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4 ways to keep gardening tools like new

Gardening tools should be kept clean and sharp. They will not only last longer, they will work more easily and efficiently.

A true gardener loves getting down in the dirt, tools in tightly gloved hands. Gardeners thrill at the way the trowel cuts through the soil and turns it over, dark and rich, or how a good pruner cleanly snips off a rose bush branch while a hoe cuts through the roots of a pesky weed with one swipe. Gardening is an art requiring skill, craft, passion and tools. While gardeners supply the first three ingredients to success, well-maintained tools make the job easier and more enjoyable. Here’s how to keep your tools in tip-top shape:

1. Clean ’em up

After a day of working in the garden or yard, before tossing the hoe or pruner into the garage, clean them off. Wipe off the dirt, grime and other debris, especially on pruners or any tools with moving parts. If left unchecked, dirt and sand will get between the moving parts and wear them down. Cleaning is especially important when fertilizers or other chemicals are present. For metal parts such as blades, you might want to wipe them down with a light coat of penetrating oil to help prevent rust.

2. Keep blades sharp

Sure a little more elbow strength or hand power can help a dull blade cut on through, but why wear yourself out when a sharp blade makes using pruners and saws so much easier on you and is so much better for your plants? Sharpening blades is relatively simple with a whetstone and file, but if you’re unsure of your own honing skills, take them to a lawn and garden shop for sharpening.

3. Don’t forget hoes and shovels

Shovels and hoes need to be sharpened and cleaned, too. They can slice through rocky, hard soil like a knife if kept in good condition. A shovel with a good, sharp edge makes digging quicker, more efficient and easier on you. It can definitely help save the wear and tear on your back.

4. Check those handles

Before using your shovel, pruning shears, hoe or other wooden-handled tool, check the handle for problems. Wooden handles, while reliable and strong, can suffer from breaks and cracks, even small slivers. Also give your tool handles a once-over before putting them away. If you detect a problem, replace or repair the handles. Since wood tends to dry out and splinter, you can help slow this by sanding the handles with a medium sandpaper and then rubbing in linseed oil.

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