Winterizing Garden Tools

Fri., Oct. 8, 2021

By Rob Dzurec, Horticulturist at Cleveland Botanical Garden

Many of us are ready for a break from gardening come fall.  Seems like we are done once the tools have been put away and the shed is closed for the winter.  If you invested in good garden tools, it’s not enough to just keep them organized.  Protect your investment by spending a little time winterizing your tools. 

Here are some tips for end of season tool care:

1. Hand tools such as trowels and shovels should be cleaned of dirt and rust.  Rust can be removed with a wire brush or steel wool.  Shovel points can be sharpened with a mill file. When using a mill file, draw the cutting teeth in one direction over the edge being sharpened. For best results, hold the tool steady in a clamp (such as a bench vise), keeping the file at an angle from the plane of the tool’s working surface as you push it along the edge you are sharpening.  Apply oil to metal parts and use paper toweling to remove the excess leaving a thin film behind.  If you are prone to leaving tools out in the elements, a coating of linseed oil on wooden handles is suggested.

2. Pruners (secateurs) and shears should be cleaned, sharpened, and lubricated.  I periodically disassemble my pruners to clean all the parts individually as dirt will work its way into the hinge.  Felco makes a commercial lubricant for pruners or something like 3 in 1 oil can be used.  Apply a light coating of oil to the blades to keep them rust free through winter.

3. Power tools should be drained of fuel before winter.  The ethanol in most gasoline is bad for two stroke engines common on many garden tools.  It is especially damaging if left in machine over winter.  Drain any mix from the machine and run it until the fuel is use up.  Gasoline in lawn mowers should also be run out.  I like to mulch leaves on the lawn until the mower quits.  If you do not plan on using any gas over winter, best to empty the can into the car and buy fresh gas in the spring. This is also a great time to change mower oil, sharpen blades and check the air filter. Severely nicked or bent blades should be replaced per the manufacturer’s recommendation.

4. Hoses and watering equipment should be drained prior to storage in a sheltered area.  Roll hoses up avoiding kinks and store lying flat. 

These chores might not seem important but when the excitement of Spring gardening comes, you won’t be let down by neglected tools.

Rob Dzurec

Rob Dzurec

Horticulturist at Cleveland Botanical Garden


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