January is the time for garden tool maintenance

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

january1In the dissertation “Kalendarium Hortense” in the 17th century for January it says, amongst other things such as trimming your fruit trees (with the exception of those in the genus Prunus, although it makes no mention of this exception), and the planting of beans, peas (in the form of seeds – Ed.) and sowing of early cauliflower, “in over wet, or hard weather, cleanse, mend, sharpen and prepare garden tools”.

In the main this is the quiet time in the garden and your tools will not be much used, with the exception of pruning shears, loppers and saws for the pruning of the fruit trees, and thus this is the time, especially when you cannot actually get out into the garden because of cold or wet, to do the maintenance on your tools.

Sharpening is an essential task and it is also a skill and should be done with care as not to do damage rather than good and the wrong approach to sharpening can blunt a tool rather than sharpening it and I have seen this done more than once. There are also people who are scared of sharpening their tools “too much”, making them “too sharp”, afraid that they could cut themselves with them. The truth is that you will cut yourself much easier with a dull blade than a sharp one.

For the gardener and forester the tools need to be sharp and sharp tools are essential when pruning as to minimize the damage to the tree or shrub from the cut inflicted on the plant. And it is not only the obvious cutting tool that can benefit from some sharpening. Spades and the cutting edges of trowels, as well as and especially hoes benefit greatly from this and make work much more efficient.

Clean your tools first, dry them well and oil them, and that applies to all tools and not just those with moving parts such as secateurs (pruning shears), loppers, scissors, etc., including the metal parts of hoes, spades, trowels, etc. and also apply some vegetable oil or beeswax to the wooden handles of your tools.

All moving parts of the shears and such should be oiled well and, in case of the secateurs, this includes especially the springs also. If your secateurs have the so-called caterpillar spring remove this gently and place in its entirety into a bath of oil and leave in there for a while before refitting it. Do not attempt to remove other kind of springs of secateurs, pruners and loppers; just liberally oil them.

According to many gardeners January, as “Kalendarium Hortense” states also, now is the time to put in the seeds for broad beans (Fava), and also others, as well as peas, to give the an early start. Apparently the seeds are then ready in the ground to get going as soon as the temperatures and all is ready for them to germinate and grow. I must say that I have not done this before but have often started the seeds indoors and then planted the beans out – and then they got hit by frost.

So, in the next week or so, when I finally can actually get into my garden without requiring the use of a rubber dinghy, I shall be putting down the first Fava beans and also pole and bush beans, as well as peas.

Some tools certainly also will need some looking at though most I try to keep maintained in a running order, so to speak, that is they are kept cleaned when they have been finished with as often as possible.

© 2014