How To Care for Garden Tools in the Winter

Ever wondered what to do with all your garden tools in the off season? Taking proper care of ones tools is necessary to ensure many years of good service.

When it comes time to store garden tools for the winter, it is not a good idea to simply throw them in and shut the door. Proper care of tools means a longer life for the tools and less expense and work for the gardener.

Tools which are well cared for not only last longer, they are easier to use. A well sharpened and oiled tool will work for the gardener rather than the other way around.

How To Care for Garden Tools in the Winter

What garden tools should you prep for winter?

Important garden tools include rakes, hoes, shovels, cultivators, pruners and hand tools like spades and forks. Of course, these are only the basic tools used in the garden but probably the most important ones.

When buying these garden essentials, the cost does matter. If the metal in these tools is stainless steel, it will not rust and this is a huge bonus when it comes to the upkeep.

If tools are coated metal or carbon steel, it is certain that they will rust over time if stored in humid areas or left out in the weather.

Cleaning and storage supplies that you will need

Preparing garden tools for storage will take no longer than an afternoon.

Supplies Needed:

  • Gloves and Eye Protection
  • Steel Wool
  • Sand Paper
  • Wire Brush
  • Metal File
  • Soft Cloth, several (like old baby diapers or t-shirts)
  • Mineral Oil* Vegetable Oil, (spray type like Pam® or store brand)
  • Buckets, 5 gallon size and smaller mop bucket
  • Sand (enough to fill buckets)

Always observe safety rules when working with sharp tools. Wear eye protection and heavy gloves.

Number of buckets needed depends on how many large tools will be stored. For instance, one bucket will hold three round-head shovels or one square-head shovel, a hoe and a couple of spades or pitch fork. They will stand in the buckets of sand through the winter.

Fill buckets with sand, pour in one half gallon of mineral oil in each five gallon bucket of sand. Add one quarter gallon to a mop size bucket. *If expense is a concern, motor oil can be substituted for the mineral oil. Set buckets aside.

How to clean and store your garden tools?

Tools which are covered in rust will need extra attention. Use a wire brush and sand paper to clean the rust off all metal parts. Those with less rust, rub down with steel wool.

Pay attention to screws, hinges, clasps and safety catches on tools. They should be free of dirt, debris and rust. Tighten loose parts and spray with vegetable oil. If tools need to be sharpened, do not spray parts with oil until after they have been sharpened.

If wooden handles are weather-worn, sand and rub with mineral oil soaked cloth.

Once tools are clean of dirt and rust, sharp, repaired and re-assembled; spray screws, hinges, clasps and safety catches with oil. Sink larger tools in five gallon buckets of sand/oil mix up to wooden handles. Stick hand tools in smaller buckets of sand/oil mix. You can use these buckets year after year without replacing the sand if kept inside the garden shed out of the rain.

If there is no room in the garden shed for large buckets, a simple way to prevent rust on garden tools is to follow steps above with the exception of the sand/oil in buckets. Instead, spray tools with vegetable oil, rub oil onto all metal parts and store as usual.

Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an the author of "Getting Laid" and "Getting Baked". A sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky, when she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s making tea and writing about country living and artisan culture.
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