Published on 09/30/96

Prepare Garden Tools for Winter

Your garden may be about ready for a long winter's nap, but your work isn't done.

Don't forget to tuck your gardening tools into bed for the winter, too. A little bit of attention now will reap rewards of years of good service from gardening tools.

It's hard to know when to call the gardening season quits in some years. Just when we think we've mowed the lawn for the last time, a couple of weeks of mild temperatures bring back the green blades of grass. Newly planted flowers, trees and shrubs should be watered thoroughly every week or so until the cold really sets in, especially if rainfall is scarce.

As cold or freezing temperatures come, prepare your tools by giving them a thorough cleaning. Those steel wool barbecue-grill scrubbing pads are great for removing caked-on soil from shovels, hoes, trowels and spades.

Scrub the blades and handles with soap and water. Allow them to dry completely before storing. Rub a little linseed oil or similar protector over wood handles to keep the wood from drying and splitting. Sharpen your tools now to ensure a quick start in spring.

Drain water from garden hoses and sprinklers. Hang them to dry before coiling the hoses for storage. Replace washers and repair leaks. Hoses left outdoors during the winter could crack and split, especially if they still have water inside.

Rinse and dry your fertilizer/pesticide spreader and oil all moving parts. Rinse sprayers and allow them to drip dry before storing. The best way to dispose of unused chemicals in the sprayer is to apply the product as directed on the label.

Store unused pesticides in their original containers with the label intact. Place all pesticides away from children and pets, either in a locked cabinet or on a shelf at least four feet off the ground. Protect pesticides from freezing temperatures and excessive heat.

When you think your lawn has seen its last mowing this year, run your mower until it is out of fuel. Changing the mower's spark plug and sharpening the blade now will save you some time next spring. Some products are now available to help stabilize fuel so it can be stored over winter, but I still recommend you drain it or use up the leftover fuel.

Use up or drain fuel from the garden tiller before storing. If your equipment has a 4-cycle engine, drain and replace the crankcase oil. Clean the machine by scraping off matted grass and wiping off accumulated oil. Lubricate moving parts as the manufacturer directs.

Now you can finally relax and enjoy the fruits of your gardening labor. Curl up next to the fireplace with your favorite gardening catalog and order new plants for spring. And read the many gardening publications from your county Extension Service agent.

Wayne McLaurin is a professor emeritus of horticulture with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.