Here’s how to prepare your gardening tools for a Southeast Texas winter

Last week I wrote about bringing houseplants back indoors or into other areas like a porch, greenhouse, or garage so the plants are protected from cooler nighttime temperatures. Our first ‘real’ cold snap came this past week with daytime temperatures in the low 60’s.

I’m not sure how some of you feel about cooler weather, but for me it’s cold! Of course, living in Southeast Texas, we all know that our temperatures are going to drop, and after a few days of cooler weather, they’ll get back into the mid-80s.

Many of you have planted fall and winter vegetable gardens, green cover crops or colorful fall flowers, creating a warm layer of mulch for the months to come. Cooler weather is a clear sign for gardeners. It’s time to start other gardening tasks such as Such as maintaining lawn and garden equipment, inspecting and repairing garden hoses, and winterizing tools.

Some gardeners, okay most gardeners, forget “conveniently or selectively” the importance of taking care of gardening tools. Many of us (myself included) choose to just “beat the earth” and put away the gardening tools once fall arrives and think all is well! Well I’m here to tell you that this is not good practice at all and is actually a bad habit!

Perhaps now is the time to make garden tool maintenance a priority? To convince you (in case you haven’t noticed the escalating prices), garden tools are no exception, prices have risen dramatically, and yes, partly due to exorbitant inflation, but also due to unprecedented material shortages and supply shortages that have reduced product availability. So a modest effort on your part will go a long way and prove cost-effective. Because a little maintenance ensures gardening tools are in good condition, sharpened and ready to use, and last longer, which is especially necessary when spring arrives. Today, let’s talk about how we can give our gardening tools some much-needed care. Here are some tips on how to keep them in good shape while they wait for the warm, sunny days of spring to return.

The fact is, lawn and garden equipment ages with time, use, and moisture combined with soil and oxidation (rust). Thorough cleaning and proper care as described will keep them in good operating condition and greatly extend their lifespan.

  • Begin grooming by first removing dried, caked dirt with a wire brush, then rinsing with clean water and then drying thoroughly. If necessary, soak heavily soiled tools in water for an hour.

  • Sharpen blunt tools (shovels, hoes, secateurs, pruning shears, etc.) with a file or whetstone. Working at a 45 degree angle, start at the outer edge and move toward the center.

  • Use fine grit sandpaper and steel wool to remove rust. Once the rust is removed, coat the metal surfaces with vegetable oil.

  • Examine the wooden handles of garden tools closely. If splinters are visible, sand lightly with fine sandpaper and remove dust when finished. Using linseed oil or paste wax, apply a thin coat or light coating to the wooden handles to preserve them and prevent cracks, splits and splinters.

  • To further prevent rust from forming on garden hand tools, store hand trowels and other small tools in a bucket of sand soaked in used oil.

  • Once the rust is removed, hang rakes, hoes, and shovels in an easily accessible spot.

  • Garden hoses must be thoroughly inspected for leaks and cracks under pressure. After inspection, drain and move to a weather protected area. Repair leaks with a hose repair kit or replace leaky fittings available at a local home improvement and garden center or hardware store. Hose repair is easy with minimal effort, cost and time.

  • After all, the hardest working garden tool is the lawnmower. Clean and sharpen the blades that can rust, or simply replace the blades. Change the oil and oil filter (put the used oil in the bucket of sand to store garden tools). Avoid storing gasoline in mowers over the winter, either drain the gasoline and use in another gas powered tool, or add a fuel stabilizer to reduce gum build-up in the fuel line, injectors and carburetor impede.

Store tools in a clean, dry area. Tools can be stored on shelves, racks or simply leaning against a wall. Do not store tools with wooden handles where the wood will be in contact with soil, concrete or the outside environment.

Good garden tools are expensive. If you take good care of them, they will contribute to many years of productive gardening. So, noh my fDear gardeners, let’s get out there and grow a greener, more sustainable world, one plant at a time!

If you have specific gardening questions or want more Contact the Orange County Master Gardeners for more information Helpline: (409) 882-7010 or visit our website:, Facebook: Orange County Texas Master Gardeners Association or E-mail:[email protected].