Winterize Garden Tools

Garden tools are important – they make the job easier, and they’re not inexpensive.  If you’ve been gardening for a while, or even just taking care of the lawn and a few perennials, you’ve probably accumulated a collection of several important pieces.  A few minutes of care will pay dividends.


No matter the tool – shovel, pruners, hoe, trowel, rake – start by cleaning with a screwdriver or putty knife to scrape off the dirt, then wipe with a rag.  It doesn’t need to be scrubbed super clean; you’re not going to eat off of it.  The goal is just to get the dirt clods and dust off.


Once the cleaning is accomplished, take a little more time to sharpen them.  This usually involves placing the tool in a bench vise and using a file to return the cutting edge to the factory angle and take out any pits or dents.


Rust often develops on metal tools.  After all, as gardeners, we usually apply water to help plants to grow, and the tools are usually nearby and get watered accidentally along with the plants.  Remove the rust with fine sandpaper or steel wool, then wipe the surface with a rag to remove the oxidized particles and the sandpaper or steel wool grit.


Finish the job by coating surfaces with vegetable or motor oil and hanging them in an easily accessible area.  The wooden handles can be lightly sanded and oiled with linseed oil to prevent or reduce cracking and extend the life of the tool.


Our Master Gardeners are teaching a special class on this topic tomorrow, November 3rd at the Sump Memorial Library in Papillion.  Time is 1 pm.  Please bring a tool to sharpen.   There is no charge to attend.

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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