Rust is the Enemy

A sunny day in February is a great time to begin thinking about your garden. Just in case you didn’t have time to clean your tools before the harsh winter set in, that should be one of the first things you consider. With the exception of the dry south west USA, rust on tools is almost unavoidable. Clean, sharp tools will make your garden work easier.

  • Wash the dirt off your tools at the end of each gardening day. Most dirt will come off with a squirt of a hose. If the dirt had dried hard, soak the tool in water for a few minutes and scrub with a good stiff brush. Any tools that are used to cut plants should be wiped down before and after use with a mild bleach solution to prevent the spread of diseases. Dry with a cotton rag, never put away wet.
  • Dull tools make the work harder. After cleaning, every tool should be sharpened. This can be done with a file or a rotary sharpening device attached to your drill. Apply a drop of WD 40 and file at a 20-45 degree angle following the bevel of each tool. Use a whetstone for finer finishing. Always file in one direction, sharpening both front and back of shovels and edgers and only one side on hoes.
  • Lubrication will stop rust and enhance tool movements. Some gardeners use a bucket of sand mixed with fresh motor or linseed oil to abrade and coat the surfaces on digging tools. A drop of 3 in 1 oil will lubricate pivot points on shears. Sharp, clean pruning shears will provide a cleaner cut and prevent plant diseases.  Replace any worn out parts and tighten any loose screws or bolts on moving parts, then lubricate.
  • Sand any rough spots on handles to reduce the chance of getting a splinter. A linseed oil wipe down on all wooden handles adds a protective coating. Broken handles can be easily replaced with a new one purchased at your local garden/hardware store. Simply remove the old screws or nails, replace the handle, and secure.
  • Store your tools inside away from moisture.  Hanging them on a pegboard will keep them organized, too.

Stainless steel tools are recommended

They will resist rust and continue to be useful for decades.


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