CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Many folks stow away their garden tools at the end of the season with little thought.
They put away the shovels and the hoes, the rakes and the mowers, and all the others crusted with dirt and grime from the gardening season. Out of sight and out of mind, the tools sit alone, crusted in crud, waiting longingly to feel your embrace again in the spring.
Then, when spring rolls around, you pull out the tools and put them straight to work with little thought for their care. They're just tools, after all.
What if I told you that your tools will last much longer and work much better if you take care of them and give them a little TLC before you put them away in the fall? The end of the season is the ideal time to do it, too. I bet that when you run out to the tool shed after that first sign of spring, you are so intent on gardening that you pay little attention to the state of your tools. Go ahead, admit it. I won't judge you (well, maybe just a little).
Clean, inspect, sharpen
Those tools have taken care of your garden needs all season, so it's a nice turnabout to take care of your tools. It could almost be like a tool's day at the spa.
The first, and actually most important, step in preparing your tools for storage is the cleanup. You'll want to remove any dirt and debris from the tools to make sure that you don't infect next year's garden with diseases or pests that happen to be hitching a ride. Dirt on tools can also hold moisture, which in turn leads to rusting. Clean hand tools with a steady spray of water from the garden hose, or wash with soapy water if necessary. Be sure to let the tools air dry or dry them with a cloth before storage.