Just a few simple items will help garden tools last for years. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: A gardener only as good as their tools

I wish I’d paid more attention to my garden tools when I was younger.

By Mary Lowther

I wish I’d paid more attention to my garden tools when I was younger. I bought them second hand and clearly the only reason some of them have lasted this long is because the original owners bought quality tools and knew how to look after them. I knew enough to bring them undercover when it rained but that was the extent of my tool maintenance because common sense was not one of my strong points.

The first inkling that I might need some brushing up came when I hired myself out as a gardener, pretending to know what I was doing. Why not, it had worked so far with motherhood. When I arrived the second day at one customer’s home, he took me to his tool shed and confided in me: “Look at that. Someone didn’t clean the dirt off the tools before putting them away yesterday.” I had figured that since I was only going to get them dirty again they didn’t need to be cleaned off every day. I’ve learned a lot since then.

Moisture in the soil can rust tools, even when it looks dry, so now I keep a brush and rag near where I store my tools so it’s easy to clean them off after every garden session. The wheelbarrow that we bought from a wise man who always stored it under cover, lives undercover here too in the winter. Brush off any dirt and wipe down everything, including the wheel and axle.

Now is a good time to check for cracks and nicks in the wooden parts; cracks will need to be repaired or the parts replaced unless you want a nasty event to ruin a perfectly good gardening day in the future. Sand down all the wooden parts and rub them with oil to help preserve the wood. I use tung oil because it penetrates very well and seals the wood to keep out moisture. Any oil is better than none, but it doesn’t take much. I pour a bit on a rag and rub the wood with that. Scrub out the barrel well, sanding down any rust spots and touch up the paint. My wheelbarrow wasn’t painted so, although I couldn’t find any recommendation, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to rub it down with an oily rag. Squirt a bit of WD 40 into the axle and check the tire for air.

Clean off all the rest of the tools, checking for cracks and nicks and rust spots, making sure they’re all in working order. I follow the same regimen as for the wheelbarrow and sharpen the shovel, hoe, secateurs and linoleum knife. Neiser’s Sales in Lake Cowichan will do a dandy job sharpening these tools also. I spray WD 40 on the working joints, rubbing it into the rest of the metal, and rub tung oil on wooden handles.

If you need a new tool, you’ve got all winter to get one. Check out garage sales and our own Home Hardware store for sales. If they don’t have what you’re looking for in the store, they can probably order it for you.

Events:

Christmas Wreath Making Workshop at Dinter Nursery, four dates:

Nov. 24, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Nov. 25, Sunday, 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Nov. 28, Wednesday, 9:30 a.m.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

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