Clean and maintaining gardening tools that are sharp and ready for work make life as a gardener much easier and more fun!
Cleaning and maintaining your garden tools should be done after each use but we all know that for most of us that isn’t going to happen. So why not take at least one time out of the year to clean, sharpen and restore those tools so they will last for a long time.
As I write this article it is the middle of winter and there is not as much to do in the garden as I would like, so the best use of this down time is to clean my tools.
Cleaning Your Tools
Cleaning your garden tools should be the one thing you do after each use. There are multiple reasons for this.
1. To avoid corrosion and rust.
The longer a tool stays wet, or covered with mud the quicker it will erode. Of course this is a slow process, but once rust sets in the tool starts to lose it’s strength and viabilty. becomes more difficult to work with and will end up costing you more money since you will most likely have to replace it.
2. To avoid contamination.
Contamination through tools is all to common and is a preventable problem. The easiest thing to do is have a spray bottle with bleach water to spray on your tool and then wipe down after each use, especially if you are going fom one plant species to another. You can also dip them into a bucket of bleach water. Doing the bucket will ensure a complete decontamination.
3. To be prepared for next use.
It’s always great to go out to your garden and have everything ready to get to work right away. It’s very annoying when you are ready to do some work and your tools aren’t ready!
If you’re like me though doing this after each use just doesn’t always happen, so I try to make sure to do it as often as possible and not just once a year.
Oiling Your Tools
If you have wooden handle tools (you should if you don’t) then they need to be sanded and oiled each year.
As you use your tool the handle will get wet and muddy and this will strip the oils off of the handle over time. a dry weathered handle has splinters and splinters are not your best friend.
In your down time get a high grit piece of sandpaper around 120 grit and sand your handles. This knocks off any sharp edges or splinters and makes for a smooth comfortable surface. Once that is done get some linseed oil or tung oil and work it into your handle. This will keep the wood from drying out and splintering, and will help to sill it from excess moisture which causes rot.
Sharpening Your Tools
Sharpening your garden tools makes for a much easier life as a gardener. Just about every tool you have can use a sharper edge and can easily be achieved with a file.
You’re not looking for a razor sharp edge on most of your tools, but something that can easily cut through soil, roots and woody plants.
For those tools which require a much sharper edge, i.e. pruners, scissors and knives, use a wet stone or specialized sharpener for these.
Be careful though, sharp tools are a great but also are very good at cutting and slicing, so make sure you keep your digits clear. Many a time I have sliced a tip of my finger when getting a little to careless.
Storing Your Tools
If you really wish to extend the life of yur tools then you need to have a place to store them out of the rain and sun. I know how easy it is to just leave a tool laying in the garden because you forgot to put it away or because your thinking I will need this tomorrow so I’ll just leave it here.
The lazy aspect of us as humans can get in the way and cause more grief than convienience. To combat this feeling, have a place to store your tools that is close to where you do the majority of your work and make sure they are easy to grab. I have tried many different methods of storing all the way to piling them in the corner of the garage to a large barrel. I have found that I don’t like these methods because being able to quickly grab the tool you need isn’t necessarily easy. You know what I’m talking about. You go to grab the hoe and it gets hung up the rake, which gets hung up on the shovel and on and on, to where you have to pull everything out just to get the tool you want. What a pain!
I like having a place for each indidual tool, so that I can go right to where it is and grab it and get to work and then put it back easily when done.
There are many tool organizing items out there, some of which are very good and others that are useless.
The cheapest and easiest method I have found if you have room, is to use and old fashioned hammer and nail or screws to hang your tools from.
This picture is a dream tool shed I would love to have!
The maintenance of our tools is a very important job as a gardener. No matter how many tools you have each one needs regular maintenence. The more often you take care of these tools the longer they will last and easier they will be to use.
No one likes a rusty tool thay won’t open properly or tears instead of cuts.
Our tools should be looked at as precious items that need proper care and attention. Setting up an easy routine that you do after each use will help ensure that your tools last a long time and perform at a high level.