Winter tool and equipment maintenance

Paul McKenzie, N.C. Cooperative Extension
Jan. 06, 2014 @ 09:24 AM

You may not want to spend too much time in the garden this time of year, but there are plenty of chores you can handle now that will make your spring gardening much more productive.

Start with a check of all your gas-powered lawn and garden equipment, such as mowers, trimmers, blowers, tillers, etc. A check of the spark plugs and air filters is advisable, as well as an oil change. It's also a good idea to drain the fuel tank so the carburetor doesn't get gummed up, which can cause starting problems. Be sure to sharpen or replace blades as needed, and a thorough cleaning never hurts. Don't forget to scrape the dried grass from the underside of the mower deck.

It's also wise to take an annual inventory of pest control products, such as weed killers, insecticides and the like. If they got scattered about during your spring and summer activities, collect them into a single, secure location. Don't forget those large bags of granular products you use in the lawn! Check to be sure labels are attached, and that bottles and packages are tightly secured. Any products older than three years or so may be flagged for disposal at the next collection day (call for details).

Garden sprayers, of course, should be emptied and cleaned after each use. But if by chance you have some solution left in a sprayer, the best option is to spray it out according to directions. If the identity of the solution is unknown, you have a bit of a dilemma. You might consider transferring the liquid to a sturdy plastic container, label it “Danger – Pesticide” with a permanent marker and bring to the next collection day. They generally only accept products in original containers, but may make an occasional exception.

While you're at it, do a thorough in inspection of your spray gloves, those heavy duty chemical resistant gloves you always where when applying pest control products. You do have a pair, right? And you clean them after each use, I'm sure. So now you just need to fill with water to check for leaks, and dry thoroughly before storing. If there are any signs of wear, go ahead and replace them.

Fertilizers, while much lower on the hazard scale, will also benefit from a bit of attention. Simply check that the bags are sealed tightly and stored in a dry location.

Hand tools may be cleaned and reorganized. Boiled linseed oil does a nice job of protecting and preserving wooden handles. Take a few minutes to sharpen the blades of pruning equipment, and squirt a drop of oil on moving parts. Drain and store hoses, as well.

I've noticed that my own shed might benefit from a bit of tidying up. Taking an hour or two to clean up the clutter may prevent a stubbed toe or worse during the busy spring season.

Spring blooms will be here before we know it, and a bit of preparation and maintenance will pay off handsomely.