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Master Gardener: It’s time to talk about tools

Let’s cover pointers concerning selection, care and storage of your lawn and garden tools. Purchase only those lawn and garden machines that you can service yourself, unless you have the time and money to have a professional maintain them. Even though it will cost more, chose a quality tool over a cheap tool - it will last longer because of better quality of material and assembly.

Tools used for working soil naturally get dirty. They last longer and work better if you put them away clean. Keep a small putty knife scraper handy for removing caked-on soil from blades. Follow up by rubbing them with a brass scouring pad or grit cloth before you put the tool away.

For trowels, spades and other small tools, make a cleaning bucket. Fill it almost to the top with sand. Pour into it a can full of used motor oil (drainings from the lawn mower). Before hanging up a used tool, plunge it into this oil sand and work it up and down a few times. Remnants of soil will loosen and rub off and the blade will be oiled in one operation.

Use a file or hone to restore cutting edges on hoes, grass whips, mower blades, edgers, hedge shears, grass trimmers, axes, spades and pruning tools. A sharp edge increases the tool’s effectiveness, making for cleaner, healthier cuts when you prune.

Review safety habits: Always wear safety glasses when operating power equipment. Wear ear plugs for noise protection as well. It’s also preferable to wear long-sleeved and legged sturdy clothing that stands up to the hardy work of removing large limbs and thorny brush. Serious work requires serious shoes - wear work boots or at least closed toe shoes. Wear the proper glove for the job - tougher gloves for brush removal and more flexible gloves for finer work. Other handy items to have on you when working outdoors are a bandanna (keeps the sweat from getting into your eyes - we know how that stings!); face mask (keeps dust and allergens from getting inhaled) and water (keeps you hydrated and can be used for first aid emergencies). Lastly, clear up your work space after completion. Don’t leave tools lying around - this is an accident waiting to happen. Put all equipment back in its place.

With appropriate care and storage, your lawn and garden equipment should last for years to come.