The slower months of December, January, and February are a great time to make any necessary preparations for the upcoming growing season. This includes going over all your tools and making sure they’re in tip-top shape so that your spring gardening isn’t interrupted by a broken handle or rusted shears. Proper gardening tool care and maintenance is essential for safe and productive landscaping. While it is also good to clean your tools periodically throughout the growing season as well, winter is a great time to make sure you and your tools enter the growing season fresh, clean, and ready to go.
Here are some of our most practical tips for gardening tool care and maintenance.
Inspect Your Gadgets
Before anything else, thoroughly inspect all your tools. Identify issues such as weakened or cracked handles, rusting metal or dull blades. This process will not only inform how you proceed with cleaning, but also helps prevent injury to yourself and to your plants. Once you’ve identified any problems with your tools, you can gather your cleaning materials and proceed.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
Cleaning is essential for proper gardening tool care. Find a large bucket and fill with warm water. A wire brush or nail brush will work well to scrub off any crusted-on dirt or rust. Begin by using the brush on your dry tools to remove as much grime as you can, then place your tools in the water to soak before scrubbing again. You do not need to add soap to the water. It’s also a good idea to disinfect your tools, in case they came into contact with any diseases or pests last season. You can do this by soaking them in a diluted bleach solution for a few minutes, or by rubbing them down with an alcohol-soaked rag.
Sand it Down
Rust can be difficult to remove, especially from in between prongs. Filling a bucket with sand and plunging your tools into it a few times can help scrub rust off of hard-to-reach places, as well as crusted-on dirt.
A sharp blade makes a clean, smooth, easy cut while dull blades tend to crush and make jagged cuts. Over the season, the blades of your pruners, hedge trimmers, and mowers become dull and pose a threat to your plants. It’s crucial to make clean, sharp cuts when pruning, because these types of injuries are easy for the plant to heal from. Taking a dull blade to your landscape tears and crushes the plant matter, increasing their susceptibility to infection.
It’s good practice to take apart your pruners or trimmers, clean around the area where the bolt holds the two parts together, and sharpen the blades. You can use a file or sharpening stone to quickly sharpen the blades. For mower blades, many people use bench grinders, hand files, or sharpening stones. Always make sure your mower is disconnected from any power source before removing, and handle the blades carefully.
Oil helps prevent wood handles from drying out and cracking, and also creates a barrier between the metal of your tools and water, which is what causes rust. Keeping your tools well-oiled increases their longevity, and it’s a good idea to re-apply oil periodically throughout the growing season as well. Be sure not to use a petroleum-based oil, as this will transfer into your soil and cause issues for your plants. Instead, use a naturally-derived type such as linseed oil.
Gardening tool care may not be glamorous, but it is essential to make sure you can properly work on your lawn and property in 2021. If you need any new tools for the new year, shop online or visit one of Big Earth Landscape Supply’s 4 area locations.