Garden tool maintenance

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In January and February, aside from pruning your apple trees and such, is the quiet in the garden and for the gardener. But now it just the right time to give your tools some TLC, some tender loving care.

Clean your spades, digging forks, hoes and such like, with warm soapy water, scarping off and removing all dirt. Then resharpen the edges of the tools that have edges and need them, the same goes for your hand digging trowels and other hand tools, forks, hoes, etc. – this includes your edging iron (knife). Dry them thoroughly and then lightly oil the metal parts.

Sharpening of the tools, mentioned above, is done gently with a flat file. You do not want a knife edge on them, in other words while they are tools to cut they are meant to cut soil and a knife edge would be too thin. However to some large extent they should be sharp, the edges.

Your cutting tools, such as loppers, secateurs, should be, generally, cleaned after every use to prevent cross-contamination and also to remove buildup of sap on the blades. The latter can lead to the blades becoming inactive, that is to say no longer cutting properly or even be put out of alignment. While some recommend the use of a specific sap removing agent, such as sapex, this is not necessary at all. Baby wet wipes or simply a cloth with some WD40 will do as well. Buy now is the time to really give them some care; at least when the last pruning is done.

You do not have to take your loppers or pruning shears (secateurs) apart to clean or sharpen them. Don't forget your edging shears, hedge shears and such like and, once again, they do not have to be taken apart to have their edges resharpened. They are all, however, sharpened differently, depending to the blades and blade profiles that they have. Generally a small file or a diamond sharpener should be used for the sharpening of those tools. Unlike with the digging tools here you want sharp edges to very sharp edges, the latter especially for the secateurs and loppers.

Once you have sharpened the tools, coat the blades with oil, oil all moving parts and, in the case of secateurs (pruning shears) also and especially the little spring between the handles. The latter is very important if they are the so-called caterpillar kind.

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