Gardening requires appropriate garden tools to be certain your plants are at their best. However, how do we ensure these tools always work perfectly? For gardening tools to work best, they must be clean and sharp.
Regular maintenance of your gardening tools will help them last longer. Here’s an in-depth guide on the right way to keep them clean and sharp.
Benefits of Clean and Sharp Tools
Having a regular maintenance routine extends the life of your gardening tools, and also keeps them in good shape. Clean and sharp tools are also much more effective and efficient.
Gardening tools that are free from rust and bacteria will prevent infecting healthy plants with any disease. Dirt and other plant matter may harbour bacteria and fungi. Think about the germs that can lurk in the rust on your garden tools. Disinfecting and sanitising your garden tools is a must.
Types of Garden Tools
Here is a list of common gardening tools that most people will have on hand.
- Pruning Shear – Prune Shears have two bevelled edges at the top and bottom. It’s a type of scissors used to prune branches of trees and shrubs. Pruning your plants with poorly maintained tools can lead them to wilt or even stop them from growing.
- Garden Knife – a multi-purpose tool that is heavy serrated blade used for digging, weeding and cutting.
- Lawnmower Blade – The lawnmower blade is the cutting component of a lawnmower. Mowing your lawn with a dull blade takes much longer! The lawnmower blade will only tear the tip of the grass instead of cutting through, this means the grass will have a rough cut. Lawnmower blades should be sharpened twice each season.
- Shovel – Shovel is a wide, square metal or plastic blade with a deep scoop and pointed tip fixed to a medium-length handle. It is used for digging or moving loose materials such as soil.
- Spade – similar to a shovel, a spade is a tool for digging or cutting sand, turf, hard soil. A spade has a sharp-edged metal flat blade, typically rectangular, fixed to a long handle.
- Hoe – There are different types of hoe such as hula hoe, scuffle hoe, and loop hoe. A hoe is also used to remove weeds, loosen soil and harvest root crops. It has a sharp blade attached to a long handle that you can use in a backward or forward stroke.
- Rake – It is a broom with a row of teeth fixed transversely to a handle. It is used to clear debris like fallen leaves, weeds, dead plants and stones. This versatile tool has many uses aside from removing debris; you can also use it to rake lawns, level the ground surface, and scarify lawns.
- Hand Rake – A hand rake is a smaller version of a rake designed to be used close to the ground surface and in small spaces. It is used for picking up piles of leaves or removing debris under and around the plants gently without damaging the crowns.
- Trowel – A trowel is a small hand tool with a pointed scooped shape blade, similar to shovel. It is used for breaking up soil, or digging small holes. It can also be used to mix fertiliser, or transferring plants to pots.
- Hatchet – a smaller version of an axe, a hatchet is a short handled tool with a sharp blade on one side. It is used to chop tough roots, vines and small branches of wood.
Here’s What You’ll Need
With all your garden tools ready for cleaning, the next step is cleaning your tools. We have listed down the proper materials you need to clean and sharpen them.
- Old Rags or Towels
- Detergent or Dishwashing liquid
- Garden Hose
- Steel Wool
- Sandpaper (80 and 120 Grit)
- Scrub Brush
- Wire Brush
- Metal File
- Angle Grinder
- Bench Grinder
- Dust Mask
- Eye Protection
How To Clean & Sharpen
Now that you have the materials you need for cleaning and sharpening let’s begin by following each step.
Step 1: Clean
- Use a garden hose to wash off the dirt, grime, mud or soil.
- Scrub away the dirt and sap from the blades using a stiff brush with a detergent or dish soap.
- Rinse off with water and dry the blades with an old towel.
- Use steel wool (#3 semi-coarse) to buff off rust spots and any tough matter that remains. High grit sandpaper is also an excellent alternative to steel wool.
- Soak the tools in a container with rubbing alcohol Isopropyl (70%) diluted with water or disinfecting household cleansers like Lysol for at least 5 minutes. Remember that the container must be deep enough to soak the blades thoroughly.
- Rinse off the disinfectant with water.
- Wipe off dry with an old towel.
Step 2: Sharpen
The following steps in sharpening vary among the types of gardening tool.
For Pruning Shears, Knives and Hatchets
- File the edge in one direction to expose clean metal by using a coarse diamond file.
- Start at the inside of the blade, draw the file toward the tip in a curved motion.
- To further sharpen the bevelled edge, use a fine diamond file. Use the extra-fine diamond file and do the same over the back side of the blade.
- Lubricate or coat with oil.
For Lawnmower Blades
- Disconnect the spark plug of the lawnmower.
- Remove the blade from the lawnmower using a wrench. Spray lubricant oil if the bolt or nut is too tight.
- Lock the blade in place by clamping it on a vice.
- Sharpen the dull blade with a file in one direction: from inside of the blade toward the outside, following the side of the cutting edge. More or less you will need to do 50 strokes of filing.
Tip: Please do not make it as razor sharp as it will dull too quickly. The rule of thumb is that it should be as sharp as a butter knife.
- Optional: If you have a bench grinder you can also use it as an alternative to a file, however, you must be able to control it so the blade will not overheat which may cause damage to the blade.
- Lubricate or coat with oil.
For Shovels, Spades, Hoes, and Trowel
- Secure the tool tightly in a vice.
- File from the inside edge of the tool in a 45-degree angle using a file. A shovel has a single bevelled edge, remember not to sharpen the opposite side of the edge.
- Continue to sharpen with a few light strokes along the backside until you see a shiny bevelled edge appear
- Lubricate or coat with oil.
For Rake and Hand Rakes
- For rake and hand rakes, file downward in the direction of the edge. Use small files to reach around the tines.
- Lubricate or coat with oil.
Preventive Maintenance Is Just As Important
Clean and sharpen your tools once or twice a year. It’s also important to spend a few minutes to keep them that way after every use. To extend their life and help you save money from buying the same tool “again,” perform the following steps after use.
Protect Garden Tools From Rust and Corrosion
Cleaning your garden tools won’t prevent them from rust and corrosion. Here are ways that can help you prevent them from happening sooner.
Wash After Every Use
Always wash your gardening tool with water. Rinse off the dirt, grime, and sap.
Coat With Oil
A cooking oil, linseed oil or tung oil can be used to coat your garden tools. Olive oil is a great alternative too as it helps stave off the rust and slide off dirt more easily. The oil can also be used to condition the wooden handles to keep them from splitting.
Grinding Battered Tools
Not all gardening tools can be sharpened by a diamond file, especially the ones that are battered or have worn down. Use an electric grinder to sharpen battered tools like lawnmower blades to retrieve its keen edge.
Wipe Your Tools Dry
After washing any tool, wipe them dry with a rag or towel or let them dry in the sun before putting them away for storage.
Sterilise and Disinfect
One cut or scrape by a gardening tool from an infected plant can infect healthy plants too. Bacteria, fungi and other diseases can quickly spread throughout your garden so sterilising your gardening tools are essential.
Get Your Garden Tools Organised
Don’t just throw your gardening tools in the yard, or else it will take you too long to find them. Organise and care for your gardening tools just like your plants. Remember that it’s best to keep the gardening tools off the ground so that they won’t get damaged or cause someone to stumble.
Storage Tips for Your Garden Tools
The key to having your garden tools organised is to create storage for them, so everything stays in place. These tips below show some ways on how you can store them in unique ways.
Garden Tool Rack
Purchase a hanging rack or build one using a lumber wood, metal brackets, and screws.
Bucket of Oiled Sand
Fill a 5-gallon bucket with sand, then pour a full quart of new motor oil. The sand should be damp but not moist. Push the knife, shears, and all metal gardening tools into the sand. Voila! You have instant storage.
Shower Caddie (garden tools carry all)
Create a garden tool carryall with an old shower caddie you’re no longer using at home. Put all your essential tools like shears, gardening knife, so you will be able to go around your yard, and everything you need is within reach.
Hang On The Wall
Drill old hooks and knobs on the wall so you can hang your shovel, rake, hoe and other tools instead of throwing them all in one corner of the room.
PVC Tool Holder
Build a tool stand for long-handled garden tools using PVC scraps you can find in your garage. Cut them into 6” inch per piece. Nail them at the bottom and midpoint into your shed wall.
Hanging Garden Tool Organizer
Do you have a hanging shoe organiser that you can hang on your door or cabinets? You can also use that as your storage for your tools. To put a label on each pocket, buy an iron-on-vinyl sticker. Search for images that correspond to your tool, or you may use text. Print them on the sticker, and you’re ready to iron the sticker on the pockets.
Heavy Duty Pegboard Hooks
Purchase pegboard and modular hooks at any home improvement or hardware store. In this way, you can install and place the hooks on the pegboard depending on the size of your tools. It will look like everything is secured, organised and neat.
Clean and Sharp Tools Last Longer
Nowadays, gardening tools are expensive to replace, but here’s the thing, committing your tools to regular maintenance means your tools can last for many years. The more you care for your tools, the longer they will last.
Ready to put those clean and sharp tools to good use? Learn how to transform your garden even on a tight budget!