Gardening tools take a beating throughout the growing season. If tools are left exposed to the elements, covered in caked-on dirt, or sticky with the sap from plants, not only do they wear out faster, but they can also spread disease in your yard. Just a little bit of extra care and some annual maintenance can keep your tools clean, safe, and working well for many years to come.
Here are some tips for how to keep garden tools in shape in the Metropolitan Quad Cities area.
The best regular garden tool maintenance you can do is to give them quick cleaning after use. Give them a quick spray with the garden hose, or scrub with a brush, to clear off any caked-on dirt. For clippers, pruners, and loppers, rinse the blades well with water or wipe them off with a cloth.
If your tools are sticky, a quick rub-down with hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol will clean the stickiness off and kill any potential fungus or bacteria. If the handles are sticky or dirty, it’s a good idea to clean them off, too. If you’ve pruned any diseased plants or limbs during the day, give the blade(s) of your tools a few minutes soak in a bleach solution, 2 cups bleach to 1 gallon of water, to kill any harmful bacteria and fungus.
If you don’t use a particular tool very frequently, it’s a good idea to rub on a layer of linseed oil before you put it away. Don’t use petroleum-based oil products; it will end up in your soil, which isn’t great for your plants. The linseed oil helps to keep wooden handles supple and strong while helping to prevent the development of rust on metal parts.
The most important daily maintenance, though, is to make sure your tools get put away at the end of the day. Tools that get left out in the weather don’t last very long, and they’re also more likely to grow legs and disappear!
Once your gardening season is over, your tools deserve a good, thorough cleaning and sharpening before you put them away into storage for the winter.
- Give all of your tools a good scrub with warm soapy water and a stiff brush.
- Rinse all your tools in a bleach solution to kill any bacteria or fungus.
- Lay them out to dry on old towels or newspaper, or dry them with rags.
- Scrub any rust off with a wire brush or scrub pad.
- Inspect each tool. Tighten bolts, make a note of dings and damage, and keep track of which ones need sharpening.
- Inspect wooden handles for cracks or breaks. Small cracks can be reinforced with strong tape like duct tape, but if cracks are quite large, replace the handle if you can.
- Sharpen as needed. Special sharpening tools are available for pruners, and shovels, knives, or hoes, can be sharpened with a sharpening file or a whetstone.
- When your tools are dry, give them all a generous coating of linseed oil. Make sure to open and close the blades several times on pruners or clippers to make sure the oil gets worked through the mechanism. Let the tools sit for about an hour to allow the oil to soak in and then wipe the excess off.
In the spring, give your tools another quick inspection to check for rust. Make sure all your garden tools are in good working condition.
Clean and dry tool storage is just as crucial as your maintenance routine. A pegboard makes it easy to organize and hang up small tools. Larger tools, like rakes, shovels, and hoes, should be stored off the ground. Hang them on a wall if you’re able. Shovels, spades, and forks can be stored in a bucket of sand soaked with linseed oil. You can also store small hand tools like trowels in a similar fashion. If you can’t hang your larger tools, make sure they’re not sitting directly on the floor; setting the tips on a piece of wood should help keep them from sitting in any moisture. Make sure the blades of shovels and spades aren’t tight against each other. Allow a little bit of space in between so air can flow through and keep them dry.
If you need to replace some worn tools or clean up some that are a little worse for the wear, stop by our garden center. We carry everything you need to keep your gardening tools organized and in great shape for years to come.