Garden Tools. Photo courtesy: UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions

Garden Tools. Photo courtesy: UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions

Due to a lack of snow, Florida’s winter landscape chores are relatively uncomplicated. However, that doesn’t mean they’re unimportant. As the growing season comes to a close and gardeners mow, snip and spade for the final time, it’s time to consider proper cleaning and storage of all that equipment. A little preventative maintenance can avoid frustration and expensive repair in the future. When  tools are maintained properly their life is extended substantially and their work efficiency is increased. A few examples of preventative care include cleaning and sanitizing, sharpening blades, and maintaining power equipment.

When cleaning  tools, remove caked on soil or vegetation using a wire brush, scraper or a strong stream of water. Sharpen hoes, pruners, loppers and saws.

Always remember to check tools thoroughly for loose screws or nuts and tighten them accordingly. Spraying the bare metal parts and cutting edges of tools with a penetrating oil, such as WD-40, will help prevent rust. It is thought that wiping tools’ wooden handles with boiled linseed oil will help prevent wood from cracking and drying.

Another item to consider while preparing one’s landscape for the winter is the garden hose. While hoses don’t need a great deal of care, a few small steps are important if they are to last. Store hoses on hose supports or reels or coil them loosely rather than hanging them on nails. Using hose supports or reels prevents the hose from sagging and kinking. Drain all the water and store in a dry location before storing hoses away for the winter.

Power equipment, such as lawn mowers, may require additional winter preparations. Always refer to the owner’s manual for specific information. However, in general, the following steps can be taken to winterize this equipment.

Remove collected grease, dirt and plant material from the equipment. It is always beneficial to check for loose screws and nuts and tighten them accordingly. Remember to sharpen cutting edges. If equipment has a four-cycle engine, change the oil by following instructions listed in the owner’s manual. Remove all gasoline from tank. It’s good to run the engine a turn or two to coat the cylinder walls with oil, and then replace the plug.

Two-cycle engines, or engines that run with a gas and oil mixture, also should have the oil-gas mixture removed for the winter. Run the engine with the choke open to remove fuel from the lines. Check the spark plug and replace if it is worn. Replace other worn or damaged parts as well. Always avoid storing gasoline over the winter. Old gasoline does not ignite easily, making the machines using it work harder.

Once the cold weather creeps in to Florida, gardeners may feel as if they can sit back and wait for spring, however, don’t neglect proper maintenance of garden tools. When the weather warms up, properly working garden equipment will be the gardens’ best asset!

For more information feel free to contact your local Extension Office.