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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Proper tool storage now will save time next spring

STILLWATER, Okla. – There is still time to get some gardening done before winter hits, but it’s not too early to think about how you plan to store your tools and equipment.
Proper tool storage now will save time next spring

Proper maintenance of garden tools this winter will help ensure they all are in working order next spring.

Taking care of your gardening gear at the end of the season can save some headaches when gardening season picks back up. Gardeners across the state know how much easier gardening can be when using tools and equipment that are in good repair and working order, said David Hillock, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist.

“Just like you need sharp knives in the kitchen, sharp tools in the garden are a must because they cut rather than tear or bruise the plants,” Hillock said. “This helps the plants recover more quickly and reduces the possibility of disease. After a season of use, spades, hoes, shovels and shears all could use a good sharpening.”

There are a variety of sharpening methods that can be used on various tools. A flat file is an inexpensive way to give a sharp edge to hoes, spades and shovels. Before you get started, always wear proper safety equipment such as gloves and safety glasses when handling tools. When using a flat file, make long diagonal strokes away from your body across the cutting edge. This gives a more uniform edge than short strokes in one spot.

Hillock said power equipment, such as a rotary tool or bench grinder, helps complete the task much more quickly.

“However, power tools can wear down the blade quicker if you aren’t careful and can heat the metal quickly causing the blade to be weaker,” he said. “Sharpen the beveled edge only and try to keep the same angle on the new edge as it was when it came from the manufacturer.”

Smaller tools such as loppers and hand pruners also can be sharpened in the same manner. In some cases, the tool may need to be disassembled to access the entire cutting edge of the blade.

Mower blades also should be sharpened regularly. Because you are sharpening opposite ends of the blade, it should be checked for balance before reattaching to the lawn mower. Do this by hanging the blade by the center hole on a nail. If one side hangs lower than the other, a little more needs to be taken off that side of the blade to bring it back into balance.

“Be sure to clean your tools before storing them for the winter. Clean the rust and dirt off blades and handles,” Hillock said. “Dirt can be scrubbed off with water or scraped off with a wire brush. Rust can be sanded off with sandpaper or steel wool.”

Apply a thin coat of oil to the blade and lubricate moving parts. A five-gallon bucket of oily sand can be used to clean tools and apply oil so rust won’t form on the blade. After using tools, stick the blade or tines into the sand a couple times to remove dirt and oil the tools. 

Handles should be inspected and broken handles replaced. Be sure to sand down any rough spots on wooden handles. After sanding, apply boiled linseed oil to help preserve the wood. Drain or use up fuel in the tank before storing gas-powered equipment for the winter. Also, replace the old oil with new oil.

“Once spring rolls around next year, you’ll be excited to get back out into your landscape. The steps you take now to preserve your equipment will help ensure you can get started right away instead of spending time repairing tools,” Hillock said. “It’s definitely time well spent.”


Trisha Gedon
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
Oklahoma State University
159 Agriculture North
Stillwater, OK  74078
405-744-3625 (phone)
405-744-5739 (fax)

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078