Garden tool maintenance

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Oct 28, 2013
One last burst of energy – that’s all that’s needed before gardening is done for the year.

Once the annuals are pulled from the flower beds, once the spring flowering bulbs are planted, once the leaves are raked up, once the perennials are cut back, and once the lawn is mowed for the final time before winter, there is only one more chore to complete.

It is crucial to take care of lawn mowers and hand tools before winter storage. The reasons are simple. This step helps sustain the life of the implement. And, it makes getting started in the spring that much easier.

When doing fall maintenance on a riding or walk-behind power mower, the manufacturer’s manual should be within easy reach to check and re-check all directions before taking on each task.

For riding mowers remove the ignition key and unplug the spark plug before starting on the maintenance of the machine. Clean the mower, as well as the grass catcher, with a brush or cloth to remove all debris. Clean out the underside of the mower, but do not use a hose to accomplish this unless the manufacturer’s manual notes this is acceptable.

If the mower blade needs sharpening this is the time to take on this task. Follow the manual’s instructions to remove the blade, and then sharpen it or have it sharpened. While the blade is off, clean underneath the deck to remove accumulated grass clippings. Carefully follow all the directions in the owner’s manual provided by the manufacturer. In the long run this will save time and money.

Again while the mower is disengaged (ignitions key removed, spark plug disengaged) clean the dirt and debris from the oil fill area. Drain the old engine oil. Replace the oil filter. Add new oil. Turn the mower on and run it briefly to let the new oil lubricate the engine’s internal parts.

Other tips for mowers include replacing the fuel and air filters, lubricate the mower, replace belts if necessary and replace the spark plug if necessary. Depending on the brand, some mowers should be stored with the fuel tank full and others with an empty tank.

Walk-behind power lawn mowers require many of the same steps before winter storage. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions provided in the manual and don’t hesitate to call the company or the retailer if the directions are unclear.

Care of hand tools before winter storage is much simpler than caring for mowers. Remove all soil from the tools. If washing is required, make sure they are thoroughly dried when finished. If extra elbow grease is needed, consider using a wire brush to clean the tools. Those tools with wooden handles should be reenergized by treating with linseed oil. Sharpen the cutting edges of hand tools, including trowels, shovels, clippers and hoes.

Make sure rust has been removed from the tools. Cleaning the tools is important not only as a means of protecting an investment, but also because it eliminates the chance of spreading plant diseases or viruses found in the soil when used next year.

Now the chores are done and it’s time for the easy chair.