Caring for Garden Tools

If you want your tools to be in good repair, you’ll need to develop good maintenance habits. These, like all other habits, are formed by repetition. Follow the tips and techniques described and illustrated in this book; before long, taking good care of your gardening equipment will be automatic.

Cleaning and lubricating your tools makes them last longer and work better; sharpening your tools makes your work easier; and storing your tools in one specific area lets you find them whenever you need them.


If you clean your tools after each use, they will reward you by functioning properly The quickest and easiest way to clean most tools is to hose them down on the way back to the garage or storage shed. If the tool is caked with soil, use a scraper or a stiff brush to scrape the soil off.

When the tool has no more soil or vegetation, spray the metal part of the tool with a penetrating oil—this kind of oil passes through the water and coats the metal with a thin film. Then hang up your tools to dry. The film of oil will stay on to prevent rust.

You can make this job more convenient by storing a paint scraper, a stiff brush, and a can of penetrating oil near the hose you will wash tools with.

Some gardeners clean digging tools by moving them back and forth in a box or 5-gallon bucket filled with a mixture of sand and oil. This process removes light coatings of soil and keeps the tool oiled (if you remember to replenish the oil periodically). Oily particles of sand will stick to the shovel, but they won’t cause any rust and will come right off the next time you dig.


The only hand tools that require lubrication are those few that have moving parts—for example, pruning tools. Applying a few drops of oil to the moving parts each time you sharpen the tool generally will keep the tool in good working order. Also lubricate the tool if the parts stick or lack their original smooth action.