By now you may have lost your gardening momentum as the days become shorter and not to mention colder. As your yard begins to bare of colour, and your trees have gone into dormancy, winter is showing signs of setting in and it may be time to retire your garden tools for a bit…even if it is only a few weeks. Come on now…you surely do deserve at least a two week break!
I do have a little bit of a suggestion for you in case you are already getting bored. Let's just say, your tools and gardening supplies will thank you and not to mention, your plants, next season.
Many gardeners tend to get tired at the end of the season and just put the tools and pots away as quickly as possible, I’m speaking from my own experience, I’m guilty! Even if you do only retire your tools for a short time, there does come a time when they are in need of some maintenance and now is the best time to do this. When gardening, especially during the height of the season, we can be pretty hard on our tools. We especially want to preserve our favorites so they will be in good condition to use from year to year. Maintaining your garden tools properly will extend the life of them as well as save you money down the road. Once the busy spring comes, there will be nothing more satisfying then to grab a clean, sharp tool as you enthusiastically enter the garden for yet another season. Tools that are in good working order are not only beneficial for the plants, but they are good for you and makes your job more accurate and enjoyable.
This process really doesn’t have to take long or even get complicated. Grab yourself a coffee or hot chocolate, put on some good tunes and clean, clean, clean! Start by laying down a tarp in an open, well lit area to allow your tools to stay clean and dry on. Remove any "caked" on soil with a firm scrub brush outdoors first and then wash with warm soapy water. This will get the tools clean and ready for assessing for any damages as well as any sharpening that may need to be done. Once the tools have completely dried you can give them the “once, or twice over” for damages. For example: cracks in handles or nicks in the metal of blades. After you have doctored up your tools and they appear to be in good working order they are ready for sharpening.
Sharpening can and should be done at this time. Some tools like shovels, axes, hoes and trowels are best sharpened with a hand file. If an edging is really dull, a grinding stone may be more beneficial.
If you don’t have these sharpening tools on hand, they are very inexpensive to purchase from any hardware store or you can even invest in taking them to a sharpening professional. The most useful and basic tool for sharpening is an 8" mill file.
When sharpening this way, work by drawing the teeth in ONE direction over the dull edge. Sharpening edges can range from 10-45 degrees. Tools that need finer edges like handheld pruners,
should be sharpened to between 10-25 degrees. It is also recommended at this time to apply oil to the blades to prevent rust as well as lubricate hinges. When using oil, use a petroleum-oil-free alternative such as organic vegetable oil. This type of oil is natural and safe to apply to tools especially when digging in soil and around your plants. It is usually on hand in any household and works well. When your tools are properly serviced, it is one last garden task that I’m sure you will be happy with. When putting away your tools, you may also want to take the time to organize your tool shed or storage area. Hang your tools safely by the handles. This will prevent damage to any newly sharpened edges as well as being able to reach your tools with ease and safety.
Now that you have your tools and equipment tucked away and in order you might as well keep going! You may be wondering what I’m referring to?
The containers/pots that your plants were kept in during the growing season is what I’m talking about. It is so beneficial to do this easy process before storing, especially since you are in the “cleaning mode”!
Why bother cleaning your pots? This is definitely a great question, besides isn’t dirt dirty? I know it seems like a very tedious job but your plants will be much healthier as a result and it only takes minutes to do it. During the growing season soil builds up salt and it gets deposited on the insides and bottoms of any type of planters.
This residue may cause damage to the plants and their roots as it continues to build up over time. Cleaning your pots will also ensure the durability of them as well as removal of remnants of diseases that may have occurred during the growing season. Simply remove any dirt that is caked on, you can use a stiff scrub brush that you used for cleaning tools. Once you get them clean, use a sterile mix to kill off any remaining disease organisms that may still be on the surface. Mix up a solution that is 10% bleach, one part bleach to 9 parts water. Fill a container large enough so you can dip your pots in it to soak for up to 10 minutes.
Thoroughly rinse off bleach and allow them to air dry. Once the pots are clean and dry they can be neatly stored on a shelf waiting to get planted next season.
If you are anything like me, you will feel such a sense of accomplishment. When the busy and exciting gardening season rolls around again, you’ll be so glad you took the time to do this as it becomes part of your late fall ritual.
For additional gardening information, please visit our Veseys website or contact us toll free 1-800-363-7333.