Prepare garden tools for winter storage
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By Dennis L. Patton, M.S., County Horticulture Agent, K-State Research and Extension/Johnson County

Every gardener, and even people that do not consider themselves gardeners, have a garage full of tools. These tools will range from the neatly organized to those strung about.

Whether you are orderly or haphazard with tool storage, there are a few practices that will help prolong their life. Tools are an expensive investment and extending their life is of great value while the few minutes it takes to clean and repair them will delay costly replacements.

The most important step to cleaning the tools for winter is to remove the dirt that adheres to the metal surfaces. Wash heavy soil from the surface or use an old wire brush to knock off the soil.

Once cleaned, the metal surface can be lightly oiled to prevent rusting and breakdown of the blade or point. The easiest way to prevent rusting is to lightly coat the surface with oil such as the easy-to-use spray like WD-40 or another oil.

Before oiling, sharpening the blades or points is also a good idea. This is a practice that can be done at home with a file or many hardware stores offer a sharpening service for a small fee. Often we neglect the importance of a sharp point or blade on a hoe or shovel. The sharp edge makes the job easier and more efficient. Doing this in the fall while it is fresh in your mind gets it done before the spring rush.

In addition to cleaning the metal surfaces, the wooden handles of the tools should be cleaned and prepared. Handles that are broken or split should be replaced, as they are an accident waiting to happen.

Handles that have become rough over the season can be sanded and sealed. Once sanded smooth, wipe them down with wood oil. In some cases, they can also be painted. Some gardeners paint the handles of shovels, rakes, and hoes with a bright color so they are easy to see lying around in the garden.

Storage of these hand tools over the winter should be in a dry location. For most, that means in the garage that is piled high with all types of stuff. There are several inexpensive racks that can be purchased. These are handy for either the pile-it-higher-and-deeper personalities or the neat-as-a-pin types.

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