Preparing Tools for Winter

Preparing Tools for Winter

Q.  What should I do to prepare my gardening tools for winter storage?

A.  After raking the last leaf and tossing the final faded flower into the compost, one task remains before the home gardener can move inside to await the arrival of the first seed catalogs. Clean, maintain, and store the garden tools. Though little more glamorous than weeding, appropriate care ensures that your tools will be safe and ready to use come spring, and extends the useful life of what is often a significant monetary investment.

Digging, cultivating, and raking tools should first be cleaned of all soil and plant debris using a wire brush and water. Once they are totally dry, they should be inspected for damage, loose connections, and missing fasteners, and repaired or replaced as necessary. Bladed tools such as cultivators, hoes, shovels, and spades should be trued and sharpened as needed. The metal parts of all tools should be wiped with a light coat of lubricating oil to stave off rust.

Cutting tools, including knives, pruners, saws, and shears, need to be cleaned, inspected for damage, lubricated, adjusted, and sharpened according to the manufacturers’ instructions.  Worn or damaged parts should be replaced.

All yard machines need to be cleaned and prepared for storage according to the manufacturers’ instructions. This can be done by the individual gardener or by the machine dealer’s service department. An important precaution is to remove all gasoline from the machines, either by draining or by running the machine dry, as fuel left over the winter can deteriorate and damage the machine.

Finally, store your tools and machines in an enclosed space, protected from rain and snow, and separated to prevent damage from inadvertent contact. Keep metal tools off the garage floor to avoid exposure to salt water dripping from your cars. It is advisable to individually wrap or otherwise separate smaller tools to protect them from damage.

Please email plantinfo@chicagobotanic.org for more information.