How To Protect Gardening Tools From Winter Damage
Every dedicated gardener must have well-maintained gardening tools. Such tools allow you to efficiently perform gardening activities such as digging, cutting, weeding, pruning, and transplanting. In other words, they’re an integral part of a lovely and well-maintained garden. Therefore, protecting them from damage during winter is essential.
Moreover, gardening tools are costly. So, keeping them well-maintained prevents the high expense of replacing the tools. Additionally, cleaning and maintaining your gardening tools prolongs their lifespan. It prevents the spreading of diseases and viruses from one plant to another.
During winter, moisture, cold, and mud can easily damage your tools. If left unprotected, they might be useless. Therefore, protect your tools to avoid buying new ones. However, before you start enacting practices to protect your tools, it’s vital to refer to the manufacturer’s manual to avoid mistakes. These guidelines contain specific instructions on cleaning and maintaining the tools in different seasons. This mainly applies to garden tools that use engines or electricity.
With the help of the manufacturer’s manual, you avoid making gardening tools maintenance mistakes like applying the wrong oil when greasing. Suppose you don’t have or can’t locate the manufacturer’s manuals. You should download copies from the manufacturer’s website.
Besides following the manufacturer’s manual, the following tips provide helpful information on protecting your gardening tools during winter.
Clean The Tools
The first step towards protecting gardening tools from winter damage is to inspect and clean them before storage. Cleaning the tools keeps them germs and bacteria-free, preventing them from contaminating the soil come spring. Therefore, wash your tools to ensure they’ll be safe and usable in the next season.
To perform a comprehensive gardening tool cleaning, you need a clean cloth, spray bottle, disinfectant solution, hot water, dish soap, steel wool, garden hose, sandpaper, and blade sharpener. After getting all the ingredients,
Get Rid of the Mud and Dust
The first step to cleaning your garden tools is to remove the first layer of mud, dust, and grime. Use a garden hose and give a heavy blast to the tools while focusing on parts covered with mud.
Soak and Scrub Off Stubborn Layers of Grime
Soaking and scrubbing will help remove the remaining dirt from your tools. Soak your tools in warm, soapy water for about 15 minutes. Avoid soaking metallic tools longer as they may start to rust. After soaking, rinse and dry the tools with a clean cloth to prevent spotting and rusting.
If there’s still some hardened dirt even after soaking, scrape it off using a scraper or a knife. A steel wool or stiff wire brush can also help. If this doesn’t work, mixing baking soda with water will do the job. This non-toxic, mildly abrasive paste will break down the dirt without damaging your tools. Rub the paste over the dirt and let it sit for ten minutes. Scrub it off with a rag or steel wool, then rinse and dry. You may repeat the process if necessary.
Store Your Tools Properly
One of the best ways to protect your garden tools from winter damage is to store them properly. Good storage should be warm and dry without any dampness signs. Moisture and cold temperature contribute to tool damage in winter. For instance, when water infiltrates into small holes and gaps in your tools, they freeze and expand, resulting in cracks and rust.
On the other hand, extreme cold causes your metallic tools to become brittle and break. Also, temperature fluctuations cause wooden tools to expand and contract, leading to breakage. It’s advisable to store your tools in their original boxes to prevent breakage or other damage.
If you’re storing tools outside, cover them with waterproof and insulating material to prevent moisture infiltration and regulate temperature. You can also invest in climate control storage for your garden tools. This type of storage regulates temperature and humidity, thus preventing your tools from being cold or wet.
Besides storing your tools in a warm, dry place, you should keep them off the floor. Concrete and wooden floors are prone to moisture and cold from the earth and the atmosphere. Therefore, consider hanging tools on the walls or installing a pegboard to keep them off the ground.
You can also use hooks and racks to keep the tools organized and easily accessible. Additionally, ensure your storage space is well-ventilated because enclosed storage can easily get cold or damp and damage your tools.
Disinfect The Tools
Disinfecting your gardening tools helps prolong their lifespan by destroying molds, mildew, and rust. It also ensures that the tools don’t spread disease and viruses from one season to another. Disinfecting your tools is a simple process. All you need is to soak the tools in a disinfectant solution.
A solution of water and chlorine bleach will do the job perfectly. Add a cup of chlorine bleach and nine cups of hot water to a bucket. Repeat this until the bucket is full enough to submerge your tools.
If you’re uncomfortable working with chlorine bleach and looking for a less toxic and safer solution, consider using vinegar with water in a one-to-one ratio. Once the solution is ready, soak the tools for ten minutes. Then remove them and let them dry completely to prevent rusting. Wear protective gear, such as gloves and a mouth mask, when working with harsh chemicals.
One thing to avoid is storing rusty tools, especially during winter. Failure to which the rust continues to erode the metal layer, thus weakening your tools and leaving them vulnerable to breakage. Therefore, after cleaning and disinfecting the tools, get rid of rust.
There are different methods of removing rust. For instance, you can soak your tools in vinegar and salt for about 30 minutes. If the rust is stubborn, soak the tools overnight. Use a spray bottle to apply the vinegar on tools that can’t fit in a bucket. Then wipe down the tools with a clean cloth to remove the rust.
You can also scrub off the rust using baking soda. Mix the baking soda with water and scrub the rust with the paste solution. Other ingredients that can remove rust include sandpaper, steel wool, and wire brush. These ingredients can also be used with baking soda or vinegar if necessary.
After removing the rust, rinse the tools and dry them thoroughly. You don’t want your tools to rust again by leaving them wet.
Sharpen The Tools
With rust out of the way, you can now sharpen your tools if necessary. Tools requiring sharpening include pruners, shears, cutters, spades, weeders, shovels, and hoes. Sharpened tools reduce work effort and are safer to use. They also decrease the risks of plant injury as they make clean cuts, thus preventing damage.
But why do you need to sharpen your tools before storing them for winter? After using the tools in previous seasons, they’re likely to be blunt. Therefore, it’s only fair to sharpen them before putting them aside since immediately after winter, you’ll want to attend to your garden and other plants in your yard.
To sharpen your tools:
- Wipe their edges with an oiled cloth for a finer edge
- Use a flat metal file to sharpen large tools like spades, hoes, and shovels
- Move the file at a narrower angle and move it in one direction until you sharpen your tools as you desire
- Use a sharpening stone or a small file for smaller tools and blades
- After sharpening, wipe down the tools with the oiled cloth to remove small metal fillings and to prevent the tools from wearing out.
Always wear protective gear when working with sharp blades.
Oil The Tools
Another effective way to protect your garden tools from winter damage is to oil them. Oiling your tools prevent rusting on metal tools. Since rust occurs when water and oxygen come together, oiling helps block oxygen and water from coming into contact with the metal, thus preventing rusting. However, before applying the oil coating, ensure the tools are clean and dry. Use a clean rag when applying the oil to the tools.
Rub the oil to the surface of the tools and wipe off the excess. Ensure to use oil coatings specifically designed to coat metal surfaces since some oil coatings can damage or leave residues on the surface. One of the best oils to use is boiled linseed oil. Although people consider using motor oil, it’s not recommendable as it leaves petroleum in the soil, interfering with its integrity.
Wooden tools are particularly prone to winter damage since they can crack due to temperature fluctuations. Consider applying an oil coating to protect them to prevent the wood from absorbing water and cracking. You only need to sand off the rough spots and splinters, then apply the oil coating. Ensure to let the oil dry before storing the tools.
The Bottom Line
Protecting your gardening tools from winter damage is essential to maintaining a healthy and good-looking garden come spring. It also prevents tool damage, eradicating the chances of purchasing new tools. Luckily, you don’t have to be a genius or break the bank to protect your gardening tools. Keeping your gardening tools safe in winter is effortless and straightforward.
For example, designing good storage, cleaning, disinfecting, removing rust, sharpening, and oiling the tools guarantees their safety and longevity, keeping them safe and ready for use in the next season.