The tools and equipment you use for gardening determine how well your tasks go. If your hedge trimmers are not sharp enough, then it could take twice, as usual, to get those hedges in perfect shape. So, always go for the best quality when buying gardening tools. Even if your budget can only afford second-hand tools, ensure they are in good condition. Picking the best equipment is only part of the job. You must also know how to take care of them.
Not many people, especially novice gardeners, take tool maintenance seriously. The problem with leaving your gardening equipment dirty and uncared for is that they tend to wear out faster than usual. Tools that could last more than a decade are only good for a few years due to a lack of maintenance. Additionally, uncleaned equipment can affect the health of your plants. Failing to clean hoes, for example, could lead to the transfer of weed seeds and soil, bacteria, and fungi. Therefore, take the time to maintain your tools and prevent such problems. This simple guide gives you a few ideas.
As tedious as it seems, you should maintain your gardening equipment regularly. If you use them daily, then the tools need a degree of care every time you finish.
Cleaning is the most important part of gardening tool care. Working in the soil means your tools come into contact with a lot of contaminants, some of which can be harmful to plants. Even if you don’t apply pesticides, you still have to worry about weeds, pathogens, and pests. If you don’t clean equipment after use, these contaminants could end up in healthy plants. For digging tools, remove the dirt or mud first before cleaning. Use soapy water to wash gardening equipment to remove all dirt.
Bleach diluted in water works wonders for tools used in pest-infested areas. Some equipment might require a scrub to get clean. Steel wool scrubs most tools without damaging them. Be particularly careful with the ones used for chemical applications because any remnants could corrode the metal. If you don’t have the time to wash your tools, then brush them. Alternatively, you can use a cotton pad dipped in alcohol to wipe small cutting tools, such as shears, hedge trimmers, and pruners.
Never store gardening equipment while wet. After cleaning, leave them out to dry or wipe them with a rag if you want to put them away immediately. Drying tools prevents rusting and rotting on wooden handles. The storage area should also be dry to avoid moisture collecting on surfaces. It’s why you should have a shed for your tools if you live in a wet environment. Ensure that the storage space has proper ventilation.
The way you store gardening tools after use matters as well. Keep hand tools in a bucket filled with oily sand or pebbles to avoid rust. Hung large tools upside down to prevent dulling of the blades. If you have sufficient space, then each tool should get its place. Remember to store equipment safely, particularly if other people use the storage area.
If you saw, prune or mow often, then the edges will eventually dull, making your tasks difficult. Dull edges also cause plant injury, which is detrimental to growth. So, make a habit of sharpening edges regularly for saws, loppers, hoes and other cutting tools. Use a file or whetstone for sharpening and then oil the equipment.
Not all tools are in use throughout the year. Some come out in summer and fall and then rest in winter, while others operate during the cold weather. You should know how to prepare tools according to the season. If you have small hand tools that you won’t use for a long time, such as pruners in winter, take them apart and clean them. Deep clean your equipment at least once every season before putting them away. Soaking the parts in vinegar mixed with water and scrubbing gently removes rust. If you have been using chemicals, disinfect the equipment with bleach.
Check tools with wooden handles for damage before storing them. If you see cracked handles, cover them with heavy-duty tape. Replace handles that are too damaged to repair. Always wipe down wooden handles before storage. Sanding wooden surfaces seasonally smoothens and conditions the handles.
When evaluating tools before putting them away for the season, tighten any loose nuts, bolts and screws. Check equipment for missing components and replace them. If some tools require repair, don’t wait until the next time they are in use.
Even with the best care, gardening tools can still rust. Steel rolls are susceptible to oxidation, especially when you don’t use them for a long while. You can include rust removal as part of seasonal maintenance and prevent too much buildup. Make a mixture of one part water and one part vinegar, and soak rusted tools in it overnight. Scrub with steel wool to get rid of the oxidation. Rinse surfaces with soapy water and then plain water. Before storing the equipment, apply boiled linseed oil to create a barrier between the steel and air.
General Maintenance Tips for Garden Tools
Now that you know the primary methods to care for gardening equipment, here are some useful tips:
When sharpening cutting surfaces, lubricate them first.
Sharpen edges by filing in one direction, not back and forth.
Use a grinder to sharpen heavily used equipment like lawn mower blades, axes and machetes. An electric sharpening tool is also suitable, big be careful not to damage the edges.
Keep disinfectant wipes handy if you garden a lot. You can use them to wipe equipment instead of washing them daily.
If you are using oil and sand to store tools, ensure that the mixture is only slightly damp, not oily. This storage option is suitable for winter when equipment won’t be in use for some time. While the oil prevents rusting, the sand grains keep the cutting edges sharp and ready to use when necessary.
Remove sap from pruners using turpentine or mineral spirits. After wiping the blades with a solvent, apply linseed oil before storage.
A quick hose down of your tools gets rid of stubborn mud, dirt and debris if you don’t have time for a proper wash. Don’t forget to check the joints when cleaning and disinfecting your gardening tools.
Poor care of gardening equipment will cost you dearly because you will need to replace damaged tools earlier than expected. Adequate maintenance extends the life of gardening equipment. So, you save money and do your jobs right. Simple habits like wiping down a hoe after digging to dipping shears in oil builder’s sand make a lot of difference in the life of your gardening tools. Therefore, learn how to care for different types of gardening equipment for lasting service.