During the winter while not much outdoor gardening is going on, preventative maintenance of your garden tools is a great way to prepare for spring. This maintenance includes cleaning and sanitizing your tools, sharpening blades, and maintenance of any power tools you may have.
- Safety glasses and thick gloves to protect your eyes and hands
- Mill file, carborundum stone, and vise grip for sharpening
- Water-displacing penetrating lubricant to remove and prevent rust, and lubricate moving parts (examples WD-40®, Blaster® Penetrating Catalyst, Liquid Wrench®, 3-in-One® Multipurpose Drip Oil).
- Turpentine to remove plant sap
- Boiled linseed oil to preserve wood handles
- Wire brush and a putty knife to remove soil
- Sandpaper to smooth wood handles and steel wool to polish fine metal surfaces
Step 1 Clean and remove any soil and debris. Use the wire brush and/or putty knife and soap and water on hand tools (shovels, spades, trowels, rakes, hoes, pruning shears, loppers, and hedge clippers). Remove any plant debris from under the mower deck, string trimmer, and other power garden tools to eliminate weed seeds that may be hanging out there.
Disinfect the blades of pruning shears and loppers to eliminate spreading disease. This should be done after every use.
Use steel wool or the wire brush to remove rust from metal surfaces.
Step 2 Sharpen the cutting edge of pruning shears, loppers, hedge clippers, and mower blades. Sharpen the scoop edge of shovels, spades, and trowels. Click these links for excellent how-to guidelines for sharpening hand tools
Cornell University Cooperative Extension: https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/cwas/files/2013/01/Caring_for_Your_Tools.pdf
University of Florida Gardening Solutions: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/tools-and-equipment/sharpening-your-tools.html
If you’re not comfortable taking on the sharpening task, many local hardware stores will sharpen tools.
Step 3 Wipe all metal surfaces with lubricating oil to remove and prevent rust. After cleaning and sanding any nicks, wipe wood handles with boiled linseed oil.
Step 4 Follow the owner’s manual to maintenance power tools. Typically these steps include tightening loose screws and nuts, removing fuel from the tank, changing the oil, checking and replacing spark plugs as needed, and replacing any damaged or worn parts.
Step 5 Now that you have all your tools in tip-top shape, store them in a clean and dry location. Hand tools should be stored upright off the floor on a pegboard or a 5-gallon bucket for example. During the growing season, keep a wire brush or putty knife near where you store your tools to clean them as you put them away. Remember to disinfect cutting blades after every use.
These websites offer additional information about caring for your tools:
University of Florida: http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/leonco/2013/12/20/winterizing-garden-tools/
Clemson Cooperative Extension: https://hgic.clemson.edu/winter-tool-care/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly-updates