Landscaping should be an escape, not a chore. Treat it as an opportunity to spend time outside, working with nature instead of an obligation. Of course, there will always be ongoing maintenance required, but it’s all in service of supporting the natural growth and beauty of your property.
Having the right tools makes all of this much easier. But it’s not just about what tools you have, but how well you care for them that determines their usefulness. If you don’t look after them properly, you not only risk damaging your garden, but you can also accidentally spread insect or fungal infections without even being aware.
Follow this guide to ensure that your tools will last years while providing great service, letting you get the most out of your garden.
When you have a long day of gardening planned, or if you know that you’ll be continuing your work early the next day, using a garden hose is a quick and easy way to clean your tools. Use a wire brush or putty knife to scrape hard-to-remove dirt.
If you think there’s a chance that your tools have come in contact with a bacteria or fungus, use a mixture of bleach and water to clean it. Alcohol swabs or disinfectant wipes will also work to ensure that your tools are clean and free from contamination.
Whichever method you choose, make sure that you fully dry your tools right away. Applying a plant-based oil like linseed oil will help protect metal surfaces without contaminating your garden.
A sharp blade, whether on a shovel or pruning shears, offers a clean cut. The most immediate benefit of this is that it makes landscaping an easier and more enjoyable task. Think of the difference between edging a flower bed with a blade that cuts effortlessly through the soil versus one that gets caught and leaves a jagged line.
An even greater concern is what a dull blade does to plants and flowers that you trim. Pruning back branches on a shrub with a sharp blade makes it easier for the shrub to recover, keeping it strong and healthy. A dull blade, however, leaves a raw, ragged cut. This takes more effort for the plant to recover from and leaves it open to rot or infection.
A flat file is an easy way to keep your tools sharp. Run it around the blade on both the front and the back, keeping a low angle. Make sure to wear eye protection and thick gloves, though. Metal splinters can be very painful and are best avoided.
If you have a vice, you can clamp your tools for greater ease when sharpening them. Try to match the angle your tools already have along their edge. Going too extreme when filing the edge will make it much sharper, but also puts it at increased risk for damage when it comes in contact with small stones.
Once you’ve finished, wipe the surface down with oil to help seal it against moisture. Regularly lubricate your shears throughout the year to keep them in good working order.
It’s common for people to focus on convenience when putting away tools for the day. If you’re going to be back out first thing in the morning, why not just leave things where they are. Won’t it save you time getting started?
Unfortunately, this puts both you and your tools at risk. Not only can exposure to the elements lead to deterioration of metal and wood surfaces, but there’s also the chance that tools get misplaced or lost. This becomes especially troublesome if they’re found under less than ideal situations, such as accidentally stepping on them or running them over with the lawnmower.
When you’re finished with your tools and after they’ve been cleaned and dry, they should be put away in a shed or a garage. Either hang items or stand them with the blade pointing up to prevent them from dulling against the ground. A great way to care for hand tools is to put them in a bucket or pot filled with sand. Mix in a little oil for further protection. Organize things so that your most-used tools are the easiest to reach, with lesser-needed tools placed further back.
Quality garden tools will offer years of service if properly cared for. Taking a few extra minutes after using them to make sure they’re properly cleaned, dried and stored will ensure that they last a long time. Most items should be fine if they’re sharpened just at the start of the gardening season.
The better the tools, the better the work. Having a well-cared-for outdoor space looks good and helps you feel great.