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Prepping Garden Tools for Spring

Your garden tools are the unsung heroes of a successful gardening season. Keeping them clean not only extends their lifespan, but also prevents the spread of disease among your precious plants. Dirt and debris on your tools can harbor harmful bacteria and fungi, which could be transferred to your plants the next time you use them.

It's time to start prepping your overwintered garden tools for another productive season. Whether your tools were stored in a shed or greenhouse, they could benefit from a thorough cleaning before being put into use.

Start with hand tools such as pruners, loppers, and trowels, and begin by removing any visible dirt or plant material using a stiff brush. For larger tools such as shovels and rakes, remove any soil buildup from the tines and blades using water and a stiff brush. For tougher caked-on debris, use a putty knife or steel wool to gently scrub the surface. For a more thorough cleaning, soak the tools in a solution of warm water and dish soap for about 15 minutes. This will help loosen any remaining dirt and grime.

Once the tools are free of debris, disinfect the tools to eliminate any lingering pathogens. This can be done by soaking them in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water for approximately 10 minutes, then rinse them thoroughly with water. Be sure to do this in a well-ventilated space and wear gloves to avoid skin irritation. Once clean, be sure to dry the tools thoroughly to prevent rust.

This deep-cleaning process is recommended before the start of the spring season, and throughout the active season, it's advisable to clean your tools with water and a stiff brush after each use.

Next, oil is an important element in tool maintenance as it prevents rust and prolongs the life of the tools. Linseed oil is the most commonly used but do your research and choose the oil you are most comfortable using. The purpose of the oil is to protect against what damages your tools the most - moisture. Use a clean, soft cloth to apply a light oil on the metal parts of the tools. Let the oil absorb for a few minutes before wiping off any excess.

But what about wooden handles? Linseed oil is ideal for this purpose. It not only conditions the wood but also creates a barrier that can deter pests. Apply it using a cloth until the wood no longer absorbs the oil.

After cleaning and disinfecting your tools, it's a good idea to sharpen them before use. This will ensure they are working at their best for the upcoming gardening tasks. Use a sharpening tool or file to carefully sharpen the blades and edges of your tools.

As for storage, consider placing a sand and oil mixture in a bucket and storing your tools with the metal part submerged. The abrasive sand helps keep the tools clean while the oil protects against rust.

By properly cleaning, disinfecting, and sharpening your overwintered garden tools, you'll be setting yourself up for success in the upcoming gardening season. With well-maintained tools by your side, you'll be able to tackle any task with ease and confidence. So, don't neglect your garden tools during the winter months, as a little maintenance can go a long way in preventing disease and pests while promoting healthy growth in your garden. Happy gardening!


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