After you have planted your last bulb, mowed your last blade of grass and harvested your last leaf, it is time to clean your tools and get them ready for winter.
If you don’t clean and prepare your hand tools, they can get rusty and begin to deteriorate. If you don’t winterize your lawn mower, it could be difficult to start next spring and you may need a costly service done by a professional.
Gather up all of your shovels, rakes, spades, saws, pruning shears, trowels and any other hand tool you used in the garden this year. Scrape all the dirt, grit and grime off the metal parts and the wooden or fiberglass handles. I use an old putty knife to clean most of my metal surfaces and I always give the blades a quick scratch with a piece of steel wool. My pruning shears almost always have some tree sap or other black sticky gunk on them, so the steel wool comes in handy.
Several of my hand trowels have a bright orange plastic grip handle that gets caked with dirt. I thoroughly scrub them with water, and sometimes a little dish soap, to get them as clean as I can. I also use a wet rag to clean the long wooden or fiberglass handles.
When everything is clean and dry, rub all the metal surfaces with an old rag dampened with clean motor oil or coat them with a spray lubricant such as WD-40. Then, dampen an old rag with linseed oil or even a furniture polish such as Old English oil and rub all the wooden surfaces. It doesn’t hurt for these wooden handles to be pretty thick with oil when you put them away for winter.
Lawn mowers need care, too. First, rid the gas tank of all gas by letting the mower run on low speed until you use up all the gas and the motor stops on its own. Gas left in the mower can thicken up and get sticky over winter and glop your carburetor and gas lines.
When the engine is cooled, drain the motor oil out of the machine. Read your owner’s manual for directions. After a full season of use, your oil is surely dirty and in need of changing anyway. Be sure to refill the engine with fresh clean oil next spring.
Now, clean off the outer surface of the machine with a whisk broom or rag to remove all the leaves, grass clippings and dirt that built up over the season. Next, flip the mower over and scrape all the grass buildup under the cutting area. While you are there, remove the cutting blades and get them sharpened or you can sharpen them yourself with a metal file and a vise to hold the blade tight while you file it to return the blade to its original shape.
With pots and planters, empty the soil and plant material out of your wooden and terra cotta planting containers. Scrape out the dirt and spray them with a hose to clean them. Bring the terra cotta pots indoors to protect them from freezing and cracking over winter. Turn the wooden containers upside down or hang them to give them a chance to dry out a little over winter.
Be sure to disconnect your hose and drain it before you coil it and hang it in the garage. Empty all watering cans and turn them upside down to keep them dry and clean over the winter.