Where oh where would we gardeners be without our tools? They enable us to do all the digging, planting, cutting, pruning, weeding, transplanting and more that we need to in do our gardens. They’re an essential part to a well maintained and lovely garden. That means that keeping them well looked after is key.
Completing a full set of tools isn’t cheap either. Keeping them maintained means avoiding having to replace tools sooner without good care. But did you also know that keeping your tools clean helps prevent the spread of disease and fungi between plants between seasons? That makes proper maintenance of tools even more of an essential task. Cleaning your tools and storing them properly means their usable life will be prolonged and you’ll be ready to go come springtime.
If you haven’t done so already, here’s what to do to now to make sure your tools are maintained and ready to go.
It might seem obvious but start off by removing any dirt or mud. For caked on mud, you may have to use something to scrape it off. Try softening with water and make use of something like a wire brush to break it away. For extra tough spots carefully use a screwdriver or putty knife to bore into it then repeat above until gone then dry.
To get rid of surface rust that may have formed, place your metal tools within a container covering them with white vinegar and salt. Adding salt increases the acidity of the vinegar to help strip away rust. Leave them to soak for a couple of days. If the tools allow, remove the metal blades of tools like secateurs and shears so you can clean their full length. To help break up the rust use a wire brush or tough scourer being careful not to damage the metal.
For tools that have a build-up of sticky sap, use a cloth or cotton wool ball dipped in white spirit like turpentine to dab and rub the sap away from any spots on the tools.
Dry and Disinfect Tools
Give the tools a good dry, then rub them with alcohol or common disinfectant wipes. This will help to remove any harmful diseases or fungi that can linger and transfer over between seasons.
Sharpen and Oil
Once you get the cleaning part out of the way, you can give them a sharpen where necessary with a whetstone, sharpening steel or diamond coated sharpening block. Sharp tools are actually safer for you to use and the added benefit of being more efficient than blunt ones. Once sharpened, oiling with boiled linseed oil will penetrate the metal and protect it from the air by creating a barrier which in turn will help to prevent rusting. For tools with moving parts, apply a drop or two of machine oil here only.
Some people still use and recommend motor oil for everything, but this introduces petroleum into your soil which isn’t eco-friendly. Best keep its use to a minimum and only on tools with moving parts (secateurs, shears etc).
Watch out for damage or cracks on handles, depending on material type. Use heavy a strong tape to effectively bandage them up and prolong their life. If heavily damaged, you’ll need to replace them.
Storing Gardening Supplies in a Dry Location
Once complete, store your tools in a dry, well-ventilated place like a shed or garage. Top tip, smaller hand tools can be stored plunged into a bucket of sand. The abrasiveness of the sand helps to keep them sharp and clean. You can even include the linseed oil in the sand to keep them well lubricated and this also adds a new layer of protection between uses. Remember to clean them first though as you don’t want to introduce grime, mud, and dirt into your sand bucket. Larger tools like shovels can be hung or stored upside down so as not to dull their blades over time.
Tools Cleaned and Ready for Another Season
Like all things, gardening tools have a shelf life. But that doesn’t mean we want to replace them regularly and needlessly. With just a small amount of effort during the off-season, gardening tools can be cleaned and maintained for years to come so you can continue with your gardening and only worrying about what bulbs you’ll plant the following year! To make bigger cleans easier just clean tools between uses, store properly in a pot of the sand-oil mix or hang them, keep them dry and regularly disinfect. Then give them their full maintenance checklist during winter and you’ll be using them for years to come.