University of Florida

The Neighborhood Gardener –
Getting Your Tools Ready for Spring

The first of the year is a great time to clean up and fix up, before plants really get growing. Start by taking stock of your equipment. Remove any equipment that is beyond repair or isn't useful in your garden. Next, check each type of tool and perform maintenance on them. 

Shovels, Spades, and Hoes

Begin by cleaning all soil and residue off the tools using a wire brush. Once the tools are clean, wipe them down with WD-40 and an old rag. If there's rust on any of your metal tools, soak them in white vinegar for several hours to help release the rust. Be sure to check the wooden handles. If the wood has splintered, give the handle a light sanding with sandpaper, then rub the wood with linseed oil.

For a quick and easy way to store spades and trowels, find a small bucket. Combine a half quart of motor oil and sand in the bucket. Storing garden tools in this will clean and condition them. When you remove a tool, wipe it clean with a cloth.

Pruners and Shears

Spray WD-40 at the joints of pruners and shears and check the blades. If the blades are sticky, use alcohol to clean them.  Once the blades are clean, sharpen them with a whetstone or file. To ensure that you don't miss any part of the blade, use a dark marker to color the blade, and sharpen until all the color is gone.

Power Equipment

To keep your lawn mower, edger, and tiller in top condition, a full tune-up should be performed once every year. Proper care will extend the life of the machine and improve the stability of the engine.

A proper tune-up includes cleaning the body of the machine, changing the oil, spark plugs and air filters, lubricating the machine, and sharpening the blades. You can take the equipment in for a tune-up and blade sharpening, or you can do it yourself. The blade should be sharpened three or four times a year. It’s helpful to have an extra blade on hand while the other one is being sharpened.

To make the effects of your spring tune-up last, be sure to clean the equipment after every use and keep an eye on bolts or screws that can be loosened from the engine's vibrations.  This will decrease the amount of time you spend on next year's spring tune-up and increase the life of your machine. 

Flower Pots and Seed Trays

Before you start new seeds and container gardens this spring, it's a good idea to clean your pots and seed trays. Cleaning the containers will get rid of potential diseases or mold hanging around from last season.

If you didn't empty your containers last fall, begin by emptying the pots of any soil and plant remnants. Next, prepare a solution using nine parts hot water and one part bleach. Use a stiff brush to clean the pots with the solution. If the containers are extremely dirty, consider letting them soak for 20 minutes in the solution. When you are finished scrubbing or soaking, rinse the pots well to remove the bleach.

A good cleaning will help keep your garden equipment in the best shape possible, and you'll be ready to take on the battles of spring gardening.

See the EDIS publication "Sharpening Tools for Landscaping and Gardening" for more information.

 

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