How To: Prepare Your Yard Equipment

Yard and gardening tools and equipment can get expensive — as new homeowners facing their first spring have experienced! A brand-name lawn mower can be $300 and higher; then there are the sheers, saws, leaf-blowers, lawn bags, sprinkler systems, hoses, and the list goes on. Knowing how to care for your lawn and garden tools goes a long way to prolonging their life and minimizing your costs.

The key is to find ways to keep garden tools and yard equipment rust-free, sharpened and mechanically sound. Having a maintenance routine is helpful. Not only does the routine keep you on track, but your garden tools will stay in working order and have a longer life.

Here are some preseason tips to get your yard equipment ready for the spring and summer months.

Lawnmower:

If the machine isn’t push-powered or electric, you’ll need to change the oil before first use. Be sure to empty the gas tank before lifting the mower. Disconnect the spark plug wire before starting this job. If the spark plug is old, you may want to consider replacing it.

Check the air filter. If the filter is a honeycomb or accordion-type paper filter, use an air compressor to blow out the dust so the filter can do its job. If that doesn’t do the trick, consider replacing the filter. If the filter is made of foam, then wash it in warm soap and water to remove the dirt and debris. Be sure to air dry it before replacing it. A good trick for foam filters: coat the filter in mower oil. To do this, put one or two tablespoons of oil in a ziplock bag, drop in the filter, then seal and toss. Blot the filter with a paper towel to remove excess oil. The oil helps trap dust particles and keeps the foam from cracking and shredding in higher temperatures.

Remember to tighten bolts and sharpen the blade before adding gas. Now your lawnmower is ready for use.

Pruners:

These handheld tools are used for a variety of jobs in the garden. As a result, they will come into contact with a variety of plants — and plant problems. To keep pruners at their best, be sure to wipe down the blades with a dry rag after each use. To prolong the life of your pruners, add a squirt of WD-40 to the rag before you wipe down the blades; this helps remove sticky debris such as sap from the blades.

Prior to first use, applying a lubricant to the tool’s joints will relieve the stiffness and make them easier to use effectively in your garden.

Chainsaw:

A chainsaw is an incredibly versatile garden tool, but it also requires regular upkeep. Typical chainsaw maintenance includes:

  • Checking the chain tension (consult your owner’s manual for the right specs)
  • Cleaning the air filter (check the filter every 8 hours of use; clean it with a soft bristle brush or warm soapy water and allow to air dry before reinserting into the chainsaw)
  • Confirming the use of proper fuel and oil (be sure to fill the gas tank with the right fuel mixture based on your owner’s manual specifications; do the same with the oil)
  • Keeping the chain sharp (consult your owner’s manual for the right way to sharpen your chainsaw’s blade)

Regular upkeep is key to keeping yard equipment operational

Consider the entire life cycle of your yard equipment. For instance, a lawnmower blade needs to stay sharp in order to cut the grass properly; however, neglecting to clean and sterilize these blades could introduce problems into your yard. When tools are exposed to soil or plants with fungal, insect, or bacterial infestations, problems can spread around your garden. To save yourself bigger issues down the road, be sure to take a few minutes to clean and care for your tools.

Here are a few things to keep in mind for proper maintenance:

  • Give your shears and pruners a good scrub with soapy water and a nail brush.
  • Rinse your digging tools with a garden hose and putty knife or a wire brush to eliminate caked-on dirt.
  • If you suspect that your tools were exposed to infected soil or diseased plants, soak them in a mixture of 1 gallon of water and 2 cups of bleach. After a few minutes, rinse them off with water or wipe the tools with cotton pads soaked in rubbing alcohol.
  • Always have a bucket full of sand mixed with plant-based oil (like linseed oil) somewhere in your garage or shed to treat all your metal tools. Ensure that the sand is damp, not wet. Dip your tools in the mixture a few times to clean them, or after regular maintenance when the tools have dried. This will help to protect the metal from corrosion and rust.
  • Remember to dry your tools with a rag or towel after each use.
  • Store your tools in a safe, dry, and well-ventilated area. Consider storing your smaller tools in a bucket of small pebbles or a bucket of sand, while your larger tools should be stored or hung upside down to help keep the blades sharp.
  • To remove bacteria, sap, or fungus from your tools, use disinfecting wipes to clean them on the go.
  • Never use petroleum products like motor oil since the tool may introduce harmful chemicals into the soil.