S - Spring Cleanup


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on this page: S - Spring Tools and Equipment Cleanup
Every gardener has a different opinion about how things should be done. An example is a favorite saying from one of my good gardening friends: "You get three gardeners in one room - fist fight!". While I don't completely agree with Gerry - I know that there is always more than one way to approach a subject. I hope that we can provide you with some useful information, and some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
Porcelain Berry Vine
Photo by Louise Peacock Copyright reserved
This page was updated Dec 28/99 
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Spring - Tools and Equipment Cleanup

By The Garden Commando

When you look out the window and see snow on the ground, and your outdoor thermometer tells you its minus 20 Centigrade, you do not generally feel very enthusiastic about gardening. However, believe it or not - the cool, unfriendly late Winter or very early Spring weather is just the time for you to be getting organized for the "Real Gardening" time. This early preparation allows you to enjoy the relatively short season, with fewer annoying tasks to perform and more "plant time".

Tools
Most of us tend to forget about things like cleaning and sharpening our tools. This is a very important step in getting ready. (You probably never thought about sharpening your straight edge spade, or your edger tool.) Edging a flower or vegetable bed can go a lot faster if your spade or edging tool is sharp. Many of you just keep on using your pruning shears, knives
and loppers - year after year - and never even think to wipe the blades down with grease, never mind sharpen them.

Sharp tools are important, and make doing the job a lot faster. For example, when pruning, it is not desirable to make a ragged or ripped cut, and this is what you get with dull pruning equipment.

Pruners, Spades and Hoes
If you have a "workshop" and a bench, you can do a lot of this work ourself. You will need a grinding tool, or a metal file with which to sharpen tools.

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1. Clean all your pruners, spades and hoes. Make sure that all loose dirt is removed. 
     (I usually wash mine under a high power hose nozzle, then dry them off with an old towel.)
2. Bring them in and sharpen them on your bench. (Make sure that you use safety goggles when doing this job.)
3.  Make sure that all the moving parts are functioning freely. It does not hurt to put a squirt of machine oil on the moving parts. 

If you come across a set of shears or pruners that is rusty and stuck, you can squirt on some penetrating oil, and leave it for a bit. When the rust is loose, you wipe it off - along with excess oil - wrap in a soft cloth and put away the tool.

If you are using hooks for hanging your tools, just slip the tool into a plastic bag, cloth wrapping and all. Secure the neck of the bag with an elastic band, leaving the loop on the handle visible, then hang tool as usual.

When tools are sharpened, wipe them down with a rag dipped in lithium grease. (Make sure that you do this job on a newspaper and take care when you are returning them to the tool shed!)

4.  If you do not have a wall rack for your tools, you may want to consider making one. It really is not that hard. You can use a sheet of pegboard (most construction supplies stores have them), and there are special hanging devices for all different types of tool. You just insert these into the peg board, and then you have a permanent, neat storage space for your pruners, (and spades and other tools).
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Gardening Equipment
You lawn mower, roto-tiller and wood-chipper also all need attention. All these pieces of equipment have blades that should be sharpened, and various moving parts that will benefit from being cleaned and oiled. The mower blades should be sharpened a minimum of once per season - either after the last cut in the fall, or before the first cut in the spring. Dull blades tear and damage the grass blades, and give a sloppy cut.

If you are a do-it-your-selfer, you can "winterize" the machine and sharpen the blades yourself. I am not, and find that  it is usually a good idea to have them professionally sharpened once per year, then you can have them "tweak" the mechanical, or motorized parts at the same time. 

Depending on the size of your lawn, and the number of rocks you run over (rocks and other hard objects can nick and dull the blades, which is why you should always rake your lawn prior to mowing), you should be sharpening your mower blades from two to eight times during the season.

If the mower and other equipment is gas powered, you need to siphon out the last of the gas, then drain the oil pan. This is really important in order to avoid deterionation of various internal parts. (For really expert information on this, go to a small engine specialist.) If you do not have a siphon, at least make sure that you "run" the engine dry to get rid of as much of the old gas as possible.  A good plan to avoid "stale" gas, is to use a gas freshener chemical - available at your hardware store or at your small engine repair shop.

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Hoses
A piece of garden equipment that often gets sadly neglected is the hose. Over the Winter months, we often either leave it lying about in pile near the tap, or even rolled up on its hose minder, but we rarely bother with it otherwise.

This time of year is a good time to review your hoses, watering cans, hose attachments and sprinklers. (You will also want to make sure you have a working hose-end sprayer attachment.) Have a look at these items and make sure all are in good repair. If they are not, bring them inside and clean and fix them, or replace if broken.

Also, do not forget to turn off the valve to the outside water. This is a good precaution for the cold weather, and also avoids problems with dripping taps, or careless workman leaving outside faucets running.

In the late fall, before freeze-up, and after you have given your evergreens their last watering - you need to disconnect, and unroll your hose. (From personal experience, this job is best done on a nice, warm sunny day. The hose will be more pliable, and much easier to handle.) Pull it out to its full length and let it drain - preferably on a downhill grade!

Once you are sure all the water has drained from the hose, you can roll it up in a manageable coil, or roll in onto your hose minder (so long as it is the type you can detach from the wall). You should then bring the hose into the garage, your tool shed or the basement to help preserve it.

Both expensive, and inexpensive hoses will benefit from good care, and are likely to last much longer if you look after them.

Sprinkler attachments, timers, and the snap-on/off type of hose attachments are best brought into the garage, tool shed or basement. Some of the snap-on variety are very susceptible to changes in temperature, and may crack. Water "computers" and timers do not withstand the vagaries of harsh winters.

Bibliographical Info.

References to spring cleanup are based on my own, personal experiences with my garden and client gardens.
 

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