MASTER GARDENER — Lawn and garden helped by maintenance, winterizing
Published 12:01 am Saturday, November 12, 2022
Last week, I wrote about transitioning houseplants back indoors or other areas, such as a porch, greenhouse, or garage, allowing plants to be protected from cooler nighttime temperatures.
Our first “real” cold snap arrived this past week with day temperatures in the lower 60’s, and some areas experienced night temperatures below freezing, even dropping down into the low 30’s F.
Uhm, I’m not sure how some of you feel about cooler weather, but to me that’s cold! Of course, living in SETX, we all know our temperatures will moderate, bouncing back into the mid-80’s after a couple days of cooler weather.
Many of you have planted fall and winter vegetable gardens, green cover crops or colorful fall flowers, providing them with a warm layer of mulch for the coming months. Cooler weather is a clear signal for gardeners.
It’s time to begin other gardening tasks, such as lawn and garden tool maintenance, garden hose inspection and repair, and tool winterizing. Some gardeners, okay most gardeners, “conveniently or selectively” forget the importance of caring for garden tools. Many of us (myself included) choose to simply ‘knock off the soil’ and put the gardening tools away once fall arrives-thinking all is good!
Well, I’m here to tell you, this is not at all a good practice and in fact, it’s a bad habit! Perhaps now is the time to make garden tool maintenance a priority? To help persuade you (in case you haven’t noticed escalating prices), garden tools are no exception, prices have increased dramatically, and yes, in part due to exorbitant inflation, but also due to unprecedented material shortages and shipping bottlenecks which have diminished product availability.
So, a modest effort on your part will go a long way, proving to be cost-effective. Since a bit of maintenance will ensure garden tools are in good working order, sharpened and ready-for-use, and will last longer, especially necessary once spring arrives. Today, let’s discuss how to give our garden tools much needed TLC. Here are some tips on how to keep them in great shape while they await the return of springs’ warm, sunny days.
Care and Maintenance
The fact is lawn and garden tools deteriorate from- time, use and moisture, when combined with soil and oxidation (rust). Thorough cleaning and proper care as described will keep them in good working condition, while greatly extending their life.
Initially, begin maintenance by removing dried, crusted soil with a wire brush, followed by a rinse in clean water, then dry thoroughly. If necessary, soak extremely dirty tools in water for an hour.
Sharpen dull tools (shovels, hoes, bypass pruners, loppers, etc.) by using a file or whetstone. Working at a 45-degree angle, begin at the outer edge, moving toward the center.
Use fine grit sandpaper and steel wool to remove rust. Once rust is removed coat the metal surfaces with oil (vegetable).
Inspect garden tool wooden handles closely, if splinters are evident, sand lightly with fine sandpaper, removing dust once completed. Using linseed oil or paste wax, apply a thin layer or light coating to the wood handles to preserve them and prevent cracking, splitting, and splintering.
To further deter rust from forming on garden hand tools, store hand trowels and other small tools in a bucket containing sand which has been saturated with used oil.
Once rust has been removed, hang rakes, hoes, and shovels in an easy-to-access location.
Garden hoses need to be thoroughly inspected for leaks and cracks while under pressure. Once inspected, drain, and relocate into an area out of the weather. Repair leaks using a hose repair kit or replace leaky fittings which can be purchased from a local home and garden center or hardware store. Hose repair is easy with minimal effort, cost, and time commitment.
Finally, the hardest working garden tool is the lawn mower. Clean and sharpen the blades which can rust or simply replace the blades. Change the oil and oil filter (utilize the spent oil into the bucket containing sand, to store garden hand tools). Avoid storing gasoline in mowers over winter, either drain the gasoline and use in another gasoline powered tool or add a fuel stabilizer to mitigate residual gums from forming in the fuel line, injectors and carburetor.
Store tools in a clean, dry area. Tools can be stored on shelves, racks, or simply leaned up against a wall. Do not store tools that have wooden handles with the wood in contact with soil, concrete, or outside environment.
Good garden tools are expensive. If you take good care of them, they will contribute to many years of productive gardening. So, now my fellow gardeners, let’s go out and grow ourselves a greener, more sustainable world, one plant, at a time!
John Green is a Certified Texas Master Gardener. If you have gardening questions or need more information, contact the Orange County Master Gardeners Helpline at 409-882-7010 or visit txmg.org/orange, Orange County Texas Master Gardeners Association on Facebook or email email@example.com.