(Family Features) - Keeping garden tools in good working order not only makes gardening tasks easier, it can help plants thrive, too. Sharp hand pruners, for example, make cleaner cuts that heal more efficiently - which results in a healthier plant that can resist disease and natural stresses better.
Here are some maintenance tips that will keep your tools in tip-top shape.
Keep Tools Clean
The dirt, grass and debris that often gets left on garden tools dulls blades, makes the work more difficult, and can transfer disease from one plant to another. Hose down the metal parts of tools after each use - but be sure to dry them thoroughly. Use a stiff wire brush to clean off dried mud and debris. Clean off any tools used for chemical applications - the chemicals can erode metal. To remove rust from tools, use coarse steel wool. Soaking the tool in white vinegar first may also help remove stubborn rust.
Keep Tools Lubricated
When clean and dry, wipe metal parts of pruners, shears and loppers with an oily rag. Or, spray lightly with a penetrating oil such as WD-40. Fill a 5-gallon bucket with sand mixed with a quart of motor oil. After each use, store trowels, shovels and other digging tools in the sand to keep them clean and lubricated. Don't forget about wooden handles. Sand down any rough parts, then use a rag or old sock to rub linseed oil on the handles. Allow the wood to absorb the first coat before applying more.
Keep Tools Sharp
Make sure all tools are clean and rust free before starting the sharpening process. Finish the process with a light coat of lubricant.
- Shovels and Spades: Brace the shovel or spade well with C-clamps or in a vise. Using a coarse file that matches the contour of the blade - a flat file for that flat-faced spade and a half-round one for the curved shovel - file the beveled side only. Follow the angle of the bevel, pressing hard on the forward stroke, using the full length of the sharpening tool. The backstroke should be lighter to keep from breaking file teeth. Periodically dip the file in water to rinse off shavings. File to a working edge, about a 15 - 20 degree angle. You may need to run the file over the back of the blades to remove any burrs that have built up during sharpening.
- Pruners and Loppers: It may be necessary to disassemble pruners and loppers before sharpening. Sharpen the blades to a 40 - 45 degree angle with a metal file. Some gardeners prefer using three grits of diamond files - coarse, then fine, and finally extra fine to remove any burrs.