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Clean and maintain your tools
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Preventive maintenance is so important to any aspect of life, whether it’s your health or equipment.

Therefore, if you don’t plan to plant a fall garden, then inspect, repair and clean your gardening tools before storing them for the winter.

Nothing is more frustrating than pulling out the tiller or mower only to find it needs a repair. And it wasn’t because something was not right. Instead it could have been prevented if it was cared for months earlier.

Garden tools and equipment — expensive as they usually are — can last many years if you know how to properly take care of them. To help you along the way with that task, here is a checklist to follow before packing away the tools for the winter.

Shovels, hoes and other tools

  • Clean all tools with soap and water.
  • Sharpen blades and tool edges.
  • Clean metal parts with steel wool, wipe dry and apply a light coat of cooking oil.
  • Spray moving parts with a lubricant to keep them from rusting.
  • Smooth wooden handles by sanding them with sandpaper. Next, coat handles in linseed oil or paint them to preserve wood.
  • Store rakes with the teeth pointing down. Stepping on an exposed rake can be very dangerous, for children and adults.

Tomato cages

  • Clean off tomato cages and stack them out of the way.
  • Repair any damaged cages.

Tiller and mower

  • Empty the tiller or lawn mower of fuel or add a fuel stabilizer.
  • With two-cycle engines such as trimmers, pour out the fuel into another container and run the engine until it stops.
  • Check sparkplugs and remove any carbon buildup.
  • Change the oil and clean or replace air filters.
  • Change fuel filter to keep the engine running as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
  • Clean the underside of the mower’s deck with a pressure washer and scrape off old grass and debris.

Sprayers

  • Fertilizer or pesticide sprayers should be triple-rinsed with water or a little ammonia.
  • Check the hose tip for debris before storing the sprayer for the season.

Taking a little bit of time and following these tips will ensure a quick and hassle-free start to your planting season in the spring.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears weekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.

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