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Several years ago I made the mistake of leaving the water pump in the barn instead of storing it in the basement. Well, I found out why Daddy always stored it in the basement during the cold days of winter. When I got the pump out to do some irrigation the following summer the primer tank had split right open. A little bit of moisture was left in the tank and it froze. The tank is made of cast iron so imagine what a little moisture might do to your favorite terracotta pot.
Taking care of fall chores can make the difference between having equipment that works and equipment that doesn’t. Last week I had a checklist of chores to do to prepare your garden for winter. Let’s take a look at the non-plant things that need to be done before winter takes hold.
In the Equipment Shed
Motorized, two-cycle equipment like lawn mowers, blowers and weed trimmers (those that you mix oil with the gasoline) should be run dry at the end of the season. If you leave the oil/gas mixture in the tank it will “gunk up” the engine and it will not start for you next spring. Replace spark plugs and sharpen the blades to save time next spring (just think about that line of mowers that’s always there before it’s your turn...by the time you get your mower back your grass is two feet tall). If you have equipment with four-cycle engines use up the fuel and change the oil before you put it away for the season.
Always blow or wipe away grass clipping, oil or gas accumulations and chemical spills from your equipment. Also thoroughly clean sprayers and spreaders, most chemicals have corrosive effects on the moving parts that make these items useful. Avoid this by putting them away clean and dry.
Hand tools, including shovels, trawls, pruners, etc...anything that has a steel blade, wood handle or sharp edge should be put away clean, dry, moisturized and sharp. Quality tools will last a life time if they are taken care of properly so oil the wood parts to eliminate cracking and splintering; remove any rust deposits with sand paper and oil the surface. We have long kept a bucket of sand mixed with used motor oil in the barn so we can dip shovels and trawls in the oily mixture to clean away dirt and protect from rust. Sharpen your tools now or later but I suggest now so they will be ready when you need them in the spring. Everything is so rushed in the spring so take care of what you can now.
On The Shelf
Don’t forget about the boxes, bottles and jugs of various lawn and garden concoctions that have been stored in the garage or under the potting bench. Chemicals should be kept at temperatures above freezing so unless your potting bench is heated these items need to be stored in the basement or utility cupboard. If you have small children in the house take the necessary precautions.
In The Yard
In most gardens there are more than just plants: a bird bath, decorative planters, terracotta pots, lawn furniture and hoses can be damaged during the winter if not stored properly. Ceramic and terracotta items should be cleaned and dried and then stored in the basement or the garage (where freezing temperatures will not do any harm as long as the pots are dry). Good rubber hoses aren’t cheap so be sure to drain your hoses and store them in the garage or basement. And, lawn furniture should be stored in a protected area, regardless of the material.
Wood, wrought iron and plastic are all affected by the wind, rain and freezing and thawing that takes place during the winter months.
(Jeneen Wiche is an avid gardener from Shelbyville. She can be reached at Jwiche@shelbybb.net.)