We’re well into spring, and it's peak planting and gardening season all across South Africa. Now is the perfect time to make sure that your gardening tools are in good working order.
Clean, maintain and store gardening tools correctly, and you'll extend their life spans. Tools in good condition will also serve you well, making gardening jobs easier, safer and less time-consuming.
Cleaning your tools isn't just good for the tools – it's also important for the health of your garden. Plant diseases, fungi and insect eggs can be spread to other plants via dirty garden tools.
Tools such as spades and forks should be properly brushed off after every use. Other tools, such a pruning shears, might need a bit of extra work with a cloth to get dirt out of the mechanisms.
Caked on dirt or sap can be removed with dishwashing liquid and a scourer or brush. Any rust can be easily removed with steel wool or a wire brush.
If you rinse your tools, always allow them to dry completely before packing them away or oiling them.
Oiling your tools will help to prevent rust and, in case of shears, will help them operate more efficiently.
Motor oil is a particularly effective and inexpensive rust preventer. Apply the oil in a thin layer over the exposed metal with a cloth, after cleaning.
Shears, loppers and pruners need to be sharpened periodically as well. To do this, disassemble them, clean off any rust or dirt and then sharpen the blades using a whetstone and a few drops of oil. Focus on the bevelled side and drag the edge along the whetstone towards you, as if you were trying to shave a thin sliver off the surface.
Some other tools, such as hoes and spades, also need a bit of sharpening when they become too dull to work properly. This is best done with a metal file and without oil, which can clog the file’s serrations. Repeatedly pass the file over the edge you want to sharpen in one stroke, away from your body.
Whenever possible, gardening tools should be stored indoors in a shed or garage. If some of your tools have to stand outside, pick a spot with some cover so they are out of the rain.
Consider some of our favourite, clever ways to store gardening tools.
A storage bench can serve two purposes; extra outdoor seating and a safe place to store your gardening tools. This is especially useful if you don’t have space for a shed. Even better, it’s DIY!
Tool rack (for indoors or outdoors)
With a length of wood and a couple of brackets, you can make this simple gardening tool rack in less than an hour. Find the instructions here.
Potting table or bench
A potting table or bench can double up as storage, especially for things like extra pots, compost and soil.
Garage or shed storage
Utilising the walls of your garage or shed with clever storage ideas is a great way to store your tools so that they are out of the way but also safe and secure.
There are lots of clever and creative ways to store your hosepipe so that it is protected from the sun and doesn’t end up tangled or underfoot.
Offsite storage of gardening tools
If you have tools or supplies that you use less frequently, such as a chainsaw, extra ladders or rolls of shade cloth or fencing, it makes sense to store these items offsite in a secure self-storage unit until you next need them.