Last updated on January 21st, 2020
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Maintaining Garden Tools – Step by step
The Secret Behind A Green Thumb
Whether you already possess a green thumb or wish you had one, there’s a secret behind every great gardener’s success–their tools. While some may boast that they were able to grow their rose bush without any fancy tools, they’re likely telling a little white lie. Having the proper tools in your shed to garden with is an excellent starting point for having a beautiful and vibrant garden.
However, if you don’t care for those tools, just like the flowers and plants in your garden, they’ll start to wither and become useless. This article will tackle some methods and tips you can utilize to ensure that your garden tools last for years and continue to aid you in your garden.
Good quality, well-maintained tools should give you at least 10-15 years use if maintained correctly.
Like any tool, regardless of its professional use, a garden tool needs to be cleaned after being used. It’s easy to sometimes let this fall by the wayside, especially after a long day of tending to your garden. However, keeping your tools clean not only ensures that they will last longer, but it might also help your garden thrive.
Depending on the tool in question, there may be leftover pesticides on your tool. When you use this tool again, those chemicals remain on the tool. Those chemicals could then be spread across something that you wouldn’t want them touching. This can damage your garden, not to mention other organic creatures like yourself or cats, if they’re not cleaned off properly.
In order to clean your tools, you should first ensure that you are equipped properly. Wear a mask and some gloves to ensure that you’re not breathing any hazardous chemicals into your body or touching some harsh detergents with your bare skin, this is especially important when using pesticides. You should use a detergent to clean your garden tools first and foremost.
You can either use a scrubber, sponge, or you can be super creative and stick a sponge on a power tool and make your own scrubber that way! Whatever method you utilize, clean the tool off thoroughly with the detergent. Once your tool has been cleaned, make sure that you rinse the detergent off. This is especially critical because you don’t want that detergent to remain on your tool any more than you do the lasting pesticides or whatever else may be clinging to your tool.
Either grab your garden hose or have a bucket of clean water–and a clean sponge–to rinse the detergent off of your tool. Once it has been completely rinsed off, grab some dry towels and dry your tools. You’ll also want to leave the tools out overnight, just to ensure further drying, in order to prevent them from trapping moisture and developing rust.
Speaking of rust, if your tools just so happen to be rusty, you definitely want to clean that off, too. Rust can easily chip off and damage your plants as well as make the tool unusable if it gets too bad. If you happen to be using a rusty tool and harvesting food you intend to eat, those rust chips can end up in your food, and that’s one of the last things you want to ingest.
The ultimate goal when removing rust from a tool is to ensure that you’re not grinding or scraping the steel underneath the rust. While it’s almost impossible to prevent all grinding or scraping, you’ll want to limit it as much as possible. This is due to the fact that the more you scrape or grind away at the steel, the thinner and thinner the tool will become. Eventually, it will break, and you’ll have to procure yourself another tool.
One method you can prevent this grinding and scraping is by taking steel wool or a wire brush and scrubbing away at the rust carefully. You might also want to attach a rotary wire to a drill and let the power tool do the scrubbing for you. While you can use items like sandpaper to remove rust, you’ll want to be cautious, as it can leave scratches in the steel. These scratches are then locations where rust can develop later.
You’ll also want to pour 70% alcohol on the tool, instead of bleach, in order to disinfect your tool and prevent rust from growing. Rubbing alcohol contains roughly around 70% alcohol. Consider checking your local DIY store for anti-rusting or rust inhibitor oils and sprays that you can use on your tools to prevent the development of rust.
As it may be evident, tools tend to wear down with extended use. As a result, they can become harder to use. Tools that aren’t properly sharpened regularly can even break the next time they’re used. As such, it’s crucial that you set up a schedule in which to take the time to sharpen your tools. Some high-value tools, like chainsaws, require the use of specific accessories like a dedicated sharpener in order to maintain the chainsaw.
By taking a metal file, you can smooth out edges and sharpen them. However, make sure you do this carefully, as you don’t want to chip away too much of your tool. Otherwise, you won’t have much of a tool left. Clamp your tool for extra protection and make sure you sharpen it to the shape that it already possesses. Making a tool too blunt or sharp than it was originally can actually make the tool wear down faster or break entirely.
For safety purposes, always sharpen in the direction that is away from yourself. Also, for tools like hedge clippers or axes, you’ll want to use a stone that has been lubricated with an oil to craft a finer edge.
A final step in maintaining your garden tools is to oil them after you’ve sharpened and cleaned them. The oil acts as anti-rust lubricator in the regards to the metal. For wooden handles, the oil keeps it from absorbing water, so the handle doesn’t crack and break with use.
Make sure you use a clean rag and gently apply the oil over the desired surface. Afterwards, wipe off the excess.
With these steps in hand, your tools will remain durable.