Home gardeners who don’t plan to plant fall crops should pack away their tools for the winter, says a University of Georgia gardening expert.
“Gardening tools and supplies are expensive,” said Tony Johnson, horticulturist at the UGA Research and Education Garden in Griffin, Ga. “With a little care and forethought, you can help your tools last from season to season.”
Irrigation is essential to growing the greenest grass or the biggest squash. To make sure your garden hoses are ready for next spring, Johnson says to drain all the water from hoses and sprinklers. Allow the hoses to thoroughly dry before storing them for the winter.
“It’s better not to leave your hoses outside on the ground over the winter,” he said. “If you live in area where the temperatures drop to freezing and below, any water left in the hoses can turn to ice, expand and crack or slit inexpensive hoses.”
To keep insects from hibernating in hoses, Johnson recommends connecting the hose ends to close any openings.
You can buy hose hangers, but eco-friendly Johnson believes in recycling whenever he can.
“Just nail an old tire rim or a coffee can to the wall of your shed and wrap the hose around the form,” he said. “You don’t want to just hand the hose on a nail. The weight of the hose will cause the nail to create a permanent kink.”
A fertilizer or pesticide sprayer should be cleaned before being stored. Triple-rinse the sprayer with water or a little ammonia and check the hose tip for debris before storing the sprayer for the season.
Mower and tiller
When your mower has cut its last grass blade for the summer, it should be cleaned and drained of any remaining fuel.
“It’s best not to store gas in your mower over the winter,” Johnson said. “You can add a gasoline stabilizer, but I just turn on the gas shutoff value and run the mower until it quits.”
Use a siphon pump to remove as much of the fuel as possible.
“Next, take the spark plug out, add a little oil and replace the spark plug,” Johnson said. “Some people recommend replacing the spark plug every season, but I just clean mine. Why fix what isn’t broken.”
Before storing your mower, clean the underside of the deck with a pressure washer and scrap off any old grass or debris, he said.
“If you don’t plan to use your tiller plow until the spring, drain the fuel from it and clean it, too,” Johnson said. “I tend to use mine in flower beds all year round.”
Simple gardening tools
Shovels, hoes, shears and rakes should be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water before being stored. Use steel wool to clean the metal portion of your tools, wipe dry and coat with linseed oil, he said.
“Run a little sandpaper over the rough edges of the wooden handles to smooth down any splintered spots,” Johnson said. “Cover the handles with a light coating of WD-40 or all-purpose machine oil to keep them from drying and splitting.”
To save time in the spring, sharpen tool edges before storing.
The end of the summer gardening season is also the perfect time to make an inventory of any tools you need to replace or wish you had. “Then you have a head start on your Christmas list,” said Johnson, who bares a striking physical resemblance to St. Nick.
As a last reminder, Johnson says be sure to store all rakes with the teeth pointing down. “I always say ‘teeth up or teeth out.’ But all joking aside, stepping on an exposed rake can be very dangerous, especially for children.”