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GardenSMART :: Tool Care for Winter

Tool Care for Winter

By Stan “The Rose Man” Griep, Master Consulting Rosarian, Rocky Mountain District of the American Rose Society
Photograph courtesy of Stan Griep

This is a great time of year to focus our attention on the tools we use in our rose beds and gardens. Take some time to clean all your garden tools well. Sharpen pruners and other tools so they will be ready to use in spring.

With the proper care those tools can last for years. The shovels we use in the gardens need some maintenance at least once a year. Clean the dirt off by giving them a good washing. Fill a 5-gallon bucket with warm, soapy water and place as many shovels as will fit. Depending on how dirty they are, they may need to soak for a long time. I usually soak mine for 20 to 30 minutes. Take them out one at a time and spray off with your hose end sprayer. Tough dirt or debris can be removed using either a putty knife or an SOS pad. Set them up against the house or garage wall to dry while you work on the others. This same cleaning method works for garden hoes, forks, and certain rakes. Some of the wider hard tooth and plastic rakes may need wide containers to hold the soapy water. The containers do not have to be deep, just deep enough to cover the rake head.

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I clean my pruners by wiping them well with some Clorox or Lysol wipes, being sure to get into all the little nooks and crannies. In some cases getting pruners and other hand tools clean involves taking them apart.

Once all the tools are clean and thoroughly dry, it is time to sharpen those that require sharpening. If you are not sure how to do the sharpening yourself, look in your phone book for Sharpening Services. It is well worth the money to have them professionally sharpened. Sharpening tools incorrectly not only shortens the life span of the tool but also makes it less efficient to use. Most sharpening services will also lubricate any tools that need it. Tools we sharpen ourselves need to be lubricated after sharpening. I spray all of my pruners and trimmers with either a silicone spray or some WD-40, let the excess drip off, and then store them away in a clean, dry place.

The wooden handles of shovels, hoes, rakes, and forks get wiped down with an oily cloth that I have pre-soaked with motor oil. A 10W-30 oil works well. Pour some in a small painters bucket and place an old but clean hand towel in to soak up the oil. Oiling can get messy, so do it over newspaper, including setting the oiled tools on newspaper to allow the excess oil to drip off. Once all excess oil is gone, hang them up or place them in a tool holder for the winter. A little time doing this maintenance now will be appreciated come spring when a tool can be grabbed and used immediately.

Don’t forget the lawn mower, tiller, edgers and electric trimmers as well. These items all need some maintenance to keep performing well. I cannot forget our handy snow blowers too. They may not be garden tools/equipment, but they are back-saving machines that need to perform well after a big snowstorm!

Enjoying our gardens is truly wonderful and the care we give them is what makes that possible, so let us not forget the tools that help us keep them in beautiful shape!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving from my rose beds and gardens to yours!

Author bio:With 40+ years of rose growing experience, Stan V. Griep is a Master Consulting Rosarian for the Rocky Mountain Region of the American Rose Society as well as the Denver and Loveland Rose Societies, a Colorado Native Rosarian, and is a member of the American Rose Society, The Denver Rose Society, and the Loveland Rose Society. He is a Cyber Consulting Rosarian for the American Rose Society, Colorado Gardening on-line and as well as a freelance writer and speaker. An award-winning photographer, his latest book is available at


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