Published on 09/01/11

Clean garden tools well before storing them away

By Sharon Dowdy

If you don’t plan to plant a fall garden, inspect, repair and clean your gardening tools before storing them for the winter.

“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.

Tony Johnson, the horticulturist at the UGA Research and Education Garden in Griffin, Ga., agrees. Johnson helps UGA scientists maintain their research plots. And he does so 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.”

The two UGA professional gardeners offer the following checklist to follow before packing away garden tools for the winter.

Shovels, hoes and other tools

* Thoroughly clean all tools with soap and water.

* Sharpen blades and tool edges.

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

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

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

Tomato cages

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

* Repair any cages that have been damaged.

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.


* Drain irrigation lines. Clean and inspect lines 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 and then roll the hose around the form.

* Inspect and lightly lubricate sprinkler heads.

* Clean and dry out the water timer.


* 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.

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

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