As the days grow darker and the temperatures drop, for many of us there is still a list of yard and garden chores to complete.
One other thing to add to that checklist is your garden shed. Don’t forget about cleaning up the garden shed, including your tools, garden products, and equipment. It is important to properly store your garden products like seed, fertilizer, and pesticides.
Store any left-over seed in mouse-proof containers. Mice can wreak havoc on seed during the winter months. The mice will not only consume the seed as a winter food source, but chew large holes in the product’s bag allowing product to spill everywhere. Simply put the extra seed in a metal or heavy plastic sealed container.
Lawn and garden fertilizers should be stored in their original bags or containers. This will allow you to know the correct content and analysis of the product next season. Of course, it is important to ensure the granular product is stored in a dry location; granular product can even absorb moisture from the air causing the product to form a hard cake-like cement. One tip would be to store the product with its original label or bag in a sealable plastic container; preventing moisture from getting in contact with the product.
Storing water-based pesticides can be a bit trickier. All water-based herbicides, fungicides, and other pesticides should be stored in a location where they will not freeze. When products like this are stored in locations below freezing not only are the product containers susceptible to cracking due to the expansion of the water-based product when frozen, but the products may lose their efficacy. Find a location that will not drop below freezing and properly store these products for the winter. Ensure the location is safe for you, your family, and pets. Storing them in a locked location or out of reach of children or pets is best. Read the product’s label thoroughly for additional storage instructions.
Once the seed, fertilizer, and pesticides are put away it is time to clean, sharpen, and repair your tools and equipment. All hand tools should be given a good cleaning. Ideally, garden tools should be given frequent cleaning and sharpening throughout the season they are used; however late fall is a good time to do one last cleaning before putting them away for winter.
Soil tools such as shovels, rakes, forks, and hoes should be washed with a heavy spray of water. Wire-bristled brushes or other methods should be used to remove difficult soils such as clay. Dry off the tools after cleaning. Pruners or saws should be cleaned using a disinfectant, rubbing alcohol, or bleach (one-part bleach to nine parts water). This is especially true when used on unhealthy plants. When trying to remove sap from the blades carefully use some paint thinner or even a bathroom cleaning product.
Once clean, you can oil the tool using a household oil. Frankly, the spring and the space between the blade and anvil blade should be oiled frequently when in use for the season. A few drops of oil should also be put into the handle. If tools are very rusty other remedies that have been used include soaking the blades in a strong black tea once it has cooled. This will break up the rust and allow for easier removal with a rag or steel-wired brush, steel wool, or even wax paper.
To sharpen pruners or loppers, hold the shear flat against the palm of your hand with blades facing down. Sharpen the blade with a sharpening stone at a 23-degree beveling angle. Remove any burs on the opposite side with a five-degree angle. To sharpen shovels, axes or spades, use a hand file or powered grinder. Wear eye protection and caution when sharpening all tools.
Finally, take advantage of repair shops' slow time, before they are busy with snow blowers, to repair any equipment. Not only will they be happy for your business, but you will be happy next spring to have a properly operating piece of equipment.
So, don’t forget about doing a late fall clean-up in your garden shed and preparing it for winter.
Next spring, you will appreciate the hard work you do now, which lets you focus on making your yard and garden beautiful without having to worry about bad product or rusty tools.
Until next time, happy gardening!
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” — L.M. Montgomery
Robin Trott is a horticulture educator with University of Minnesota Extension. Contact her at 320-762-3890, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.