Caring for Your Garden Tools
Caring for your garden tools is essential in extending their life and efficacy. Dull, dirty blades add difficulty in pruning shrubs. Diseases spread from plant to plant with unclean clippers. Take these simple steps in maintaining the tools in your garden shed.
The task of cleaning tools every day is daunting and, let’s face it, probably won’t happen. After a hard day’s work in the garden, removing dirt and shining your tools isn’t high up on the to-do list. However, daily cleaning of your garden tools prevents the tools from rusting and spreading diseases from plant to plant.
Rusting occurs when moisture comes in contact with metal. This moisture creates a chemical reaction causing oxidation. This oxidation slowly breaks down the metal over time.
Moisture does not have to come from leaving your tools in the rain. Plants and soil contain water. When pruning or digging, the water comes into contact with the metal. If left on the tools, they may rust over time.
Wiping off the moisture each evening prevents the likelihood your tools will rust.
Spreading Diseases and Fungi
Hand tools spread diseases and fungi from plant to plant. If you trim a plant with powdery mildew, the fungi get on the garden scissors. Then the garden scissors prune another plant, thus transferring the fungi.
Wipe your tools with a disinfectant before moving between plants.
Cleaning Your Garden Tools
At the end of the season, cleaning your garden tools keeps them in good shape and leaves them ready for you when the spring season begins.
Remove caked-on dirt with soapy water and a stiff bristle brush. Ensure all areas are dirt-free. Dry completely. Once clean, buff all metal with steel wool.
Another method of cleaning your tools is to soak them in vinegar overnight. For shovels and hoes, fill a garden bucket about 2/3 full of distilled white vinegar. For pruners or small garden tools, fill a jar 2/3 full of distilled white vinegar. Let the metal parts of the tools soak overnight. Rinse well. Then dry completely—buff with steel wool.
For rakes, soak newspaper in distilled white vinegar. Then wrap the individual tines with the paper. Let the rake sit overnight. Rinse the tines well the next day. Dry thoroughly, and then buff.
When sharpening tools, always wear eye protection. It is no fun getting small metal pieces in your eye. The angle for sharpening depends on the tool.
Separate the pruners into two parts. Place the cutting side into a vise or clamp, and draw a metal file across at the angle specified by the brand.
After sharpening, wipe the blade with a cloth if you feel it snag on metal burrs, lightly sand with fine-grit sandpaper to remove the snags.
Reassemble pruners, and cut a piece of paper. If it cuts easily, the pruners are sharp enough.
Wipe the blades with vegetable oil to prevent rusting. Remove excess oil with a rag.
Shovels and Hoes
Sharpen shovels at a 45º angle. The angle for hoes varies between 20º to 45º depending on their use.
Place the handle in a vice. Using a metal file, drag it over the end of the shovel at a consistent angle. Always go in one direction. Do not drag the file back and forth across the shovel blade. Continue this motion across the whole blade front and back until you have a nice beveled edge.
Again, rub a cloth along the edges to test for metal burrs. Use fine-grit sandpaper to remove any snags.
Finally, oil the blades with vegetable oil wiping off any excess with a rag.
Care for Wooden Handles
Many tools have wooden handles. These handles require a particular type of care. Use sandpaper to give them a light sanding, removing any splinters and smoothing the wood.
Preserve wood with linseed oil**. Painting the handles is also an option.
**When finished with rags containing linseed oil, spread them out to let dry. NEVER pile linseed oil rags up. They can spontaneously combust, causing a fire.
Storing Your Garden Tools
Always store your tools in a dry place such as a garage or garden shed. Tools do not necessarily need to be stored hanging up. However, hanging up tools keeps them out of the way.
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Caring for Your Garden Tools
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I’ve always loved gardening and recently started gardening full-time. I also enjoy tending to our chickens, dogs, and other family pets (a bird, a snake, and rabbits).