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DALY: After yardwork, take care of gardening tools

Throughout the growing season, home gardeners depend on a variety of tools to accomplish their gardening chores. During the winter months, most of these tools are not used and are put away in storage. However, prior to storing, they require some simple maintenance to keep them in good shape and to be ready to tackle projects the following spring and summer. Proper maintenance helps increase the life of garden tools and equipment, and improves the ease and efficiency of their use.

Shovels, rakes and hoes are some of the most frequently used tools in the garden. Wash and brush off any soil and debris. Make sure you clean the shank, which is the part where the handle inserts into the shovel blade. Apply a light coat of oil or other lubricant, such as WD-40, to the blade. Tighten any loose screws or nuts, and replace any broken handles. To reduce the likelihood of damage, tools need to be stored by properly hanging them up on a wall instead of throwing them into a corner.

Clean pruning tools with a rag and some bleach. Scrub them with steel wool to remove soil accumulations. Lubricate the hinges and springs. Use a metal file to sharpen the blades at a 45 degree angle. Always make sure you wear protective gloves when sharpening tools. Pruners that have removable blades should be replaced with new ones.

Clean the tires, the handles and the tray of wheelbarrows with water and soap. Tighten loose nuts and bolts, and use a bicycle pump to fill the inflatable tires if needed. Apply spray paint to the exposed steel to prevent rusting. It should be stored inside a garage or tool shed. If you have to keep the wheelbarrow outside, turn it upside down to prevent the accumulation of rainwater in the pan.

Lawn mowers and other power equipment require special care for winter storage.

Use or drain any gas out of the tanks. Do not store gasoline over the winter because old gasoline does not ignite easily. It could possibly interfere with the operation of the machines. Change the oil and replace air filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Lubricate all grease fittings with a grease gun. Sharpen or replace the mower blades if needed. Store the equipment at a location inside away from the elements.

Thoroughly clean and empty out any sprayers and fertilizer spreaders. Place them in storage for the winter months until they are ready to be used again. Also, fertilizers and pesticides should be stored in an area where they will not be adversely affected by rain and temperature extremes.

Drain and roll up hoses for the winter. Store them in a place where they will not be susceptible to freezing. Hoses should be kept on hose supports or reels, which will prevent them from sagging and kinking. Cover the outdoor faucets with a protective cover to prevent the pipes from freezing.

A few simple tasks can go a long way to keep lawn and garden equipment maintained so they will be ready for use the following spring. Taking care of your tools will help protect the investment you have in them.

Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Agent with Gwinnett County Extension. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.