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Properly winterizing, storing gardening tools
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It seems the leaves are never going to fall this year, so many of us are still using our lawn mowers and leaf blowers. However, soon enough all of this will come to an end as winter sets in. Then, we can put our mowers and leaf blowers away until the spring.

You and I know nothing is as simple as that. Taking a few precautions and preventative measures with your equipment and tools will help ensure they are ready for the spring.

Begin by winterizing your engine-powered equipment. Drain and run the engine out gas, or fill the tank full of fresh gas and add a fuel stabilizer. Run the engine a few minutes to get the fresh gas through the engine. Replace the oil with fresh oil and change the oil filter. Clean or replace the air filter as well. Check all nuts and bolts to be sure they have not vibrated loose.

Mower blades and tiller tines can be removed and sharpened. Inspect wheels, belts and other moving parts. Replace if needed.

To keep shears and loppers in good shape for next year, clean them with mineral spirits or a bathroom tile cleaner. Adjust the tension screw and give them a good sharpening. Be sure to use a broad file while sharpening. Tools sharpened by a power grinder might overheat and lose their tempering, making the metal likely to chip or break.

Clean garden hand tools with dishwashing liquid and dry thoroughly.

Blades of shovels and hoes can be sharpened with a file. Apply a light coat of household oil. Treat all wood handles with a coat of linseed oil.

Drain all garden hoses and sprinklers and check for leaks. Repair or replace damaged sections. Replace any washers if needed. Store hoses in a good place that will keep them out of the sun. The UV light will reduce their usable lifespan.

Clean all pressure washers, too. Make sure the pump is functioning properly before storing them.

Clean stakes and trellises to rid them of all dirt and plant material. Hose down extremely dirty sections. Put stakes in bundles and stack them so they will not get lost over the winter. Store trellises in an area where they will not be broken easily by foot traffic.

As soon as seed flats and flower pots containing annuals are finished, wash and sterilize them before storing. A 4-to-1 ratio of water and bleach will prepare them for their winter nap.

If you do these little things, the equipment will be ready to start another gardening season.

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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