Somewhere, lurking in that dark corner in the garage, or behind the boxes of swim fins and badminton equipment, or in that plastic storage box by the driveway, your garden tools are languishing. They still bear the evidence of spring’s efforts and summer’s delights. The clods of dark, loamy soil from the flowerbed clinging to the trowel, the straw-like weed stuck to the garden fork. Maybe you’ll even find an overlooked packet of marigold seeds that never got planted. Oh, well, winter’s here now; the garden tools can wait till spring.
But wait! You may want to think again before turning the page to that article on the new lipstick colors for the holiday parties, or those pictures of the beautiful homes for sale. Perhaps you want to give another thought to those garden tools—even in December.
If you’ve got tools, they need occasional maintenance to keep them useful and handy. Additionally, maybe there is a tool or two you’d like to add to your collection. Would some tasks have been easier if you’d had a new or better tool? Which leads me to the gift of tools; perhaps you share an interest in gardening with friends. There may be some unique or handy tool that would make great gifts for fellow gardeners.
So, let’s start with the chores: Are you are a serious, dig-in gardener, or, like me, do you prefer to save your back and leave the hard tasks to professionals? In either case, you have a few or many favorite tools that you rely on. Maybe it’s a favorite pair of garden sheers, or a wide-tonged rake, or those comfy garden clogs or boots. After the growing season, I tend to finish that last garden task and then toss my trowel into the garden bucket. Done!
Well, maybe that’s not such a good idea for the long dormant period ahead. Here are a few easy tricks that will protect your tools for the arrival of spring tasks.
A Drop In the Bucket: First, fill a galvanized or rubber bucket with coarse “builder’s” sand. Into the sand, pour a quart of motor oil or vegetable oil. Now, here’s the trick. Push your hedge clippers, sheers, trowel, shovel, and any other sharp, metal tool down into the greasy sand. Push them up to the handle, if you can. Plunge the blades up and down a few times, then leave them there. The sand will scrub off the dirt and any rust that has collected on the blades. When you leave the tools in the sand-bucket they’ll remain upright, clean, dry, and easy to locate when spring returns. You may want to prepare two buckets: one for long-handled tools and the second for short-handled ones.
Upright and Ready: Once you’ve safely tucked away your metal tools, take a look at your broom, dustpan, and rakes. Be sure they’re stored upside-down, with the business end up. (We’ve all seen those brooms that look as though they’ve been left in a strong wind and are permanently bent…and useless.) If you rest the rake and broom on their handles, the bristles and tongs won’t be bent from unnecessary pressure. If you have a leaf blower, you might find a convenient place to hang it by its handle—from the garage rafter or an unclaimed bike hook. If the blower uses an extension cord, hang it with the blower.
High and Dry: Finally, you may want to take a few minutes to wrestle that garden hose into submission one last time! Even if you have underground sprinklers, you probably have a watering hose. Now’s the last chance to disconnect your hose from the outdoor faucet, drain it of water, and coil it up. (I’d suggest using some twine to tie the coil in a few places for extra tidiness.) Remove any sprinkling adapters and water timers from the faucet or the hose. Store those inside your large, now-dry sprinkling can; they’ll be easy to find and reconnect when spring arrives. Check the washer in the hose connector; it may be brittle or lost, and need replacement. Finally, wash those pairs of gardening gloves. Use anti-bacterial soap and really give those gloves a good soaking. When the weather warms and the earth thaws, you don’t want to stick your hands into bacteria-laden gloves.
Whew! That’s a lot of work, but the effort will pay off in the spring.
While you were going through all that work, perhaps you began thinking of some of those nifty tools you saw in the gardening catalogues. Or, maybe you admired a beautiful pair of sheers your friend uses, which brings me to my next suggestion. Garden tools make great gifts–for yourself and friends.
Gifts That Keep On Giving, In The Garden
Now’s the season when we’re trying to think of clever or unique gifts for friends and family. Here are some suggestions for those who share your enjoyment of puttering about in the garden:
Head-and-Hands: Gardening hats and gloves are always welcome. It seems we can never have too many. You can pick up some simple straw hats and add pins or silk flowers for that personal touch. For the gloves, buy pairs of plain, white, cotton work gloves, then use permanent markers or fabric paint to personalize the gloves for each recipient. Of course, there are all those great, natural soaps and lotions to sooth those overworked gardener’s hands. Finally, in this age of ticks and mosquitoes, nature-based insect repellants are always welcome!
The Right Fit: Whether you’re buying a gift for yourself or for a friend, even tools are more serviceable if they fit properly. Fitting a tool is a bit easier than fitting a jacket; the fit depends on size and weight. When choosing tools, a few things to keep in mind are:
• “D” shaped handles are easier to manage. • Shorter “shafts” are easier on the wrist. (The shaft is the long part of the handle.) • Light wood (ash or hickory) and coated metal make light, durable handles. (Avoid buying tools with painted wood handles. That’s a trick to hide flaws in the wood.) • If possible, choose tools in bright colors; they’ll be easier to see when you drop them in the hedge or among the weeds. Lots of metal tools now come in bright, primary colors.
If you don’t have one already, or as that perfect gift for a friend, buy a hori-hori knife. It’s an all-in-one Japanese garden knife. It works as a trowel for digging and planting bulbs; it’s great for weeding, too. It has a serrated edge for sawing small branches, cutting through roots, and dividing those perennials. You’ll find it becomes your “GO TO” tool.
Grandpa’s Weeder: Here’s a little gem that was invented in 1913 and still holds sway in some gardens today. You guessed it; Grandpa came up with the perfect tool for weeding, or for bending over to grab that pesky violet or wild strawberry vine. This weeder has a long handle with a pincher at the end. You manipulate the grip to open the pincher, and when the pincher grabs, it goes down below the surface of the soil and pulls the weed out as you pull up on the handle. It may take a bit of practice, but it will save your back! It’s only available through Garrett Wade Tools.
One final thought: A gift that always works for gardeners is the offer of help. So, if all else fails, design some “gift certificates” to give to friends and family, for an hour of gardening, or two lawn-mowings, or planting a row of geraniums—whatever might please the recipient.