EXPERT GARDENING TIPS — Garden tool maintenance can have you made in the shade

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, August 30, 2023

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Rain seems but a fond memory for SETX and it’s difficult to remember our last “significant” rain fall event.

Most of us are waiting for daytime temperatures to moderate from triple digits to what local meteorologist call “more typical SETX summer temperature”-the 90’s. As we await the return of ‘normalized’ weather patterns, let’s discuss opportunities to make the best use of our gardening time.

Garden tool maintenance clearly isn’t a “glamorous” gardening topic but is necessary since garden tools are the “backbone” of almost every gardening task.

Garden tools can either aid gardeners by making chores more efficient (meaning less time necessary to complete) or make gardening tasks more difficult, less efficient and requiring more time.

Fun Fact: Did you know that ‘water gardens’ represent one of the oldest forms of gardening and that Egyptian records prove water lilies were cultivated 2000 BCE.

For most gardeners, cooler weather is our “signal” that it’s time to begin other (mundane) gardening tasks, such as lawn and garden tool maintenance, garden hose inspection and repair and winterizing tools.

Some gardeners-okay, most gardeners, “conveniently or selectively” forget the importance of caring for garden tools. Many of us (me included) choose to simply “knock off the soil” and put the gardening tools away once fall arrives-thinking all is good!

Well, I’m here to tell you, this is not a good habit, it’s a “terrible” practice!

As we continue our experience with a “Texas” summer, perhaps now is the time to make garden tool maintenance a priority?

As an incentive to persuade each of you (escalating prices), garden tools are no exception and prices have continued to increase dramatically! A modest effort on your part will go a long way and be cost-effective.

Maintenance will ensure garden tools are in good working order, sharpened and ready-for-use (whenever needed), and will last much longer, especially necessary once fall & spring arrive.

So, find a shady spot and give your garden tools and lawn equipment some much needed TLC, as tools make your gardening life much easier. Here are some tips on how to keep them in great shape.

Care & Maintenance

The simple fact is lawn and garden tools will deteriorate. Time will take its toll on garden tools, as do tool use, frequency of use, exposure to the elements, and moisture combined with soil aid in the oxidation of metal (rust).

Thorough cleaning and proper care will keep each tool in good working condition, while extending the tool’s service life.

Begin tool maintenance by removing dried, crusted soil with a wire brush, followed by rinsing in clean water, allowing the tool to dry thoroughly. It is sometimes necessary to soak extremely dirty tools in water for an hour to loosen encrusted debris.

Sharpen dull tools (shovels, hoes, bypass pruners, loppers, etc.) using a file or whetstone. Hold the tool securely at a 45-degree angle, start sharpening the tool from the outer edge, moving toward the center.

Use fine grit sandpaper and steel wool to remove rust. Once rust is removed coat the metal surfaces with oil (vegetable).

Inspect garden tool wooden handles closely, if splinters are evident, sand lightly with fine sandpaper, removing dust once completed. Using linseed oil or paste wax, apply a thin layer, or light coating to the wood handles to preserve them and prevent cracking, splitting, and splintering.

To further deter rust from forming on garden hand tools, store hand trowels and other small tools in a bucket containing sand which has been saturated with used oil.

Once rust has been removed, hang rakes, hoes, and shovels in an easy-to-access location.

Garden hoses need to be thoroughly inspected for leaks and cracks while under pressure. Once inspected, drain, and relocate into an area out of the weather. Repair leaks using a hose repair kit or replace leaky fittings which can be purchased from a local home and garden center or hardware store. Hose repair is easy with minimal effort, cost, and time commitment.

Finally, the hardest working garden tool is the lawn mower. Clean and sharpen the blades which can rust or simply replace the blades. Change the oil and oil filter (utilize the spent oil into the bucket containing sand, to store garden hand tools). Avoid storing gasoline in mowers over winter, either drain the gasoline and use in another gasoline powered tool or add a fuel stabilizer to mitigate residual gums from forming in the fuel line, injectors, and carburetor.


Store tools in a clean, dry area. Tools can be stored on shelves, racks, or simply leaned up against a wall.

Do not store tools that have wooden handles with wood in contact with soil, concrete, or the outside environment.

Every gardener knows quality garden tools are expensive. If you take good care of them, they will contribute to many years of productive, cost-effective gardening.

So long for now fellow gardeners, let’s go out and grow ourselves a greener, more sustainable world, one plant at a time.

Send all comments and questions to John Greene at