JoAnne Skelly: Fall tool care
Tools are an important part of a gardener’s life. With proper care before you put them away for the winter, they can serve you well for years to come.
Gather up all your hand tools. Are they looking shiny and sharp? Or, do they need a good cleaning and oiling? Clean them up removing any dirt or leftover plant bits. If the metal parts are rusty, sand them with a fine sandpaper. If wooden handles on tools feel rough, sand them, too. Sharpen the blades on hand shears, loppers or hedge clippers. I like my shovels and hand trowels relatively sharp too. It makes digging easier. Oil your tools, including shovels focusing on the blades, hinges and handles. WD-40 or other lightweight oil works well.
To prepare your mower for winter, drain it of gas, run it until it’s empty or put a stabilizer product in the gas tank so the gas doesn’t go rancid. Drain the engine oil using the drain plug in the bottom of the crankcase.
With some mowers, you drain the oil out of the filler tube by turning the mower over. Be sure to catch the oil in a drain pan to dispose of at a recycling center. After the fluids have been drained, tip the mower on its side and use a wide blade putty knife to clean under the deck scraping off the built-up grass and dirt. Be careful of the blades. Spray under the deck with a biodegradable all purpose cleaner and allow that to sit for five minutes. Then, hose this off. Dry the area and spray with a lubricant like WD-40.
After turning the mower upright again, either refill with fresh oil, or put a note on it there’s no oil, so in the spring you don’t start it without oil. Clean the top surfaces of the mower. Check your air cleaner. If it’s clogged with dirt, blow it out with compressed air or replace it. Take the spark plug out, put a little engine oil in the spark plug hole and pull the start cord a couple times to lubricate the cylinder to prevent rust in the engine. Finally, put the spark plug back in. Since sharpening a lawnmower’s blades requires you balance them carefully, I suggest you take the mower in and have this done professionally. Then the blades will be sharp to mow in the spring.
A little prep now makes your garden chores simpler in the spring.
JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.