Winter Tool Maintenance

Author: Mary Petres

Hello Gardeners! Though it may seem as if the garden has slipped into peaceful slumber and we should do the same, a gardener’s chores are never done.  Spring and summer will creep up before you know it, and there is plenty that we can do now to have a more fruitful start to the growing season.

With that in mind, let’s talk tools!  This is an excellent time to take stock of your tools and provide a bit of T.L.C.  Any gas powered equipment should either have fuel stabilizer put in the fuel or the tank completely drained before storing it for the season.  Gas will separate and go bad if left to sit and bad gas does unmentionable things to the carburetor.  Check your owner’s manual for guidance on the best way to service and clean string trimmers, blowers, push mowers, hedge trimmers, and chainsaws. Gas powered equipment requires a lot of additional winter and summer upkeep, if you are ready for a change and you can swing the financial investment, winter can also be a good time to consider transitioning to some electric options. Keep an eye out for future blogs where we will discuss the benefits of electric equipment.

A bit of maintenance goes a long way toward extending the life of this type of equipment.  Most of the needed maintenance can be performed at home.  However, if you are not comfortable in this realm, take your equipment to a reputable service department. If you go this route, do it sooner rather than later — don’t wait until spring!  The closer we get to the season where you need the equipment, the busier these places become.  It is especially important that you keep the blades sharp on mowers, hedgers, and chainsaws.  This is both a safety and a performance issue as dull blades are dangerous to the operator and unnecessarily tear up turf and plants.  It is also important to clean the housing of your equipment. Built up grime will eventually start to eat up metal and plastic. Loose hardware can trap dirt and debris in small and hard to reach areas that can cause issues later on. To prevent damage be sure to check all nuts, bolts, and screws to ensure they are tight. Look for any frayed wires or cables that may need replacing, a bit of proactive time spent now can save you hours in the middle of the summer!

Let’s not forget our trusty hand tools  — items like pruners, loppers, hand saws, hand tillers, shovels, and metal rakes, just to name a few. Spend some time with each one, and give them a good looking over, feel free to use the checklist below as a jumping off point:

  • Clean off all dirt and sap
  • Check that all fasteners are tight
  • Clean off any rust.  Lubricate if necessary (and remember that you can often order replacement blades and springs for hand pruners)
  • Sharpen blades —this includes spades and shovels
  • Check handles for splits

For some at home guidance check out this youtube video that demonstrates proper cleaning, care and even storage suggestions for a variety of tools you may have around:

Other winter tasks include:

  • Checking nuts and bolts on wheelbarrows
  • Checking tires on mowers and wheelbarrows
  • Cleaning and sanitizing containers that will be planted the following season
  • Taking inventory of garden supplies and replenishing if needed
  • Deciding what can be recycled – old hoses are great for laying out bedlines or running wire through when staking trees.  Broken pots can be used to create drainage in the bottom of containers to be planted or even small shady areas for summer wildlife visitors, like toads, lizards, and insects.

Photo credit: Kelly Mansfield, featuring tools from Richmond Toolbank —

At Capital Trees we utilize and care for a small personal collection of hand tools for our regular workdays, but for our larger community workdays we turn to the Richmond Toolbank!

And the most important task of all – set aside time to sit back and peruse the gardening catalogs that will soon flood your mailbox and dream of the season to come.

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