Published on 08/19/10

Clean, oil and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

By Sharon Dowdy

If you don’t plan to grow a fall garden, fall can be the perfect time to inspect, repair and clean your gardening tools.

“As a gardener, nothing is more frustrating than to pull gardening tools out in the spring and find hoes that are rusty or broken, a tiller that won’t crank or an irrigation system with a blown gasket,” said Bob Westerfield, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist.

Westerfield plants vegetables gardens at work for research and at home to provide his family with fresh fruits and vegetables.

“When I get calls from gardeners, most likely I’ve faced the problems they are facing either in my research plots or at home,” he said.

Tony Johnson, the horticulturist at the UGA Research and Education Garden in Griffin, Ga., agrees. Johnson helps UGA scientists maintain their research plots. He does it on a limited state budget.

“Gardening tools and supplies are expensive,” Johnson said. “With a little care and forethought, you can help your tools last from season to season.”

Westerfield and Johnson offer the following checklists to follow before packing away garden tools for the winter.

Tiller and mower

* Empty the garden tiller of fuel or add a fuel stabilizer.

* Check the spark plugs, change the oil and clean the air filter.

* Clean the underside of the mower’s deck with a pressure washer and scrape off any old grass and debris.

Shovels, hoes and other tools

* Thoroughly clean all tools with soap and water.

* Sharpen blades.

* Clean metal parts with steel wool, wipe dry and apply a light coat of household oil.

* To save time in the spring, sharpen tool edges.

* Smooth wooded handles by sanding them with sand paper. Then coat handles in linseed oil or paint them to preserve wood.

* Store all rakes with the teeth pointing down. Stepping on an exposed rake can be very dangerous for children and adults.


* Drain irrigation lines and clean and inspect for cracks before rolling up. (Store these out of the sun in a shed or garage.)

* To keep insects from hibernating in hoses, connect hose ends.

* Do not hang hoses directly on a nail. The weight of the hose will create permanent kinks. Nail a coffee can or other round form on the wall. Then roll the hose around the form.

* Inspect and lightly lubricate sprinkler heads.

* Clean and dry out the water timer.

Tomato cages

Clean off tomato cages and stack them out of the way.

Repair any cages that have been damaged.


* Fertilizer or pesticide sprayers should be triple-rinsed with water or a little ammonia.

* Check the hose tip for debris before storing the sprayer for the season.

Johnson also uses the fall to take an inventory of gardening tools and supplies. “Then I have a head start on my Christmas list,” he said.

Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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