Tool Care Time ( Better Late than Even Later)

This was a day of cold and high wind: trees and tall grasses swaying, the black mesh deer fence rippling in waves, a low roar waxing and waning outside the office window, which being old kept admitting the sort of drafts that make you think of Dickens. Snow coming tonight, with wind chills we will not discuss.

But just last Sunday it was above 60, the moving air a balmy breeze, the kind of day that says “come out and garden,” even though there’s frost below the mud and a lot of dream-over-catalogs-duty between here and the bloom of the harebell

Hensol Harebell, a favorite columbine

Hensol Harebell, a favorite columbine

Yet if all the early pruning is done, if it’s too snowy to rake and the holiday evergreenery has already been laid protectively over the sleeping perennial beds, what exactly is there to do?

I don’t know about you, but what I did was tidy the (temporarily) pleasant to occupy garden shed.

In some ideal universe, that task has also been accomplished: all tools were cleaned and sharpened in fall. Every size pot was neatly stacked, inventory was carefully taken, the wish list duly given at Thanksgiving to relevant friends and relations. 


A few things that can be done any time and when spring comes you’ll be glad you did:  

* Wooden tool handles oiled

* Business end of tools scrubbed with a stiff brush to remove any clinging dirt. In the old days you would then plunge them in a bucket of sand saturated with used motor oil. Who knew? Actually, the sand works pretty well unsullied as long as it’s completely dry, but I wouldn’t bother with it unless my storage area was really damp. 

* Hoes, shears and spades sharpened. Past-help pruners designated official “beater-pruners,” the kind you cut wire with and otherwise abuse, knowing they will never again see living plant material. Bring them in and paint the handles something alarming like magenta or chartreuse. 

* Pesticides and fertilizers evaluated, anything dubious – well inconveniently NOT discarded. That has to wait for hazardous materials pickup day (in our neighborhood roughly twice a year and not right next door, either). But there’s no point in having useless products mixed in with the present arsenal when they could be set out of the way. And it’s good to know ahead of beetle time that you’re almost out of diatomaceous earth.

* Corral the hand tools and find a sturdy open container that will hold all of them: trowels, garden claws, dandelion digger, soil knife, pruning saw, hammer… 

* What about all those lonely left gloves – or right ones, as the case may be? My shed-cleaning turned up 3 separate glove piles, each containing many singletons. Got only one reunited pair but did reduce the grand total enough to fit them all in one basket.



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  • ruralway Said,

    Funny, I’ve had my No. 6 Felco prunners for more than 20 years. This fall they suddenly stopped working. Husband patiently took them apart, cleaned, oiled and sharpened the blades. Voila, like new. Now whenever I need to locate them, I find them in husband’s back pocket while his better sized prunners sit in the cady.
    BTW, there I was thumbing through an old Sheepers Kitchen Garden seed catalog and low and behold a recipe for Pasta and Peas-with your name attached to it. How fun. I didn’t know how famous you are! Happy New Year from RW ( Beth) in Upstate NY.

  • leslie Said,

    Thanks and happy New Year to you, Beth, and to your (from your comments, he sounds great) husband.

    May we all be oiled, sharpened and like new as we forge into ’09.

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