Caring for your tools |

Caring for your tools

JoAnne Skelly
For the Appeal

The longer I garden, the more I value my tools. I buy high quality loppers, shears, saws, shovels, and mowers. After investing money in and getting used to the feel of my hand tools, I try to take good care of them. Fall is the optimum time to get your tools in shape for spring.

The first thing to do is to clean all tools. Scrape off any dirt or debris clinging to them. Use something wooden, such as a stick or scrub brush. Avoid rubbing metal against metal. Some gardeners like to keep a tub of sand around for dipping tools up and down in until they are clean. Use steel wool or a wire brush to remove rust. When you finish cleaning all your tools, coat their metal surfaces with some light oil.

Sometimes we don’t remember to care for the wood handles of tools, such as shovels and hoes. Rub down wood handles with a fine sandpaper to keep them smooth to the touch. Apply a coat of varnish or wood protectant if you wish.

Sharp tools work better and are safer to use. This applies to pruning tools, shovels, spades, and hoes, to name a few. All gardeners should have a metal file in their toolbox. Flat files are suited for flat-bladed hoes and shovels. A half-round file is best for curved shovel blades. Follow and keep the angle of the existing cutting edge. Hold the file against the beveled edge and stroke downward toward the edge of the blade at a 30- to 40-degree angle. File in one direction only, not back and forth. A few extra strokes will remove nicks. You can also get your tools sharpened professionally. Professional tool sharpeners are less busy in the fall than in the spring.

Don’t forget to clean off dirt and debris from rototillers and lawn mowers. Tighten all loose screws and bolts, and replace those that are missing. Be sure to clean out fuel lines, draining out all gasoline into a gas can. Run the piece of equipment until it stops. Wash and replace the air cleaner. Disconnect the spark plug wire, then remove, clean, and replace the spark plug. Leave the wire disconnected. Change the oil in four-cycle engines.

Store all of your tools out of the sun, rain, and snow to make them last longer. After you have done all the chores of putting your tools to bed for the winter, it’s time to get the snowblower ready!

For more information, e-mail or call me at 887-2252. You can “Ask a Master Gardener” by e-mailing or call your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.