Tool Time


Edith Buttler

As the gardening season winds down, now is a good time to consider the garden shed and the tools within. After the garden has been ‘put to bed’ and our tools will not be extensively used until next year we can take stock of the tools and how we store them. Although the ideal is to have a shed specifically for garden tools and related items it is also quite simple to organize a storage area in a corner of the garage or even an outside verandah as long as the tools can be kept safe from the elements. Pegs on the wall or freestanding racks available at hardware stores will enable tools to be hung up neatly (especially important for long-handled tools, particularly rakes and hoes).

In a perfect world everyone would clean their tools, (wiping wooden handles with a lightly oiled cloth) and properly store them at the end of every day in the garden. However in this world we can at least give them some tender care before retiring them for winter. This includes removing any rust on the blades. One method is to wipe them down with kerosene, then rub with pumice or a soft brick finishing off with a thin coating of petroleum jelly. A somewhat easier method is to keep an old tin washing tub filled with clean sand, pour some oil into it and push your shovels, spades etc in – this works better if used throughout the year.

Watering cans should be cleaned and stored upside down, wheel barrows should be tipped forward on the wheel for storage. A page of newspaper put between each clay pot before they are stacked will prevent their irritating habit of welding themselves together when stacked.

Spades and shovels can be sharpened, many people like to leave this until the early spring – don’t sharpen them to a knife edge as they may chip when contacting gravel or rocks. Pruners, lopers and saws should be kept very sharp and clean. A ‘stone’ can be purchased for sharpening but they can also be done professionally if you are not proficient – many tools are ruined by bad sharpening. Blunt pruners can do great damage to plants and, like blunt knives in the kitchen, can be dangerous. (Whenever pruning diseased plants, blades should be dipped in a disinfectant to prevent transferring problems to healthy plants.)

When your tools are all nicely cleaned and stored it is easy to take stock and consider whether some need to be replaced or new different ones would come in handy. The early Christmas tool catalogues are out so perhaps circling what you fancy in red ink and leaving the catalogue lying around might be a not so subtle hint for December 25th.

If one is just starting to garden it might be useful to consider what constitutes the basic implements essential for gardening. These include: digging tools – spade, four-pronged fork and shovel; cultivation tools – hoe, tine cultivator and hard rake; and hand tools – towel and fork. Other useful tools include: secateurs or pruners, hose, wheelbarrow, watering can, dibblers, pruning saw, grass shears, turf edger, garden basket or trug, a bucket, a strong yard broom and a soft rake.

Choosing tools can be a daunting prospect when confronted with the great variety available. Tools should be genuinely useful. So firstly define the major functions within your specific garden then select the tools most appropriate for those needs. Buy the best you can afford – cheap tools are a false economy. Cheap tools will not hold up - one good tool will cost less than two or three cheap ones in the long run. Yard sales can be source of good quality used tools. When considering a tool, hold it and consider; does it have a comfortable grip, is it an appropriate weight and height for you, does it have good balance, are the surfaces smooth, is it made of quality material?

Top quality tools appropriate to you and your garden, kept in the best condition will allow you to produce first class results with the least amount of effort and strain!