The best time to care for garden tools is now

Leslie Scharafanow

Chisago County 

Master Gardener in Training

If you’re like me, you are about out of energy this gardening season. All I want to do is put my gardens to bed and give my hands and back a break for a while. The last thing I’m thinking about is cleaning and sharpening my garden tools, but the end of the gardening season is the best time to do it.

In a class taught by Sam Darin, a volunteer at the Chisago Botanical Gardens, the following advice is given: A dull tool is a dangerous tool. Just like a dull knife in the kitchen, a dull tool is more likely to hurt you than a sharp one. And sharp tools are easier to use and don’t put as much strain on your hands and body says Don Nekrosius, of Oak Park, Ill., a University of Illinois Master Gardener.

“It’s a whole lot more fun to cut with something sharp than it is with something dull, and it’s better for your plants,” Nekrosius says. “Dull cutting tools can rip and shred plants, but a sharp tool makes a clean cut.”

Dirty tools can spread weed seeds and diseases around your yard and gardens, and we all know how disappointing it is to have to pull our much-loved plants because they’re showing signs of a disease.

On a nice late winter day when the sun is out and you want to get out and prune dormant shrubs or trees your tools will be clean and handy because you have not only cleaned and sharpened them but you’ve put them in their proper place in your shed or garage so they’re easy to find. And when spring arrives, your tools will in good condition and ready to go.

At a minimum, you want to remove the dirt with a rag, old paintbrush or toothbrush. You should also remove rust from the metal with a wire brush, steel wool or sandpaper. If your tool has sticky plant or tree sap on it, you can remove it with a little mineral oil or WD-40. At this point, it’s up to you whether you sharpen your tools yourself or you have it done by someone else. Your local hardware store will usually do it for a fee. If you have the time and are interested in learning how to do it yourself, you can look online for instructions.

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