My weekly dialog with my brother the master veggie gardener inspired my topic this week. Each year he spends his summers tending a phenomenal spread of vegetables, berries as well as flowers for cutting to enjoy in vases on kitchen and picnic tables all growing season. He and his wife, being sustainably minded also enjoy freezing and canning their harvest to enjoy over the winter months and share with others. So when he emailed me a practice he engages in every fall to preserve his tools, I thought an end of year “tool-time” dialog in order.
Sure we all talk about plants…but the tools for gardening are critical. Garden tools are the cornerstone of solid gardening practices. We all have our favorite brands. I lean toward the more solid investment that gives me great ergonomics, replaceable components and years of performance. Great garden tools do not come cheaply these days. So taking the time at season’s end to care and store your hand tools can give you both enjoyment and performance in your garden labors. It also can save you money.
Although I clean and sanitize (yes sanitize so I am not spreading disease from one plant to another) my cutting tools routinely throughout the season, fall is a great time to re-sharpen or change blades on your loppers, shears, pruners and what I call my Bonsai scissors. (yes I think Karate Kid when using) If you have an electric disc for sharpening, just make sure you do so evenly. I generally do all my sharpening by hand with my sharpening stone. Just makes me feel good to do it that way. Takes a bit longer, but gives me “quality” time with my tools :). Once sharpened, give the metal a good rub with penetrating oil, making sure to get it into the moving joints. I then like to wrap hand tools in an old towel and store in a damp-free space for the winter.
I also sharpen the edges of my shovels. They dull just as any hand tools do, so I like to keep my spade and bull nose cutting shovels nice and sharp to make the work go easier. And yes, rubbing penetrating oil on the metal is a good idea to prevent rust. Although many manufacturers are switching their shovel handles to fiberglass….I prefer the wood. I feel the grip and impact absorption is healthier. But wooden handles do have a limited life span. We buy and switch out handles throughout the season. So herein lies my brother the “master veggie gardener” tip: As part of your winterization routine, rub some teak oil on the handles. keeps the timber and protects the wood. What a great idea! So I added that to my routine this fall!
By spending some time maintaining the tools of the trade at the end of each gardening season, you will be able to keep your tools for many years to come…..keeping you and your garden practices healthy, and of course “sustainable”. Next blog lets talk power tools!