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Thaumas P. Ehr, Landscape Architect

Sharpen Up Your Garden With Sharp Tools!

It’s summer and the plants in your yard are growing like crazy!

If you want to fight back your own personal backyard jungle, be sure to use sharp and clean gardening tools, whether it be loppers, shovels, pruners, hoes, spades or lawnmowers.

Here are some suggestions on how to do it

  • Tools will lose their sharp edge if they get wet and rusty. How can that be possible in Arizona? It’s due to the sap and sticky residue from plants that is left on tools during pruning. So after a long and hot cutting session, rinse heavy dirt off tools with water from a garden hose and then clean them in mild soapy water and dry them with an old towel. If you have been trimming mistletoe out of trees, be sure to wash your trimmers with soapy water and dip in bleach.The cleaning will get rid of diseases, fungi, insect eggs and weed seeds.
  • Oil tools before storing them. A little WD-40 or similar oil will help prevent rust. Even cooking oil will work. Use an oiled rag to rub over wooden surfaces of any tool as well, like the handle of a shovel.
  • Store these tools in a dry, safe location. Don’t leave them out in the yard on the off chance that you’ll get back to pruning a few hours from now.
  • Despite your best efforts, you probably will have to remove some rust anyway. In that case, apply some white vinegar to the rusty spots on shovels or loppers or hedge trimmer blades. Let these tools sit for a while, then remove the rust with steel wool and wipe the tools dry. Then oil again.
  • What if you have a whole garage full of dirty, rusty tools? For heavy rust on shovels, use a drill with a wire brush attachment. For really heavy rust on hand tools, there are several types of rust removal products available to speed up the cleaning job.
  • It is worth fixing up your lawnmower. If it costs more than half the value of your mower to repair it, then you might consider buying a new one. You can even buy a used mower if the price of new equipment is too much for you.
  • It’s a good idea to have your lawnmower sharpened every year and get a repair shop to sharpen your hedge trimmers, chainsaws, knives (kitchen knives too), and scissors as well.
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