By Jane Milliman
It may not be your favorite gardening task, but a little time spent maintaining your watering tools in the fall will keep them ready to go for spring—plus extend their life in general. Do yourself a favor now and give your well-loved tools a little TLC before storing them for winter.
All season long I keep a bucket of sand mixed with motor oil in the garage, and when I’m done using a spade, edger, or other metal-bladed tool, I first clean it thoroughly with my cleaning nozzle to remove caked-on soil, then plunge it into the bucket and leave it there a while—this prevents rust.
If your tools have wooden handles clean them too. Then rub some boiled linseed oil into the handles—this helps stave off cracking (and splinters!). If the handles are in very rough shape, sand them first with fine-grit paper. If they seem ok, use super-fine-grit paper to work the oil in, and then buff off the excess with a clean rag or a paper towel.
Northern winters are, of course, cold. Freezing! Unfortunately, hoses and other watering tools can be damaged if water is left inside them to freeze, expanding as it turns into ice. Make sure to drain your nozzles and hoses well before storing them for the winter.
Drain your hose by elevating the end to allow any remaining water to flow out. Continue to run the remaining length of the hose through your hands (remember to hold it high) until you get to the end. As for your watering nozzle, hang them up in such a way that any remaining water will drip out.
Now is the time to repair any leaks in hoses with Gilmour’s easy-to-use hose repair tools. Another frequent hose issue that can easily be fixed is a crushed coupling. Simply cut off the affected end, slip on a new coupling and screw it in place. And here’s a tip that will save time and frustration: If you are having trouble fitting the replacement part into the existing hose, rub a little bar soap around the contact area.
For added protection, store watering equipment in a basement or some other area that won’t freeze. If the garage or tool shed is to be the hose’s winter home, though, at least get it off the ground by investing in—or constructing—a good, sturdy hose hanger.
Once you’re done gardening for the year, don’t forget to tick these tasks off your to-do list:
Here’s the tricky part, though: When should all of this work be done? Doing it around the first frost is probably premature, as you might still have new plantings that will need watering until the ground freezes. Let that be your guide and watch the forecast for the onset of hard frosts.
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