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Winterizing Garden Tools

sharpen_shovelTallahassee Democrat

December 20, 2013

By: Taylor Vandiver

Photo by: Taylor Vandiver

Due to a lack of snow, Florida’s winter landscape chores are relatively uncomplicated. However, that doesn’t mean they’re unimportant. As the growing season comes to a close and gardeners mow, snip and spade for the final time, it’s time to consider proper cleaning and storage of all that equipment. A little preventative maintenance can avoid frustration and expensive repair in the future. When you maintain your tools properly this extends their life and makes working with them easier and more efficient. A few examples of preventative care can include cleaning and sanitizing, sharpening blades, and maintaining power equipment.

When cleaning your tools, remove caked on soil or vegetation using a wire brush, scraper or a strong stream of water. Lubricate all tool pivot points and springs. Sharpen hoes, pruners, loppers and saws.

It’s good to remember to check your tools thoroughly for loose screws or nuts and tighten them accordingly. Spraying the bare metal parts and cutting edges of your tools with a penetrating oil, such as WD-40, can help to prevent rust. It is thought that wiping your wooden handles with boiled linseed oil will help prevent wood from cracking and drying. Hang tools in their proper storage spot.

Wheelbarrows, carts and wagons may also need some attention before winter. Clean them thoroughly and touch up paint chips with spray paint to prevent exposed steel from rusting. Grease wheels to prevent squeaking.

Something to consider while preparing your landscape for the winter is your garden hose. While hoses don’t need a great deal of care, the care that we provide is important if we want them to last. Try storing your hoses on hose supports or reels or coil them loosely rather than hanging them on nails. Using hose supports or reels can prevent your hose from sagging and kinking. Drain all the water from them and store in a dry location before storing hoses away for the winter.

Power equipment, such as lawn mowers may require additional winter preparations. Always refer to the owner’s manual for specific information. However, in general, the following steps can be taken to winterize this equipment.

Remove collected grease, dirt and plant material from the equipment. It is always beneficial to check for loose screws and nuts and tighten them accordingly. Remember to sharpen cutting edges and wipe with an oily rag if this wasn’t done earlier. If your equipment has a four-cycle engine, change the oil by following instructions listed in your owner’s manual. Remove all gasoline from tank. Run the engine a turn or two to coat the cylinder walls with oil, and then replace the plug.

Two-cycle engines, or engines that run with a gas and oil mixture, also should have the oil-gas mixture removed for the winter. Run the engine with the choke open to remove fuel from the lines. Check the spark plug and replace if it is worn. Replace other worn or damaged parts as well. Always avoid storing gasoline over the winter. Old gasoline does not ignite easily, making the machines using it work harder. Once the cold weather creeps in to Florida, gardeners may feel as if they can sit back and rest for the winter, however, don’t neglect proper maintenance of your tools. When spring rolls in you will be glad that you did!

Taylor Vandiver is the Horticulture Extension Agent for Leon County. For more information about gardening in our area, visit the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension website at http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu.  For gardening questions, email us at ask-a-mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov.

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