Winter is a good time to care for garden tools

With the winter months upon us now, the work in the garden has slowed down. However, we must not forget to take care of the tools we use to work on and maintain our lawns and gardens.

The tools are likely dirty and soiled from wear and tear during the growing season. As the tools and power equipment are put away for the winter months, several steps can be taken to keep them maintained and in working order for the following spring.

Shovels and hoes are often the most-used tools in the garden. Wash and brush the dirt off of them. Make sure you clean the shank part, which is where the handle inserts into the shovel blade. Apply a light coat of oil or other lubricant, like WD-40, on the blade. Store the shovels and hoes by hanging them up on a wall instead of throwing them into a corner. Hose off and store other tools, such as mattocks, rakes and trowels.

Pruners need to be cleaned by using a rag and bleach. Scrub any difficult-to-remove crud with steel wool, and lubricate the hinge and spring. Then sharpen the blades at a 45-degree angle with a metal file or sharpening stone. Make sure you wear protective gloves when sharpening tools. Pruners that have removable blades should be replaced.

Clean the tires, handles and tray of wheelbarrows with water and soap. Tighten loose nuts and bolts, and use a bicycle pump to fill up the inflatable tires with air if needed. Store wheelbarrows inside a garage or tool shed, or, if you store them outside, place them upside down to prevent water from accumulating in the pan.

Lawn mowers also need some care before storing for the winter. Change the oil and the air filters according to the manufacturer's recommendation. Add a fuel stabilizer to the fuel, and lubricate the pivot points. Sharpen or replace the blade if needed. Place the mower inside, out of the elements, and store the batteries in a warm, dry place.

And don't forget to drain and roll up your hose for the winter. Cover the outdoor faucets with a protective cover to prevent freezing. Store the hose where it will not be susceptible to freezing.

Taking small steps can go a long way to keeping lawn and garden equipment maintained so they will be ready for the following spring.

Timothy Daly is an agricultural and natural resource agent with the Gwinnett County Extension Service. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.