Considering the investment you make in your gardening and landscape tools, it is essential to follow a few simple steps that ensure a long healthy life. Regardless of whether you’re putting your tools up for the winter or using them year-round, the fall is a great time to protect your investment with proper cleaning, storing, sharpening, and replace missing parts. Only you can help extend the life of your tools and be ready to go for late-winter pruning and spring planting.
Cleaning Landscape Tools
Regular cleaning will extend the life of your tools and ensure your tools perform like they were designed to perform.
Suppose you’ve made the mistake of leaving your tools out overnight or in a place where they got wet. You know how quickly they rust. The best way to get this rust off, according to Chris Sabbarese of Corona Tools, is to use fine sandpaper or a stiff wire brush to scrape the rust off the metal. After you clean the rust off, put a fine coat of oil on the tool.
You can watch and learn all about the care and sharpening of Chris’s tools in this training video. Chris also recommends a machine oil like 3 in 1 oil for the metal surfaces. If you don’t want to use machine oil, olive oil works well too. WD-40 is also okay, and the spray makes it easy to get in all the hard to reach places. One of the significant benefits of putting oil on your tools is they clean up after much more quickly. It makes it hard for materials to stick and stay on your tools.
Disinfection your tools as you move from plant to plant is important too. It’s an excellent way to prevent the spread of disease-causing pathogens in your landscape.
Alcohol (ethanol or isopropyl) is great for sanitizing your gardening tools. It can be used as a wipe (no soaking necessary), you don’t have to rinse the product off, and it’s immediately effective. There is no water involved, so water won’t get into a hard to dry area and end up rusting your tool, which happens with a chlorine and water treatment. Chlorine is also very corrosive and will pit your tools over time. It’s best to keep chlorine away from your tools and use alcohol instead.
Treating the wood handles of tools is simple. Surface cracks can be sanded down past the cracks and put another layer of varnish on the handle. This will bring it back to virtually new. Linseed oil on the handles of your wood tools helps protect them where the varnish is running thin to protect the handles.
Sharpening Landscape Tools
The sharper the tool, the easier it is to cut. Your plants recover more quickly from sharp cuts. Your plants benefit significantly from sharp tools. It would be best if you sharpened your tools before every trip to your garden. Flat files or files designed for garden tools are excellent for sharpening. Some are small and can fit easily in your pocket or your pruning carrying case.
The beveled side of your tool is the side you sharpen. Hold the file at a 45-degree angle and make four passes on the beveled side and one on the backside to remove any burs you created. Here is a great video showing how to sharpen pruners. You can see how to sharpen a shovel here.
Storing Landscape Tools
To improve the life of your tools, always ensure they are appropriately stored. Hang your long-handled tools. Drill a hole in the handle away from the metal. This way, your tool hangs heavy side down, and you don’t contribute to separating the metal part from the handle.
Condensation can build up on your tools, especially with wide temperature swings in weather. A thin coat of oil on your tools helps protect them, and an extra step is to wrap them in a soft cloth.
That is a quick and easy recap of how to clean, sharpen, and store your tools. It’s not really much work at all, and the results will bring you years of happy gardening. Just imagine never having to find another rusty tool in your garden. We’ve all made a significant investment in our tools, and keeping them in top shape should be a priority. The excellent news is this is an easy priority to accomplish.