Oh, February! Embrace this glorious month – full of hints of green, the last of the great chills, and the yearning for fresh food from the garden. This is the month when it’s time to get back into the garden.
If you didn’t take the time last fall to clean and sharpen your tools now is the time to get your loppers and hand shears ready to work. Sharpening pruning tools is critical in maintaining the health of your trees and shrubs. A sharp edge allows for a clean cut, lessening an avenue for pests and disease to enter through jagged cuts.
Using a 10 in. mill file, found at any hardware store, you can sharpen all your garden tools. Make sure to tighten the nut holding the arms together before sharpening. Using a steady hand and secured tool run the file WITH the manufacturer’s bevel from the tip toward the handle. Oil wooden handles with linseed oil and blades and moving joints with a suitable lubricant.
When pruning be sure to wipe the blades with rubbing alcohol between shrubs, trees, and other plants. One of the easiest ways to transmit diseases throughout a a garden or orchard is to use the same uncleaned, cutting blade. It’s worth the 20 seconds to wipe down the blades saving yourself years of disease problems.
While sharpening and cleaning your pruning tools throw your shovels and hoes in there as well. The same techniques used for shears can be used on your other tools and prepping them for the new season will make digging, weeding, and maintenance easier. Using a 5 gallon bucket filled half way with coarse sand mixed with a little oil makes for a quick and easy tool cleaning station. Before putting shovels, hoes, and other tools away quickly plunge them into the bucket until clean and then hang them up to find them quickly when you need them.