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Looking After Your Garden Tools

By Andy McIndoe

Some Unusual Tips For Maintaining Your Garden Tools

I must admit I’m not good at taking care of my garden tools. After use digging and cultivating tools are usually stacked against one another by the back door. A pile of dry soil gradually accumulates beneath them and every so often (rarely) I have a good clean up.

I don’t know why I’ve got into such slovenly habits. When I worked for a small garden centre and nursery while at university we had to wash our tools, dry them and then oil them.

They had to be put back on the correct peg, otherwise you were in trouble.

2 Garden tools left dirty

It’s crazy really because all you need is a stop off at the hosepipe or a bucket of water and maybe one of those silicon or oil sprays and the journey into the garden with nice clean tools is a lot more pleasant.

If I want to clean mine after storage I have to chip off dried soil, wash off dried on soil remains and apply oil: much more arduous.

3 Cleaning-Garden-Tools

Of course standing the tools on the floor is not as good as hanging them up. If the floor is cold and slightly damp it will result in some rust, whereas hanging them on the wall keeps the air circulating. In reality I find that most gardeners with immaculate tool racks are not the regular keen gardeners.

I am expecting an outcry of objection from that remark. However well-ordered tool racks can be a sign of a greater interest in the shed than in the garden.

4 Tidy garden tools

Perhaps I should say something about the use of oil. We used to apply old motor oil with a paintbrush for protection.

Today you might want to think twice about doing this because it is introducing a trace of pollutant into your soil when you dig. Some recommend linseed oil; I might use sunflower oil because it is cheaper.

5 Trowel left in the ground

A bucket of sand or sawdust lightly moistened with sunflower oil is ideal to dip clean, or near-clean hand tools into. The sand or sawdust acts as a light abrasive and the tools are lightly oiled at the same time.

I think our throw-away society has become a real obstacle to looking after garden tools. Hand tools such as trowels and forks are so cheap you will probably leave them lying around the garden and just buy new ones next time.

6 Stainless Border Fork (1024x759)

Of course good quality stainless steel digging and cultivating tools digging are much easier to clean and maintain than traditional mild steel. These clean more easily and they don’t rust.

However just because it is shiny it isn’t necessarily durable and good quality. Cheap imports have flooded the market which can look good, but are not necessarily the best. Buy a good make from a reputable retailer and loo after them

7 wash-pruning-shears-after-use

I have extolled the virtues of good quality pruning shears or secateurs on many occasions. These should be a pleasure to use and make nice clean cuts without and snags or tears.

The problem is the corrosive nature of plant sap. This quickly builds up on the blades reducing their effectiveness and eventually making them blunt. The answer of course is to wipe and clean the blades after every use.

You might do this a couple of times when you get new ones but then those blades get coated with residue.

8 Cleaning pruners with Coca Cola cleaning bonsai tools

There are a number of magic remedies for dirty neglected pruners. One is Coca – Cola which is often used to remove rust and clean engine parts.

Personally I would leave the blades in a glass of Coke for a few minutes, then wash and oil them carefully. Coca-Cola is acidic: some even recommend it for acidifying soil for lime-hating plants. I can’t believe that’s a good idea!

9 Cleaning tools with ketchup and vinegar

Another possibility is a mixture of vinegar and tomato ketchup. I did try this and found it effective. After cleaning wash and wipe the blades and lubricate the spring and pivot with a light lubricant oil. This is a better choice than the spray oil or silicon lubricants.

There are various gadgets and sharpening stones to improve the cutting edge on your pruners. If you buy good quality ones the blades are replaceable and this would be my favoured option. If you look after them and don’t overstretch their capability replacing blades is a rare event.

Andy McIndoe

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