Gardening in Gwinnett: Garden tools need special care while put away for the winter

With the cold weather months upon us, the work in the home garden slows down. However, we must not forget to take care of the tools we use to work on and maintain our lawns and gardens.

Here are a few tips on winter care and storage of tools: The tools are all dirty and soiled from all of the wear and tear during the growing season. As the tools and power equipment are put away for the winter months, owners need to take the necessary steps to keep them maintained and in working order for the growing season next year.

Shovels and hoes are often the most used tools in the garden. Wash and brush the dirt off them. Make sure you clean the shank part (where the handle inserts into the shovel blade). Apply a light coat of oil or other lubricant, such as WD-40, on the blade. Store the shovels and hoes by hanging them on a wall instead of throwing them into a corner. Hose off and store the other tools such as maddocks, 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 with new, sharp blades.

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 the wheelbarrow, along with the other tools, inside a garage or tool shed. If you store the wheelbarrow it outside, place it upside down to prevent water from accumulating in the pan.

Lawn mowers also need some care when 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.

Any fertilizers and pesticides should be stored in an area where they will not be adversely impacted by rain and temperature extremes common in the winter months. Clean out any sprayers and keep them empty over the winter until ready to be used again.

And do not 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.