As Fall comes to a close, so does the yard-work, most likely your last outdoor chore before winter was raking leaves. But before the first frost of Winter you spent your Spring and Summer using a myriad of hand, garden, and gas powered tools to make your lawn greener and garden more vibrant. So before you put those tools away and bring out the snow shovels take a look at this comprehensive overview of how to clean, prepare, and store your lawn tools over the winter months.
Much like you plan your plantings for the garden or fertilizer schedule for your lawn you should approach how you maintain and store your lawn tools with the same calculated enthusiasm. Be intentional about how you setup your garage or workspace, for example keeping cleaning tools and supplies nearby to maintain your tools will make the task more convenient. Establishing a schedule for rotating seasonal tools in and out of long term storage will maximize your working space. And of course the more efficiently you can access and maintain your tools, the more time you’ll have to actually work on your yard.
One of the most important aspects of seasonal maintenance for lawn tools is to properly store them for winter. And before you can think about storage you’ll want to clean the sweat, dirt, and rust off your tools.
For hand tools and shovels you’ll want to first clean the tools with soapy water and a wire brush to remove dirt and residue. Then use steel wool to remove rust and polish the tool, to work out stubborn spots use a rust inhibitor. When satisfied wipe the tool with a cloth and treat the surface with the rust inhibitor and work the product into the tool. When clean and dry you can store the tool with confidence.
For gas powered tools like a trimmer or lawn mower you’ll first want to remove built up grass clippings and residue on the deck and guards of the machine. Use a putty knife and/or wire brush to scrape the the affected surfaces clean. Many of these lawn tools are now constructed of plastic or composite parts so rust is less of an issue, but if you do have rust issues, you can address them using the method described above.
Once you’ve completed the preventative maintenance for your tools you can focus on enhancing the performance by sharpening and tuning tools.
A shovel or a hand spade is essentially a cutting tool so getting a sharp edge will improve the performance of your tool, so for hand tools and shovels a sharp tool is half the battle. For these tools a coarse hand file and some elbow grease will be all you need to rough out any nicks on the blade and bevel a sharp edge for cutting through earth and roots. Best practice would be to follow the factory bevel that was present when the tool was purchased.
Lawn mower blades should also be tuned a few times over the season, but if your busy schedule doesn't allow for regular maintenance, at least invest in a end of season tune up on your lawn mower. Start with sharpening the blade, ensure the machine is powered off and the engine disabled, remove the blade, and clamp it to a solid surface. With a rough hand file run it along the blade ensuring you match the factory bevel.
Lawn mower tune ups can be a quick an inexpensive way to increase the performance and longevity of your machine. In addition to cleaning and sharpening the blade be sure to change the air filter, change the oil, and replace the spark plug once a season. Of course these steps may be simple but an easy way to avoid this type of maintenance is to purchase or switch to a cordless battery powered mower, which now have become extremely capable with Lithium Ion battery technology.
BLACK+DECKER has a 36V MAX* self-propelled mower model (SPCM1936) with all the bells and whistles you’d want in a self propelled lawn mower that performs at the top of it’s category, perfect for lawns up to 1/3 acre. In addition to avoiding all the maintenance listed above, this mower also starts right away, and is significantly quieter than gas powered mowers.
Another advantage many of these battery powered models enjoy is a lighter frame and body, which along with their modern designs, allow the handles to be folded or telescoped down into a compact easily stored package. When it comes to storage it always helps to work smarter not harder.
Gas powered tools need to be drained of standard pump gasoline before stored for long periods of time as it deteriorates relatively quickly, as little as just over 30 days. Empty your fuel tanks and dispose of fuel, oil, and fuel mix in a responsible manner, you can usually recycle oil and dispose of volatile fuels at your local auto store or waste management facility.
Once the tank is empty pump the primer bulb until dry, with the fuel cap on, start the engine and run it on idle until it stops. Of course refer to your manufacturer’s manual as some may indicate alternative methods using fuel stabilizers.
Preparing your tools for storage is vital to successfully reintroducing them to the yard the next season, but the process doesn’t stop at preparation, rather it starts at organization.
Having a organized and coherent storage system in your home will allow you to access and use the tools and materials you need AND safely store the things you don’t need without burying them at the bottom of a pile or the back of a closet.
Consider investing in or replacing older tools with modern space saving models. For example Black and Decker has a combination 3-in-1 tool that serves as a trimmer, edger, and mower. The 12″ 20V MAX* Lithium Cordless 3-in-1 trimmer, edger and mower is an innovative way to save you time, space, and money. This is a great example of replacing three tools with one, saving space, and making lawn care more convenient. Again, working smarter not harder.
With that same idea consider adding more storage space to your existing spaces by expanding vertically or maximizing space with neat and effective compartments.
First and foremost organization is all about neatly spaced, placed, and segregated bins, troughs, shelves, spots… you name it, either way a well organized space maximizes the storage capacity. A simple way to organize your lawn tools like shovels, rakes, and hoes is to purchase some wide PVC piping and secure them together vertically creating a honeycomb of small and tall barrels to keep your long hand tools neat, upright, and out of the way.
Another creative way to create compartments for storage is to use lattice stock. You can find lattice and any home improvement store, it’s the stuff you find lining the underside of most decks. If you secure two identical sections of lattice in line you create a rack system with plenty of space for all your shovels etc. This is particularly effective when used on the ceiling of a storage room or up under a deck.
Looking to the ceiling or up the walls is a great place to maximize space you can create simple mechanisms to secure storage bins to your ceiling or suspend and stack bins vertically on walls. Ultimately you will run out of space or maybe you already don’t have enough, that’s why it’s important to plan where you will store certain things at certain times. For example you can swap the locations of your snow blower and lawn mower, storing the off season item in the less accessible space, and rotating them as the season’s change.
Maintenance, storage, and effective use of your lawn care tools will be a moving target, just as the seasons change you should remember to change how you approach these homeowner responsibilities. If you find getting to your tools is difficult, move the tools. If you only performed maintenance on a few of your tools before the winter, then change your maintenance plan. You’ll buy new tools, plant new plants, and probably get more stuff so you’ll have to be prepared to deal with those challenges AND continue to maximize your space and time in the yard. But ultimately you want to maximize the enjoyment you get out of creating a lush green lawn or a productive garden.
So don’t delay start preparing for Winter now and you’ll enjoy the Spring so much more when you're ready to go on that first sunny and warm weather!