Tips on Taking Care of Your Tools
Gardening is a lovely adventure, but it can also be rather frustrating when one sets out to work only to find their tools dull, rusty, and less than adequate for the job ahead.
A gardener is only as good as his work gear so properly caring for it is important. Luckily, there are many simple tips and tricks that can help to keep those tools ready to go at a moment’s notice.
When to Maintenance Garden Tools
An ideal time to do heavy duty annual maintenance on garden tools, per Martha Stewart’s Gardening Blog, is early spring and winter months. Typically, these are times when the gardener has few jobs to do, making it ideal for getting their tools in tip top shape. Taking the time to evaluate and work on shovels, trimmers, trowels, and rakes during these off times helps the gardener prepare both their tools and spirits ready for their favorite time of year.
How to Maintain Garden Tools Simply
The last task many gardeners want to tackle once they’ve finished a fulfilling but difficult day of work in the dirt is to clean and care for their tools. However, doing so will not only prolong their lifespan but will also help keep the task from becoming too large of a burden over time. There are a few proven ways to keep those handy helpers at their best for future gardening endeavors.
1. Proper Cleaning Is Essential
Cleaning tools doesn’t have to be a terrible task. Actually, being sure to tap the dirt gently off, rinsing, and drying thoroughly is usually all it takes. If a little rinsing isn’t quite enough, keeping a stiff brush near the hose should help finish the task.
Allowing dirt and grime to build over time will not only make for an untidy toolshed, it will also dull blades and invite rust. Another often overlooked issue that dirty tools may cause is the spreading of stillborn disease. All it takes is one little bit of infected root left on a single tool to introduce disease to an otherwise healthy plant.
2. Oil Both Metal and Wood Elements
While some gardeners suggest keeping a pail of sand mixed with used motor oil nearby to push sharp edged tools in and out of after washing and drying, A Way to Garden suggests saturating sand in linseed oil instead. After all, who wants to introduce used motor oil to their soil and plants, especially vegetables?
Linseed oil provides the same lubrication as motor oil to metal tool parts, which fights rust. It is also a great conditioner for the wooden handles. After all, a sharp shovel isn’t much use without a strong handle attached to it.
Ideally, a gardener will keep their bucket of sand and oil inside their toolshed. Once a tool has been washed and dried, they will first dig at the soil with the metal edge. Then, they may take a nearby rag soaked in linseed oil to wipe down the freshly clean wood.
However, be aware that linseed oil is flammable. As such, never leave linseed oil rags balled up where they could catch aflame, and never store them in metal buckets. Rather, allow them to air dry thoroughly.
3. Place in Proper Storage When Not in Use
Washing, drying, oiling, and conditioning gardening tools serves absolutely no purpose if those tools are then propped against the garage wall or left outside to the elements. The biggest enemy of garden tools is moisture, according to Rodale’s Organic Life. Even placing these metal objects on a cement or paved surface will allow them to draw moisture, which leads to dullness, rust, and general weakening.
The best option is to have a designated area where tools may be hung out of the weather, such as a toolshed, barn, or storage building. Doing so will prolong the life of the tool and the amount of maintenance required to keep it in shape at a minimum.
4. Routinely Sharpen Blades
Naturally, it’s much easier to complete any task with a well-sharpened tool. It’s also much safer. Some of the common tools that need to be routinely sharpened are shears, hoes, pruners, loppers, and shovels.
Sharpening a blade well requires only lubrication (again, linseed oil is a great option), and a wet-stone. After applying the linseed oil, use the stone to file the tool to a 20° angle. Some tools may respond well to a file or even a sharpener. However, don’t try to keep using a blade that is dull beyond sharpening. To do so is to invite trouble.
5. Provide Routine Maintenance
The absolute most important part of taking care of gardening tools is to provide regular, year-round maintenance. Absolutely, utilize those uneventful, cool months to provide a large evaluation of tools. Repair and replace accordingly. However, it’s a smart idea to create a regular, year-round maintenance schedule. Perhaps every first Saturday of the month is the day for sharpening dull edges, for example. Also, getting into the habit of properly washing, drying, and oiling tools after each use is an importance part of a maintenance routine.
Gardeners are passionate and avid about their hobby. There’s something amazing about watching new life spring forth because of one’s own efforts. However, seeing this miracle requires a bit of work and investment to bring about. One way to make the job a little easier is by properly, yet simply, maintaining gardening tools.