Stillwater News Press


February 15, 2014

Grow! 02-16-14

Staying sharp in the garden

Having the right tools for any job is essential. A carpenter won’t get far without a tape measure or hammer. A mechanic is always in need of a wrench and a plumber requires a supply of PVC pipe.

The same is true for gardeners. Having the right tools is important. Making sure those tools are in good working order and the blades are sharp can make a big difference in getting a job done properly and safely.

Today, I want to discuss the proper way to sharpen your garden tools and prepare them for the quickly approaching gardening season.

Hand tools can easily be sharpened using a file, a high speed rotary tool or grinder. Power tools such as grinders can eat away quickly at the blades so it’s important to be very careful. And remember, safety comes first. Always wear protective equipment such as eye protection and gloves. If you don't feel comfortable sharpening your own tools there are usually companies who offer tool sharpening services.

Try to sharpen blades at the same angle as they were when they came from the manufacturer. When sharpening with a file, use long, diagonal strokes to give a more uniform edge.

Lawn mower blades should be sharpened regularly so they provide a clean cut. Sharpen both beveled edges of the blade and then hang it on a nail to make sure it is still balanced. File more off the heavy end of the blade if necessary to balance it.

If you’re not comfortable with sharpening the blade on your own, check to see if there is a local business that will do it for you.

Remember to lubricate moving parts. Applying a light machine oil or penetrating oil to the blades helps prevent rust and corrosion. For larger tools such as shovels, fill a five gallon bucket with sand and mix in one quart of used motor oil. Simply store the shovel with the blade in the oiled sand.

Wooden handles on tools can become dry and splintery so they occasionally need maintenance. Remove rough spots with sandpaper and rub with boiled linseed oil to preserve the wood. Severely damaged handles should be replaced to prevent injury.

We all know how frustrating it can be when the tools we need to complete a job aren’t working properly. By starting now, you have plenty of time to get your tools in shape for the gardening season.

Kimberly Toscano is assistant extension specialist and host of the OETA television program Oklahoma Gardening, which airs at 11 a.m. Saturdays and 3:30 p.m. Sundays, and assistant director of The Botanic Garden at Oklahoma State University.

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