EASY TOOL KEEPERS

We sometimes lose, or at least minimize, gardening opportunities because the needed tools were in a dozen different places, from the gardening shed to the utility drawer in the kitchen. By the time a trowel and a decent pair of gloves are located, much of the time you’ve allocated to a project is used up – not to mention the enthusiasm is pretty well diminished.

You can make gardening much more joyful and productive by creating a special “garden bucket” equipped with your favorite tools. A fat, five-gallon bucket with a few additions and gardening items can be very successful.
If you can use a sewing machine (or know someone who can), a cover can be made for the bucket out of plastic, denim, or other strong material. The cover design can vary, but the basic idea is to sew some pockets on a piece of flat fabric that has been pre-measured to fit the bucket’s circumference. Sew strings to the ends of your pocket piece and simply tie it around the top of the bucket (pockets out, of course). Or – a little fancier – you can add a tube-like piece of material that is sewn on one end and stuff it down into the bucket; the pocket-part of the cover needs only to hang over the outer rim of the bucket about 6 or 8 inches.

If even that seems complicated – and, at this point your thought is, “my passion is gardening, not designing” – here’s an even easier option. Two small nail aprons purchased from any hardware or building supply store can be tied opposite each other on a bucket rim. The pockets are already there, providing space for a trowel, gloves, pruners, zip-lock bags of seeds, and other small items. Larger things, like kneepads, a coffee can full of fertilizer, and garden labels can be placed inside the bucket.

For larger jobs, keep a wheelbarrow or little red wagon equipped with a shovel, rake, hoe, etc. Just keep in mind that the real goal is to spend time doing the gardening, not looking for your tools!

Bonnie Pierson, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


GARDEN TOOL MAINTENANCE

Our cold, rainy winter days are ideal for getting ready to do some serious gardening when the weather is better. This is the time to get in the habit of properly caring for our garden tools in order to prolong their usefulness as well and improve their efficiency.

Clean those shovels, rakes and other tools with water and a bit of detergent. Dry the implements and then rub oil in all the wooden handles. Keep rubbing oil into the wood until it begins to stay on top. If you haven’t done this before, the wood is probably quite dry and will absorb much oil. Then, rub oil on the metal parts, as well. Check to see if your hoes need sharpening. Nothing is worse than trying to cut out weeks with a dull hoe. You may be able to do this with a file but a scissors sharpening service will do a great job.

Fill a plastic pail (I use one that kitty litter came in) with sand mixed with oil. Any kind of oil will do: used car oil, old cooking oil, whatever is handy. After you use a tool in the garden, dip it in the oily sand to clean and lubricate it. Next, dry with an old rag before you hang it up. After you cut out diseased branches, dip those shears in some form of diluted bleach solution before you use it on other shrubs or trees to keep from spreading the problem disease. Then clean those tools in the sand and oil mixture.

Take time now for tool maintenance and the tools will be ready for garden tasks when you are ready to work in the garden.

Joan Thorpe, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


GET TOOLS READY FOR SPRING

Now is the time to get your tools in top shape, ready for spring planting, if you haven’t already done it. Here are some tips:

  • Clean and sharpen all shovels, hoes and pruning shears.
  • For your lawn mower, change the oil, sharpen the blade, clean the air filter, and wash the under side of the mower. Spray the under side with non-stick oil to keep grass from sticking. (And remember to wash and re-spray the underside each time you mow.)
  • You can re-use your mower’s old oil by adding it to a five-gallon bucket half filled with sand. Then keep your shovels and hoes clean by plunging them into that bucket. The gritty sand will help scrape dirt off and the oil will coat tools lightly to preserve their finish and prevent rust.

These basic chores will have your tools looking like new in no time. And, come planting season, your tools – and you – will work better.

Tommy Corley, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


SPRING EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

Early spring is an excellent time to check out all your gardening and lawn care tools, make needed repairs, and do general maintenance on mechanical equipment. Here are some tips:

Gasoline powered equipment – To properly store our mowers, edgers, tillers, blowers, etc., we should have drained the fuel tanks and run the motors dry before winter. But many of us didn’t do that so the gasoline in the equipment may be forming gum and varnish in the fuel metering systems. There is a good product you can add to fuel, both while the equipment is being stored and during use in the spring. Called Sta-bil, it works in 2- and 4-cycle engines. Sta-bil stabilizes the fuel, keeps it fresh, and makes the equipment easier to start, especially after months of non-use. Use one ounce of Sta-bil to five gallons of fuel. Do not use “old” gasoline that is three months old or more. (Do not pour gasoline in the carburetor; spray ether is not recommended as a starter fluid.) Finally, check your equipment’s pull cords, replace spark plugs and change the oil. If “major” repairs are needed, have them done soon before repair shops get busy. Don’t wait until you need the equipment.

Cutting tools – Sharpen mower, edger, shears and other blade-type cutting equipment.

String edgers – Replace the string before the season begins.

Personal safety – Most gasoline-operated equipment produces a high level of noise. Wear ear and eye protection when using any of this equipment. Gloves are an additional protection against minor cuts, burns, etc. Check all usable electrical extension cords for breaks and frays; repair or replace them. Never use them under wet conditions.

With planning and positive action now, your spring and summer gardening and lawn tasks can be easy and fun.

Bill Kelldorf, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


STORING TOOLS FOR WINTER

Here are some tips to help you properly store your lawn equipment and tools for winter.

  • A good home gardener should have a good dry place to store his or her tools or equipment. A storage space within the garage area, a storage building, or a good shed are all workable options.
  • Before storing your hand tools, be sure to clean them and apply a light coat of oil to all metal surfaces to prevent rust from forming. Check to see if any repairs are needed; repairing tools now will save time next spring when you want to use them again.
  • Inspect your power equipment – belts, blades, etc. – and make any needed repairs now. Then drain all gasoline from tanks into a container for disposal. Start and run engines until they quit, to be sure the carburetor is dry. That will prevent diaphragms from sticking together.
  • Thoroughly clean each piece of equipment and pay special attention to the cylinder fins and the air filter. Another good hint is to remove the spark plug and put a few drops of oil on top of the piston. Pull the starter rope a few times, then replace the spark plug. This will keep the cylinder oiled and prevent rust during storage.
  • These simple tasks will keep your tools and equipment in shape and ready to go next spring.

Arlin George, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


TOOL CARE

New garden tools are as exciting to a gardener as new school supplies to a first grader. We value our tools and want to take good care of them. Our intention is to keep them clean, sharp, and oiled for many seasons of valuable service. I store my hand tools in a simple way that addresses all these needs. Mix several drops of Three in One household oil into a bucket of clean sand. Pour the sand into a clay pot with the drainage hole covered. Store your tools standing up in the sand after scraping and washing off all the dirt. Every time a tool is pushed into or pulled out of the oiled sand the grit and oil help to clean, sharpen, and oil the tool. Keep the pot near your work area and your tools will always be readily available and easily put away. You will have happy gardening with clean sharp tools.

Pat Turner, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


TOOL CLEANING TIP

Spray your gardening tools with cooking spray before using them. This makes your garden work and cleaning up easier by preventing soil from sticking to the tools.

Cynthia Johnson, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


UPDATING YOUR GARDENING TOOLS

Add padding to your gardening tools or update a weathered handle. Slit pipe insulation is inexpensive and available at most home improvement and hardware stores. Slit pipe insulation is made of flexible polyethylene and is normally found in the plumbing department.

This insulation makes a great padding for the handles of gardening tools or to cover wooden handles that have become weathered over time. Slit pipe insulation is usually sold in six-foot lengths and comes in several different inside diameters, so measure the diameter of your tool’s handle before purchasing.

Just cut off the desired length with scissors or a knife, open the partial slit, and then slip the insulation onto your tool handle. If the insulation slips or turns on the handle, take off the insulation and wrap tape-duct or masking tape works well-to the handle in several places and slip the insulation back on . Or you can tape the outside of the insulation in several places.

Cindy Harrington, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


WHERE ARE MY TOOLS?

How many times have you started to your garden and realized you didn’t remember where you had left your garden tools and gloves? I’ll bet you I have done that many times until I decided to install a neat storage spot for my tools.

I took a mail box and mounted it on a 4×4 post in my garden. Now when I finish working, I put my gloves and tools in my “mail box” for safe keeping until my next work session.

Another gardener got one of these artisans who build birdhouses to build a birdhouse without the holes and hinge the front panel as a door. It can be mounted on a tree or on a pole. It is decorative as well as functional.

Give it a try. You will save yourself time and effort when you are in the garden.

Hugh Autrey, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


KEEPING CLEAN

For personal cleanliness as you work in your garden, scrape your fingernails across a bar of soap before gardening to keep your nails clean. Buy felt-lined dishwashing gloves to use in gardening. They are inexpensive, stretch farther up your arm than regular gloves, and keep your chances of contacting poison ivy to a minimum.

To help keep your tools clean, fill a large garbage can about one-third full of sand, add a gallon of motor oil, and mix well. Put your large gardening tools down into it. This will help keep them clean. For hand tools, use a small bucket of sand and oil.

Sandra Hicks, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Posted in Tools and Equipment