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Gardening Tool Care

The Martha Stewart Show, January 2007

Cold winter and early spring months are the perfect time to start getting your gardening tools and pots ready for the season to come. Follow these tips for keeping your tools and pots in great shape.

Sharpening Tools
Sharp tools are of course more effective, but also safer and easier to use. Tools that should be sharpened include hoes, shears, scissors, knives, loppers, pruners, and shovels.

To sharpen the edges, put a bit of oil -- either WD-40 or motor oil -- on the blade. Then, with a handheld whet stone, file the blade at a 20-degree angle. You can also use a file or a motorized sharpener depending on the tool needing sharpening and the equipment that you have.

If the blade edge is beyond repair, it's time to purchase a new one.

Sterilizing Pots
Pots used for planting should be free of mold and fungus so that plants can start off in a healthy base. To clean plants, scrub pots with a pot-scrubbing brush, and then soak in 10 percent bleach solution for 10 minutes. This simple sanitizing solution kills bacteria, viruses, fungi, and insects on pots. Leave them out to dry completely before stacking for storage or using to plant.

Routine Care
The best way to keep all of your tools in great shape is to take care of them year-round. To keep them pristine, do the following after each use:
1. Tap tools to remove clumps of soil.

2. Remove soil from blades and hinges with a clean cloth and brush.

3. Always use a proper cleaner to remove sap from tools after use.

4. Clean metal tools by plunging in a bucket of oiled sand. To make oiled sand, pour 3/4 quart motor oil or mineral oil into a 5-gallon bucket of sand (the sand should be damp but not moist). Push blades of tools into sand. This helps clean and condition the metal.

5. Store tools in the oiled sand, or hang on pegs.

6. Establish a regular schedule of maintenance. Once a month, you should sharpen blades, oil springs, and replace failing parts.

7. Create an area for tool storage and maintenance -- once you're organized, keeping tools in pristine condition will become an easy habit.

More Gardening Links
Maintaining Shovels
Sharpening Scissors and Shears
Sharpening Pruners and Loppers
Sharpening Hoes, Shovels, and Edgers
Cleaning Terra-Cotta Pots
Tool Care 101

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