If you don't plan to grow a fall garden, fall is the perfect time to inspect, repair and clean your gardening tools. When spring fever arrives, nothing is more frustrating than pulling out your gardening tools only to find a shovel or rake that is rusty or broken, or a tiller that won't crank.
And given today's tight family budgets, backyard gardeners certainly do not want to have to replace their gardening tools more often than necessary.
With just a little care and forethought, you can help your tools last for many growing seasons.
Below are checklists to follow before packing away your garden tools and supplies for winter.
Tiller and mower
Empty the garden tiller of fuel or add a fuel stabilizer.
Check the spark plugs, change the oil and clean the air filter.
Clean the underside of the mower's deck with a pressure washer and scrape off any old grass and debris.
Shovels, hoes and other tools
Thoroughly clean all tools with soap and water.
Clean metal parts with steel wool, wipe dry and apply a light coat of household oil.
To save time in the spring, sharpen tool edges.
Smooth wooded handles by sanding them with sand paper. Then coat handles in linseed oil or paint them to preserve wood.
Store all rakes with the teeth pointing down.
Stepping on an exposed rake can be very dangerous for children and adults.
Clean off tomato cages and stack them out of the way.
Repair any cages that have been damaged.
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.
Drain irrigation lines and clean and inspect for cracks before rolling up.
To keep insects from hibernating in hoses, connect hose ends.
Do not hang hoses directly on a nail. The weight of the hose will create permanent kinks. Nail a coffee can or other round form on the wall. Then roll the hose around the form.
Inspect and lightly lubricate sprinkler heads.
Clean and dry out the water timer.
(Thanks to Sharon Dowdy, Bob Westerfield and Tony Johnson of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.