The First Step in Gardening: Maintaining Your Equipment

The First Step in Gardening: Maintaining Your Equipment

The gardening season is almost upon us. And what’s a better way to prepare than reminding ourselves how to care for our gardening tools and equipment?

Enthusiast gardeners understand that having the proper gardening tools is one thing. Maintaining and keeping them in great shape is another. While it takes time and effort, taking good care of your tools and equipment is a crucial step for kitchen garden growing success.

Depending on your garden’s size and gardening techniques, you’ve likely invested heavily into your tools and equipment. The last thing you want is to see them lose their effectiveness due to neglect and improper care.

Following these tips is a great way to take care of your gardening equipment and keep them going strong season after season.

Insuring Your Investment

When beginners ask us whether gardening is expensive, our response is always “it can be.” For most successful gardeners, nurturing a kitchen garden is more than just a hobby. It’s a way of life, and it comes at a cost.

In addition to time and energy, another key factor in your kitchen garden economics is the cost of tools and equipment. You can get some small hand tools at great prices at your local discount store. However, the cost can add up quickly, especially if you’re shopping for new items.

Subsequently, it’s a smart financial move to ensure that your most expensive tools for gardening are included in your home homeowners insurance.

Most standard HO-3 policies will cover your garden up to a certain degree. But in most cases, you’ll still be required to foot some of the replacement costs, especially where higher-priced items are involved.

Tips for Maintaining Your Gardening Tools

Keep Your Cutting and Digging Tools Sharp

Most avid gardeners are guilty of going for years without sharpening their tools. When this happens, it’s common to think that your tools need to be replaced when all is needed is to sharpen them.

Regularly sharpening your cutting and digging tools keeps them alive, saving you tons of money in replacement costs. Razor-sharp pruning shears and hedge shears will offer a cleaner cut necessary for your plants to heal faster. Likewise, sharp garden hoes and shovels will easily slice through rocks and roots.

How often these tools will require sharpening varies. For instance, while lawnmower blades require sharpening once a year, other tools, such as hedge trimmers, should be sharpened twice annually.

A good practice is to sharpen your cutting and digging tools at the end of every season. This way, you’re assured that they will be up to the task the following gardening season.

Keeping your tools sharp is a relatively easy and inexpensive task if you have a metal file, sharpening stone, or grinder in your storage shed. You can also have them sharpened at your local hardware store or by businesses specializing in this service.

Clean and Disinfect Your Tools and Equipment After Each Use

Your plants are only as healthy as your tools. Tools and equipment that come into contact with soil are bound to carry bacteria, viruses, and fungi that may prove deadly to some plants. Wet soil also creates a favorable condition for rust, which definitely affects your tools’ effectiveness.

A forceful blast of water from a hose is enough to dislodge loose soil. But if the soil has caked onto the blades or pines, you may want to soak the tool for a minute or two before scrubbing with a stiff brush or steel wool. After cleaning, use a rag to dry each tool nicely and then disinfect using 70% isopropyl alcohol or a 10% chlorine bleach solution (i.e., one part of chlorine bleach and nine parts water).

To remove sticky sap from your saw blades and pruners, spray WD-40 over the affected surface and allow around five minutes to soak in. Next, use a damp rag to clean the residue.

Use Oil to Keep Rust at Bay

Like other metallic tools around your home, rust is the number one threat to your gardening tools. Rust ruins the aesthetics of your tools, but it also weakens their structure, consequently affecting their performance durability.

To prevent your gardening tools from the effects of rust, you must apply a thin layer of oil over the rust-prone surface.

A practical method is to fill a five-gallon bucket with coarse sand and stir in a quart of old vegetable oil or motor oil. After cleaning and disinfecting your tools, dip them a few times in the sand before storing them. There’s no harm in leaving your shovels and trowels stuck in the sand, by the way. The grains of sand effectively keep the edges sharp as the oil puts off the rust.

Remember to Oil the Handles

As you take care of the blades, tines and edges, don’t forget the wooden handles also require some love now and then. Well-tended wooden handles last longer, saving you money in the long run. Additionally, you have lower risks of getting blisters if your gardening tools’ handles are smoothed and nicely oiled.

There’s no best time to maintain a wooden handle. But doing so before stowing away the tools for winter storage might be more convenient.

Caring for wooden handles is straightforward:

  • Clean off any dirt using a stiff brush (and water if necessary).
  • Smooth out the handle using a low-grit (60-80) sandpaper and then finish off with 100-150 grit paper to make it smooth.
  • Apply a layer of Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO) on the handle and allow it 5-10 minutes to penetrate before rubbing it dry with a clean rag. Let the handle cure for 6-8 hours and then polish.

Linseed oil is a readily available product that helps wood repel water. It’s a popular option for preserving wooden tool handles because it’s inexpensive and it dries relatively quickly. For similar results, you can also use Ballistol, Danish oil, and Robert Herder macadamia maintenance oil.

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