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Now’s the time to winterize your garden tools

Published: Thu, November 22, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m.

By LuAnn Haddad

OSU Ext. master gardener


It is hard to say goodbye to the garden. So much energy and time spent in planning, planting and maintaining. But even as the plants die back and the weather turns cold and blustery, there is one more chore to complete – winterizing the garden tools.

A little work now will prevent expense, repairs and frustration next spring. Clean and well-maintained tools will make the work so much easier when we are ready to dig into a new growing season. Following are a few of the most important tasks to complete before storing them away.

Basic tool repairs

Our gardening hand tools are essential to our daily work in the garden and now is the time to carefully inspect and repair them. Clean all the caked-on soil and debris off using a wire brush or strong stream of water. Allow to thoroughly dry and use a spray-on oil such as WD-40 to prevent rust on bare metal parts.

Check the handles for any bent or broken parts, then tighten any loose screws or connections. Inspect wooden handles for splinters and use a medium grit sandpaper to smooth them out. Once smooth, wipe wooden handles with linseed oil to prevent cracking and drying. Now may be the time to add bright red or orange tape on the handle so it is easy to find. Blades that are used for cutting should be sharpened, following manufacturer’s directions.

Care of watering equipment

Hoses should be completely drained, disconnected from the spigot and loosely coiled. Avoid hanging over nails or allowing kinks to remain as this may create permanent damage. Soaker hoses should be scrubbed and flushed out before storing.

Large equipment

Wheelbarrows, carts, kneeling benches and any other large equipment should all be thoroughly cleaned and dried. A scrub with a stiff bristled brush and a little dish detergent is all you need to get these items cleaned.


This is a final but important step in preparing equipment for next year. Bacteria, fungi, and insects can ruin our gardens. Penn State University suggests disinfecting by dipping or swabbing with a 70 percent alcohol, such as rubbing alcohol, and allow to dry without rinsing.

For details on caring for specific tools, visit go.osu.edu/toolcare.

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