How to Winterize Your Garden Tools

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Prepare your garden tools for winter and add years to their life.

As winter approaches, many of you are hard at work preparing
your garden for cold weather. Hopefully, you’ve already planted
that cover crop, applied a fresh layer of mulch and prepared your
cold frames for fresh winter greens (read
What To Do in Winter for tips on cold-season gardening). You
know that a little winter prep can really pay off when spring
arrives, but don’t forget that your garden tools need a little TLC
as well. Here are some tips on how to keep them in great shape
while they await the return of warm, sunny days.

  • Remove all dried or caked-on dirt with a wire brush, rinse and
    dry thoroughly. (Soak especially dirty tools in water first.)
  • Sharpen dull tools using a whetstone or file. Working at a
    45-degree angle, start at the outer edge and move toward the
  • Sand off any rust spots with fine sandpaper or steel wool, and
    coat the metal with vegetable oil.
  • Wipe a light coating of linseed oil or paste wax on wooden
    handles to preserve them and prevent cracking or splitting.
  • Store hand trowels and other small tools in a bucket of sand
    soaked in oil to further deter rust, and hang rakes and shovels in
    an easy-to-access spot.
  • Bring water hoses in out of the weather and ensure that they’re
    properly drained and coiled correctly (not kinked). Repair leaks
    with a hose repair kit which you can get at your local home or
    garden store. There’s no need to buy a new hose ? even leaky
    fittings can be replaced with minimal time, money and effort.
  • On your mower, be sure to clean and sharpen the blades (residue
    can encourage rust. Avoid storing gasoline in your mower over the
    winter; transfer it to your car’s engine instead.

Good tools are expensive. Take good care of yours and they’ll
contribute to many years of productive gardening. Looking to
replace one that’s beyond repair? Try the
Freecycle Network or visit
garage sales in your area.

Do you have tried and true garden tool tips? Post your advice in
the comments section below.