big part of packing up is prepping all those gardening tools for winter. Sticking them in the shed and then getting them back out in the spring is not the best way to preserve your tools and keep a healthy garden. Many bacteria and molds can live through the winter on your tools. Most metal tools will tend to rust and deteriorate over the winter if not properly put away. With a little bit of thought and effort, you can save yourself time, money, and heartache next season by taking care of your tools now.
All gardening tools should have the dirt thoroughly scrubbed off, preferably with soapy water or even bleach water. Bleach water will kill any molds or bacteria on the tools prior to storage. If the tool is rusty, use some fine steel wool and polish off the rust and rewash it.
If an edge of the tool has a cutting edge, such as pruners, tree trimmers, hatchets, axes, flat-edged shovels, hoe blades, or even a trowel, take the time to sharpen it with a whetstone. Remember to draw the stone in one direction with the same tilt every stroke to maintain a consistent edge. This is especially important for pruning shears and tree trimmer blades. If the blades are dull, nicked, or improperly sharpened, they are potentially dangerous to the user and they will damage the stem or branch rather than cutting it. Check your owner’s manual for tiller blades and lawn mower blades, as they can benefit from sharpening and oiling, too. If you don’t feel confident to sharpen your own, there are several shops in town and plenty of hobbyists who will be happy to do it for you. Just ask friends for recommendations. With any gas-powered equipment, remember to drain your gas and clear the fuel line. Gas will dry out and turn into a varnish in your fuel line and engine, preventing it from working properly next spring.
Next, using a soft rag, rub in some household oil on the metal blades or tines of your hand tools, mowers, and tillers. This will help prevent rusting over the winter. Be sure to coat it liberally and wipe off any drips. Remember to do the tines of your flat garden rake and the yard leaf rake, too.
Check the grips and handles of your hand tools. Remember that splinter?! Splinters can be prevented by sanding down any rough patches on the wooden handle. Rub linseed oil or mineral oil into the wooden handles to keep them from drying out. If you want to seal it, use spray paint or a varnish after sanding instead of oiling the handle. This season is a great time to get deals on gardening tools. Get rid of that old, duct taped, baling-twined garden rake that your great grandpa used and get a new one. Use the old one as decoration in that patch where you planted those spring bulbs and pansies and mums. Remember how well great grandpa took care of his tools so that they lasted for many, many years and follow his footsteps.