CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Every year, the same questions. How do I store my (substitute any of the following): Hand tools? Bulbs? Lawn mower? Clay pots? Outdoor furniture? Hoses?
Here's a rundown of some tried-and-true tips.
Roger Swain, the folksy public television gardening great, calls hand tools "the gardener's most permanent possessions, but only if they are cared for." He suggests first cleaning every metal surface, as rust will form under that dirt over the winter. Use water, if necessary, and then let dry. Coat the bare metal with a layer of spray lubricant.
Go ahead and sharpen your pruners, loppers and shears with a whetstone. Sharpen shovels with a metal file -- it makes digging so much easier!
Hang up your tools, if possible. It saves space, and it saves the tools from getting wet on the floor of the tool shed.
Summer-flowering bulbs are a treat, but special care is often needed to ensure you'll have them blooming next year. The easiest way to store any bulb is to leave it in the ground.
However, our area can be colder than the bulb's requirements, so the bulbs may die if left in the ground. (But, if you can store a bulb outdoors, and imitate its natural environment, it will bloom much better for you than digging it up and storing it indoors.) Read the packaging for your bulbs before planting so you'll know if you need to leave them in place or dig them up.
If digging is required, dry the bulbs before you store them. Don't store them in your refrigerator -- the ethylene given off by fruits such as apples can lead to bud distortion in some bulbs. Store them in dry peat moss, dry sand or dry vermiculite. Store in a dry location, and make sure they aren't in a spot where rodents roam.
Dig up cannas, crocosmia, dahlia, caladium (elephant ears) now, clean off dead foliage, and get them into storage.
Read the user's manuals. The basics: clean all surfaces, spray lubricate bare metal. For four-cycle engines, run until it is warm and then drain and replace the oil and clean the air filter. Then run until the gas is gone or add a gas stabilizer. For two-cycle engines, you can skip the oil change.
Mildew will form if any moisture is left on fabric cushions or umbrellas. Allow to dry completely before storing. Spray car wax can be used on plastic chairs and tables. It also helps keep stacking chairs from sticking in the spring.
For wood furniture, be sure to clean and treat any stains before covering in plastic for the winter. Cast-iron furniture can withstand the elements, but check for rust. Sand and repaint any rusted spots.