While the temptation is to just pile your garden hoes, rakes, shovels, hoses, and other tools into the corner of the garage, shed, or basement for winter, it pays to take a little time this fall to prepare your tools for storage. Properly cared-for garden tools can last for years. I still use an iron fork that my grandfather used in his garden. Fortunately, caring for your tools doen’t take a lot of time or energy. It’s just a matter of remembering to do it.
The first task is to remove clods of soil that might still be attached to the metal tines or blades. The soil will hold moisture against the metal in winter, promoting rust, which can eventually compromise the quality of the metal. Once you have thoroughly washed and dried the metal parts, it’s time to sharpen the blades. Using a metal file, sharpen the cutting edges. This not only makes for cleaner cuts when digging next spring, but also makes for less work for your body. For hand pruners and hedge trimmers, take the handles and blades apart, clean them well, sharpen the blades, and give them a squirt with a lubricant. Put the handles and blades back together and store in a dry place.
If you have wood-handled tools, consider sanding down rough edges to prevent splinters and oiling the handles with linseed oil to keep them preserved. Wooden handles that dry out tend to crack and break more easily.
If you have plastic-handled or tined cultivators or trowels, check them carefully for any cracks. If they are cracked, consider replacing these tools or putting them on your holiday wish list. A cracked handle may break easily in spring, leaving you without an essential tool.
Clean out your wheelbarrow or garden cart, removing soil and debris; check the tires for pressure and spray lubricant on the wheel joints. Drain water out of your garden hoses and hang them on a garage or shed wall. Water left in the hoses may freeze in winter, causing the hose to crack.