Caring for your garden tools

Caring for your garden tools

Hand and power tool maintenance

When we purchase things for our home, we want to make sure that the items look and behave their best for as long as possible. We’ll do things to maintain their good condition, and take some pride in them – so why not take the same care with the garden tools we invest such a lot of cash in?

As a beginner gardener I’d kick myself for leaving out a good trowel in the rain, which would likely rust quicker and need replacing, or for mauling a healthy plant with a blunt blade… it doesn’t have to be this way! Gardening equipment can be pricey, so we want to keep it in good nick for as long as possible. It pays to set aside a bit of time regularly to maintain your gardening tools – your plants and your pocket will thank you!

  • If you’re conscious of any existing tools that are very dull, it’s perhaps best to replace them altogether and vow to take better care next time.
  • Delicate plants can be injured by a dull blade, which can leave the flesh prone to infection. Regular sharpening helps keep your shovel and trowel blades singing sharp! Invest in a whetstone or very fine grade metal file from a gardening centre, and oil your blade before and after sharpening. Please take care when sharpening your tools and always protect your hands.
  • It’s important to clean soil and other detritus from your tools before putting them away for storage. This is doubly important if you’ve used your tools for applying fertilisers or other chemicals. You could use a sturdy brush or even a hose to clean them, just…
  • Make sure you never put your tools away wet. Keep an old towel in your garden shed to wipe down the blade and the handle, too – just as metal can rust, wood can rot.
  • After drying, it’s a good idea to spray or wipe your tool blades with a penetrating oil like WD40.
  • One of my favourite tricks is to fill a large bucket with fine sand, and drench that sand with motor oil. You’ll be able to slide your shovels, trowels etc into the sand after cleaning, leaving them covered with just enough oil to protect the blade from rust. Leave the bucket in the corner of your shed, and you can use it as a shovel stand too!
  • Don’t neglect tool handles – often made of wood, the handles can really benefit from occasional application of linseed oil. Use a rag to apply one coat, then leave to dry before adding another.
  • Power tools benefit from a bit of TLC too. Check the whole length of the flex before each use, making sure there’s no cuts or wear. Oil the blades using a spray oil to really get those hard-to-reach areas, and turn on the tool afterwards to make sure the oil penetrates.
  • Finally, it’s best not to leave your tools outside for any length of time if you can help it. Even in a small garden, I’d advise getting a small outside storage unit if you don’t have a shed or greenhouse. These can be picked up for a song online, fitted with locks if necessary, and are a great way of protecting your tools from the elements.