18 March 2019 By Zoro
If you're spending money on quality gardening tools, you'll need to know how to care of them. Here, Kelly Friel, Digital Product Manager at equipment retailer Zoro, explains the best practices you can follow to keep your tools in tip top condition for years to come.
With Spring right around the corner, it's almost time to get the tools out of the shed and start preparing the garden for days of relaxing in the sun. But, whether you're a gardening pro or a total novice, you won't get anywhere if you don't look after your tools. To keep them at their best for many years, it's important to give them a bit of tender loving care. In this article, I'm going to explain how you can keep your tools in full working order by following correct cleaning, sharpening, and storage procedures.
Cleaning your digging and cultivation tools
With so many jobs to do in the garden, you need a wide range of tools to get everything done. An inevitable part of gardening means getting dirty, and any tools that come into contact with the ground should be cleaned thoroughly before storing them away. The process is fairly simple. Most mud can generally be blasted off with a hose pipe but, if the dirt has hardened, you may need to soak the metal parts first before wiping clean with an old cloth or rag.
To get the most out of your digging and cultivation tools, it's a good idea to occasionally give them a coating of oil. This will help to protect the blades and metal components from the effects of moisture and rusting. Get a wire brush and scrub the blades to remove any ingrained dirt, built-up sap, or rust spots and wipe clean with a rag. Using a clean cloth, apply your oil generously. Vegetable-based oils are best as petroleum-based ones could taint your soil.
Sharpening your digging tools
When you buy a brand new spade, you'll find it effortlessly cutting through soil like butter. But, over time, it's inevitable that they will become dulled and require a lot more exertion to use. Keeping your spades, trowels, and other tools sharp is integral to their long-term usefulness. You can purchase a metal file relatively cheaply to do the job manually or use an electric tool grinder.
Whichever sharpening tool you choose, the principle is the same. You want to rub the abrasive part of the tool on the spade to sharpen. For best results, keep the angle shallow and work your way along the inside of the blade only, as spades are single-bevelled. Finish by sealing the blade edges with oil. Wooden handles should also be cared for, first by cleaning and then smoothed off with sandpaper, before polishing with a natural, protective oil like teak.
Caring for your pruning tools
As pruning tools are used for precision, keeping them in top condition is paramount for getting a quick, clean cut. Not only that, but looking after them will reduce the risk of introducing and spreading plant diseases. As above, clean them thoroughly with a wire brush to get rid of dirt and sap, and then wash them in soapy water and dry well. The same goes for loppers and shears.
For best results, these tools will also need to be sharpened. Hold the tool firmly in place and, using your sharpening file or stone, rub the edge of the blade. Make sure to only sharpen the cutting blade itself, moving the stone in the same direction as the bevel. Tighten up any loose bolts on moving parts and order replacements if needed, such as blades and springs. Finish by spraying with a tool lubricant to improve their performance.
Storing your tools
Tool storage is key for ensuring longevity. Even if you know for a fact that you’ll be using them again tomorrow, nothing good can come from leaving them outside overnight. Once your tools have been cleaned, return them to the shed so they can be kept dry and rust-free throughout the night.
A good hack for storing your small spades and trowels is to keep the blades in a pot filled with sand that’s been soaked with motor oil. This will help to keep the blades in good condition. For your larger tools, find somewhere they can hang freely, rather than resting on the floor, as this can dull the blade.
Taking a bit of extra time to care for your tools and store them properly will allow them to stay in top condition for much longer. Follow the advice above and your tools will work well for years to come.