Wintering Your Garden Tools

 Kay Hinkle
Adams County Master Gardener

Well, summer has turned to autumn and winter is almost upon us. With the time change, shorter days, longer nights and a quick glance at the calendar confirm less than 3 weeks until Christmas!

Here in East Berlin, I have been busy getting my landscape in shape for winter. With the abundance of rain and unseasonably warm autumn weather, there has been an especially good crop of fall vegetables. The last of the cabbage heads are cut; consequently, we are having slaw and cooked cabbage dishes in abundance. My goal will be less purple cabbage and more green next year, as it is easier to give away the green variety! I have found a few new recipes for turnips that have proved to be both tasty and interesting.

My hanging ferns loved the cool, wet summer. Three of the four went to homes of friends who have sunny windows and are adventurous indoor gardeners. The fourth is in my dining room at a sunny window with an Eastern exposure. It seems twice as big indoors as it did on the front porch. Some family members have realized that we may no longer all fit around the dining room table if the fern survives the move indoors.

Generally, when I bring ferns inside they protest the move and donít last through the winter. It will be interesting to see if this fern is still a part of the dining room dťcor when the holidays arrive.

My mother had a real knack for growing ferns indoors, and I keep working at my indoor gardening green thumb. The fern sits on her newly refinished plant stand, which should give it a good start! I am determined to water on Wednesdays and Saturdays, as she did. With just the right plant stand and adhering to a proper watering schedule, weíre off to a good start.

I brought my Christmas cactus in from the deck, and as usual, it bloomed at Thanksgiving. All of my efforts to delay the blooms are met each year with beautiful pink blooms in November.

Amaryllis seem to be on schedule so far, but this is my first attempt to move those bulbs that bloomed last Christmas out to the garden and back inside for another holiday bloom the following year. I donít know how long the hibiscus will bloom inside, but I just couldnít get rid of them quite yet, I am also running out of sunny windows!

And to the real point of this article, just because the growing season has come to an end, it isnít quite time yet to forget about outdoor gardening until things begin to "green up" in the spring. An important part of getting the landscape ready for winter is caring for the tools that served you well throughout the summer months.

You wonít need many supplies to get your hand tools into shape. You can start by scrubbing them with warm water and soap to remove the grime that accumulated over months of use.

Rust will shorten the life of any tool, so removal is imperative. A putty knife works well for smaller spots, while larger spots might need steel wool and elbow grease. Rust that is allowed to accumulate eventually pits the metal. Pits can be removed by sanding the metal. Once clean, the metal can be further protected with a layer of paint.

Those tools with wooden handles need extra protection to prevent it from drying out and cracking. First apply mineral oil and let it soak in, then brush polyurethane on the handles. Or, if you prefer, just wipe on tung oil instead. If you use the tung oil, be sure to dispose of the rags carefully, s they will be combustible when dry.

Lawn mowers appreciate a good scraping underneath and a bath on top and all over on a nice sunny day conducive to drying. A check of wheel barrow tires for air pressure, and just general mechanics of any garden carts you rely on now will save a frustrating start to planting in the spring.

By giving your garden implement inventory a review in early December, you will know what to add to your wish list for Santa in time for Christmas. And remember that garden gadgets make great gifts, not only to give and receive but also to receive!

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