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Johnson County

Research-based Information You Can Trust — Localized for your needs

Johnson County
11811 S. Sunset Drive
Suite 1500
Olathe, KS 66061

Office Hours:

Monday - Friday,
8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

(913) 715-7000
(913) 715-7005 fax

Map to our office

K-State Research and Extension is committed to making its services, activities and programs accessible to all participants. Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities may be requested by contacting Johnson County Extension at (913)715-7000. Notify staff of accommodation needs as early as possible.

Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service

K-State Research and Extension is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Garden Tool Care

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Garden tools and soapy waterTools are a necessity for a gardener. They help us do many tasks; from digging a hole, chopping out that pesky weed or snipping a bouquet of flowers for the table. What would we do without them? We would be lost. But for many of us we treat them with no respect. We leave them outside in the elements, standing in a corner or thrown in a heap covered with dirt and grime. That is no way to treat our investments, our most important garden accessory.  

Now that the season is over we might want to take some time and properly care for our garden tools. By doing so now, they will be in good shape when the spring gardening bug hits and we are chomping at the bit to get back outside and spend some time in the garden. As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  

Fix it or throw it out!
Washed garden tools with soapy waterWhile we’ve all used a broken tool for a lot of things, it’s always a poor substitute. They can also be downright dangerous. Resolve right now that you will replace that broken handle, repair that broken part, or just throw it out. Replacement handles can be purchased at hardware stores. Honestly I have found that sometimes it is more expensive to repair a handle than to just replace the entire tool.

Keep it clean
Rinsed and clean shovel and hoeSome might think dirt and mud protects your tools from the elements, it actually traps moisture causing rust and corrosion. Metal parts and blades can be washed with water to remove excess dirt. A wire brush is a great tool to help remove the hard, stuck on mud. Once clean, wipe the metal surfaces down with a protective oil coating. Wooden handles benefit from a coat of tung oil or linseed oil to help protect them. If the handles are rough or have splinters, give them a hand sanding first. There is nothing worse than getting a splinter.

Sharpen tools
Tool chest with hand toolsYou have probably heard it said that a dull blade is more likely to cut you than a sharp blade. Dull blades require more force that can lead to an accident. A sharp blade will create a clean cut which is better for the plant and also makes your life easier as less effort is needed. Take time to sharpen mower blades, knives, shovels, hoes, pruners or any other garden tool that slices or dices. Sharpening can be done at home with a grinder or a file with a little work. Many local hardware stores will sharpen tools for a few dollars if you prefer.

Give your tools a home!
5-gallon bucket with tool caddyI should be the last one to give this recommendation. Please don’t talk to my wife. She will tell you I have tools scattered through the garage and basement. But if you create a designed space it is helpful for locating them when you need them for the task. There are many wonderful solutions to garden tool storage, from simple and easy such as a designed bucket to detailed racks and panels. Pick something that fits your needs. In my defense, my shovels go into a bucket of sand which keeps them clean, all the hand garden tools are in my bucket and assorted rakes hang on the wall.

Keep a wish list
As they say “Christmas is coming.” What guy or gal does not need a new tool? It seems you just never have the right one for a job. Take a few minutes and make a tool wish list. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming. A list of desired tools can come in handy when its birthdays, anniversaries, or Christmastime. Be ready when opportunity presents itself. We often forget what we need when asked.

Take some time to properly clean and store your tools as it not only protects your investment but in the long run makes your life so much easier.

K-State Research and Extension Johnson County Master Gardener logo

Have questions? The Garden Hotline is staffed by trained EMG volunteers and Extension staff who will assist you with questions.

Phone: (913) 715-7050

Email: garden.help@jocogov.org