Winterizing Garden Tools

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Posted by @paulgrow on
All of the leaves have been raked and added to the compost; frost has put all of the plants to sleep for the winter. The outdoor furniture has been covered or moved into the garage. We still have one final task to accomplish before completing our outdoor work for the season. We need to winterize those tools, both power and manual, to ensure they will be ready to go in the spring

I like to create a checklist and prioritize the tasks in sequence.

I prepare the tools that I won’t be using for the rest of the season; I clean and store them so they will be out of the way.

Let’s begin with hand tools: shovels, hoes, rakes etc.

Remove all dried or caked-on dirt with a wire brush, rinse and dry thoroughly. (Soak especially dirty tools in water first.)

Sharpen dull tools using a whetstone or file. Working at a 45-degree angle, start at the outer edge and move toward the center.

Sand off any rust spots with fine sandpaper or steel wool, and coat the metal with vegetable oil.

Wipe a light coating of linseed or vegetable oil on wooden handles to preserve them and to prevent cracking or splitting.

I like to keep a bucket of sand with a couple of quarts of motor oil added to it. Every once in a while insert your shovels, forks, etc. The abrasive sand removes rust and debris; the oil prevents rust from forming.


Store hand trowels and other small tools in a bucket of sand soaked in oil to further deter rust, and hang rakes and shovels in an easy-to-access spot.

Pruners, loppers, pruning saws: remove any rust with a wire brush; pruners and loppers can be sharpened with a whetstone. Nicks can be removed with a fine file. Take pruning saws to your local hardware for sharpening. Apply a light coat of oil to prevent rust. Many of your finer pruners such as Felco have replaceable parts; this is the perfect time to disassemble, clean and replace worn out parts.

2011-10-08/paulgrow/fdbf46 2011-10-08/paulgrow/125558
  Pruners need    maintenance        Replaceable parts

Power equipment, mowers, blowers, tillers, chain saws, etc: there are two schools of thought about overwintering fuel. Some say you should drain the tank completely and run the fuel out of the system. The second says to add fuel stabilizer to the fuel. I like to run the fuel out of 2 cycle (oil mixed with gas) and use a stabilizer with 4 cycle (straight gas). Tip: I use a turkey baster from the dollar store to remove any remaining gas in the tank. Avoid storing gasoline over the winter. Old gasoline does not ignite easily, making the machines using it work harder. Use a hose and wire brush to remove caked-in soil and grass clippings. Check your mower blade for nicks or chips. Sharpen or replace as warranted.  Inspect the wheels and height adjusters; clean and oil as necessary.

   Fuel Stabilizer

Check the chain on the chainsaw, sharpen or replace if necessary. I like to keep an extra chain on hand just in case one breaks in the middle of a job. I recommend changing spark plugs yearly. For a few dollars each, the cost outweighs the inconvenience of a hard-starting or non-starting tool.

Sprayers used for insect, disease, and weed control should be thoroughly washed and rinsed. Most pesticides recommend triple rinsing. This includes all parts of the sprayer from the holding tank to the nozzles. Apply oil to moving parts as required; follow the directions provided for your particular sprayer. Fertilizer spreaders should be washed thoroughly as well.

Wheelbarrows, carts and wagons need attention before winter. Clean them thoroughly and touch up paint chips with spray paint to prevent exposed steel from rusting. Grease wheels to prevent squeaking.

While hoses don't need a great deal of care, the care that we provide is important if we want them to last. Rule one--don't kink the hose. Any kink becomes a weak point in the hose and kinks restrict water flow. Quite often the hose will crack in those locations. Store hoses on hose supports or reels, or coil loosely rather than hanging them on nails. Hose supports or reels prevent sagging and kinking. Before storing hoses away for the winter, drain all the water from them and store in a dry location.


Last but not least, wheel out the snow blower, fuel it up and make sure it starts. There’s nothing more frustrating than waking up to the first snowfall and finding the snow blower won't start.



Good tools are expensive. Take good care of yours and they'll contribute to many years of productive gardening.


Comments and Discussion
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Great blog to look for suggestions on gardening! by dorisamurray Apr 7, 2017 3:31 PM 0
Good article, timely subject by SongofJoy Oct 29, 2013 11:46 AM 8
Thanks by mollymistsmith Oct 20, 2011 2:08 PM 2
Protecting wooden handles with mineral oil & beeswax by RickCorey Oct 19, 2011 11:41 AM 0
wd-40 by rebeccag Oct 19, 2011 11:38 AM 2
Time to get started by valleylynn Oct 18, 2011 6:27 PM 0

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