Get ready to garden: Clean and organize your tools

Make your gardening time more productive and enjoyable this spring by using winter “down-time” to get your garden tools ready for use. Good tools that are well cared for can last a lifetime. They become familiar old friends, reliable and comfortable to use.

These are some things you can do now to prepare your tools for spring gardening activities:

  1. Clean off soil and plant debris. If any tools might have dangerous residues from poison ivy or diseased plants, use rubbing alcohol and paper towels to get them really clean.
  2. Sharpen cutting edges on pruners, edgers, spades, etc.
  3. Oil pruners and other tools with moving parts. A light coating of oil on other metal surfaces will help prevent rust.
  4. Store cleaned tools in your garage or garden shed. Using pegboard or any of the many tool hanging devices available at hardware stores and garden centers will help keep your tools organized and easy to find when you need them.
  5. Take stock of the tools you have to determine the need for replacements and any additional items you could use this year. Purchase new or replacement tools now, so you will have them when you need them.

Following is a list of essential tools for gardening. Do you have all of them?

  • Garden spade. A short-handled, shovel-like tool with a flat, squared-off blade. Useful for digging out sod, edging beds, chopping roots, breaking up clumps.
  • Shovel. A long-handled version with a concave, round-tipped blade is essential for digging holes and shoveling soil, sand, gravel, and other materials.
  • Garden fork. A short-handled tool with heavy steel tines for turning and breaking up soil or working in soil amendments.
  • Hoe. A square blade with a straight edge, attached perpendicularly to a long handle. Use it for digging out weeds, loosening clumpy soil, or digging a shallow trench for seed.
  • Garden rake. (Also called a steel rake or bow rake.) It has a dozen or so short steel tines on a steel bridge, mounted at the end of a long handle. For spreading soil amendments, leveling and smoothing soil, gathering up stones and other debris.
  • Leaf rake. (Also called a lawn rake or flexible rake.) Its long handle holds a fan of long, flexible tines to rake up leaves and other debris from the lawn, paved areas, or the surface of planting beds.
  • Trowel. A shovel-like hand tool for digging and planting. Many shapes and widths are available. Be sure you get one that 1) feels comfortable and well-balanced in your hand and 2) has a sturdy blade securely attached to the handle.
  • Pruner. (Also called secateurs.) The basic one-handed pruning tool. Several different types (bypass, anvil, ratchet) are available. Each type has advantages, but it’s important to find one that’s comfortable in your hand for long periods of use.
  • Lopper. A long-handled pruner that requires two hands. Extends your reach and provides leverage for cutting thicker stems and branches (up to about ¾ inch).
  • Pruning saw. A compact saw with a sharp-toothed steel blade for cutting branches a pruner or lopper can’t handle.
  • Hose-end sprayers. Have one for plant food and one for weed killers, insecticides, and fungicides.
  • Watering can. Basically a bucket with a handle on one side and a long spout capped with a perforated sprinkler head on the other. Whether you choose a traditional galvanized steel can or one of the newer plastic models, get the biggest one you can carry comfortably when it’s full.

Having these tools will help you handle all the basic gardening activities…but don’t be surprised if you find yourself staring longingly at chain saws, electric hedge clippers, and rotary tillers!