During the downtime of winter, one great task that you can do is to get all of your gardening tools whipped into shape for the spring to come. Starting a new season with sharp and shiny tools is so uplifting and can result in several benefits.
Though technically we all ought to have been maintaining our tools through the summer, let’s be honest, we aren’t always on top of everything all the time. So, let yourself off the hook, get out those tools, and make them as good as new for the new year.
If you take care of your tools, they’ll take care of you and your garden.
Secateurs and Pruning Tools
Source: Garden Ninja: Lee Burkhill/YouTube
These are often the most used tools in the garden—pruning here and deadheading and harvesting there. Keeping your pruning tools in good shape will serve you and your plants well.
Cleaning– It is very important to wipe your pruning tools down every time you use them to help stop the spread of any pathogens that might be lurking in your plants. If you have been tending a sick plant, it is most important that you wash the blades with soapy water or wipe them down with rubbing alcohol. Take a scourer or some wire wool to the blades if they are particularly crusty!
Next, you should let the tool air dry completely before wiping the blades, hinges, and springs with a lubricant. This can be coconut oil or vegetable oil if you prefer not to use commercially sold spray lubricants. Remember that whatever oil you use will be transferred to your garden.
Sharpening– Keeping your pruning tools sharp is vitally important. Sharp tools make for much easier and cleaner cuts, and this in turn helps to prevent damage and disease from entering the ‘wound’.
You can use a whetstone, file, or blade sharpener to sharpen most pruning tools. Only pass the sharpening device over the cutting edge of the tool. Three or four passes should suffice to get your blade nice and sharp though this depends on how neglected your tool is. Use caution.
Fine Tuning– Take a screwdriver or wrench to your pruning tools and make sure that everything is tightened up nicely. Check to see if you need to buy any new parts, such as a new spring for your secateurs or a new blade for your loppers. Buying new parts is much cheaper and better for the environment than buying an entirely new tool.
Shovels, forks, hoes, and trowels are other well-used tools that can often get a little neglected. They get caked in mud, left out in the rain, and dulled from countless plunges into your garden beds. Keeping them clean and sharpened is essential for good garden care.
Cleaning– Apart from upping the longevity of your tool, cleaning digging tools can help prevent soil-borne pathogens and weed seeds from spreading to every far corner of your garden. Storing tools away that are covered in mud can not only invite rust to set in but can also make the next time you want to use your spade or hoe much less enjoyable.
Mud can usually be blasted off your digging tools with a jet of water. If possible, let your tools air dry before storing them away.
For an extra good clean, you can soak the blades in hot soapy water and use a wire brush or wire wool to work away any ingrained dirt or rusty spots. Again, allow your tool to thoroughly air dry before applying a good coat of vegetable oil with a clean rag. This will help to keep the blades protected from rust.
Sharpening– A good sharp edge on your digging tools will make cutting into the soil a lot easier. To sharpen your shovels, trowels, and hoes, pass a metal file over the edges working in one direction. Do this on either side. It might help to clamp the tool in a vice for stability if you have access to one. Wipe the edges of the blades with vegetable oil or coconut oil.
Fine Tuning– Many digging tools have wooden handles. Don’t forget to give them a little attention, too. Wash the handles down with soap and water and allow them to dry completely. Next, give the handles a once over with some fine sandpaper to smooth out any rough parts. Lastly, give the wood a good coat of oil. Any natural wood protection oil will suffice.
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