At the end of each season of gardening it is time to prepare for winter by cutting back perennials, cleaning annual beds, raking up leaves, and setting up birdfeeders, but what about your garden tools? Many home gardeners forget to maintain their hand tools and power tools throughout the year. If this is so, then caring for these tools at this time of year is very important. Let us talk first about the tools you may need, and then we will discuss how to maintain power tools and hand tools.
The following items will be helpful to maintain your gardening equipment. If you don’t have access to these tools, you may need to have your equipment maintained by a professional:
- Standard and Metric Socket Sets
- Phillips and Flat Screwdriver
- Angle Grinder and Grinding Discs
- 80 Grit Sandpaper
- WD-40 and 3-in-1 Oil
- 1 Ton Jack or Engine Hoist
- 4 x 4 or Concrete Blocks
- Crescent Wrench
- Wire Brushes
- Shop Towels
- Linseed Oil
- Air Compresser and Blow Gun
Power tools include gas powered hedge trimmers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, string trimmers, and mowers. Check and clean the air filters on all of these machines. Take the cover off the air filter and blow it out with an air hose. Be sure to replace the filter if there are holes in it or if it does not look clean after you blow it out. Be sure and drain the fuel out of these gas-powered machines before storing. If you don’t use them for 3 to 4 months, the gas can separate from the oil and will cause starting problems in the spring. Hedge trimmers should be taken apart and sharpened yearly. The blades can be detached from the machine and sharpened with an angle grinder. Use a wire brush to clean dried up debris from the parts of the hedge trimmer, string trimmer, and chainsaw. The leaf blower shouldn’t have too much debris on it unless you left it outside during inclement weather.
When sharpening chainsaws, it may be best to take it to a sharpening service if you only have a hand file. For sharpening on the job, a hand file is useful, but for annual maintenance it is better to use a grinding machine designed for chainsaw chains, or to take it to a professional. Be sure to clean the air filter and drain the fuel from the tank as mentioned above. If you have a case, store your saw away until the next use; however, if you use your saw through the winter for cutting firewood, remember to sharpen and maintain your saw after each use. This way, your equipment will have less breakdowns and longer life.
For mowers, professional lawn care services usually sharpen blades and clean mowers weekly. If you only sharpen the blades every few years and rarely clean the cutting deck and machine, consider completing these tasks yearly. Use a hoist or jacks to lift the mower up to get under and remove the blades. Be sure and brace the mower with a 4 x 4 or concrete blocks to keep it from falling on you. Take off the blade(s) and clean them with a wire disc on an angle grinder. Then sharpen with a grinding disc. Use a power washer to clean the underside of the mowing deck, being sure to get off any stuck-on debris. Power wash the top of the mower as well, removing dust and grime. Change the oil and drain the fuel for winter storage. Spray the blades with lubricating oil such as WD-40 or 3-in-1 oil to keep them from rusting. Replace the blades if there are notches or chips in the cutting edge. This will give you a cleaner cut and maintain the health of the grass. Reattach the sharpened blades and lower the machine down. Store you mowers under a tarp, in a garage or garden shed out of the weather.
When preparing hand tools for the winter, be sure you find them all! If you leave a hoe or rake out in the tomato patch all winter long, chances are good that you will need a new handle next spring. Each hand tool has different care depending on how it is made. Wood and fiberglass handled garden rakes, hoes, shovels, trowels, bulb planters and cultivators need to be stored in a dry shed or garage. Scrub dirt and debris from the blades of these tools with a wire brush. Be sure and remove all the caked-on mud. Spray the blades with WD-40 to prevent rust. If they have wooden handles, use 80-grit sandpaper to sand off any rough or worn areas. Clean with a damp cloth and dry. Then, rub with linseed oil to protect the wood. Fiberglass handled tools just need to be cleaned and stored.
Pruners, loppers, and hedge shears need their own special care. Remove the dirt and dried sap with a wire brush and 3-in-1 oil. Sharpen each blade carefully; if you don’t know how to sharpen these tools, consult a guidebook or an expert. Once sharp, rub on 3-in-1 oil or spray with WD-40 to keep the device clean and its parts moving freely. Store in a sheath or hang up in a dry garage or shed until spring.
A few final notes, store gas and oil cans in a dry shed or garage when preparing for winter. For tomato and plant support cages, you must clean off the old vines and plant material, rinsing them with a diluted bleach solution. Store them stacked up inside. Finally, store glass gazing balls, lanterns, and any pottery without drainage holes in your garage or shed.
You should be ready for snow. Feed the birds and enjoy the show!