Taking care of lawn equipment can make a difference

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Taking care of your lawn and garden equipment can make the difference between having stuff that works and stuff that doesn’t! After you are finished preparing your plants for winter, don’t forget about your equipment and garden ornaments.  

In most of our gardens we have more than plants.  Birdbaths, decorative planters, terracotta pots, lawn furniture and hoses need the same consideration we give our plants.  All of these items can be damaged during the winter if not stored properly.  

And I have managed to damage every one of these things over the years, so I speak from experience. 

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).  I’ve found, too, that winter squirrel activity around terracotta pots can prove dangerous.  The squirrels start digging in the dirt, they knock the pot over and it breaks into a dozen pieces.   

The more expensive a pot is usually means that it was fired at a higher temperature and is less susceptible to winter damage, but if they can be cleaned and easily stored go ahead and do it.  I have seen heavily glazed pieces crack because a tiny bit of moisture expanded during a freeze.

Be sure to drain your rubber hoses before you store them in the garage.  Moisture left in the hose can cause them to spring a leak if they are left out in freezing temperatures.  Pick a sunny, warm day to hang them over a fence or stretch them out in the yard.  

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.  Treat wood with a conditioner; sand away rust on wrought iron and repaint if necessary; and clean plastic with a mild detergent.

Motorized, two-cycle equipment like lawn mowers, blowers and weed trimmers (those that you mix oil with the gasoline) can either be run dry at the end of the season or left fueled, but only if you have stabilizer in the gas mixture.  

If you leave the destabilized 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 clippings, oil and gas accumulations from your equipment.  Thoroughly clean sprayers and spreaders with warm water and soap, most chemicals have corrosive effects on the moving parts that make these items useful.  Avoid this by putting them away clean and dry.

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.  

These compounds should be stored at moderate temperatures.  Keep them in a warm, safe place away from children during the winter months.  

Hand tools, including shovels, trowels, pruners and anything else 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.  I keep a galvanized steel bucket of sand mixed with a little used motor oil in my tool storage shed so that I can clean my tool after each use.  

I stick the shovel in the bucket a couple of times so the sand cleans away the dirt and the oil protects it from rust.  Keeping them clean throughout the season makes it really easy to clean them up for winter storage.

Sharpen your tools now or later but I suggest now so they will be ready for when you need them in the spring.  Everything seems to happen all at once in the spring so take care of what you can now.

(Jeneen Wiche is an avid gardener from Shelbyville. She can be reached at JHWiche@gmail.com or at www.SwallowRailFarm.com)



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