by Elizabeth Passage
Knowing how to properly use and maintain garden tools will increase their life, help prevent personal injury, and increase your gardening enjoyment. For example, properly uncoiling a hose will prevent you from tripping or catching your foot in the coil. The points of an upturned rake can inflict painful and sometimes serious puncture wounds when stepped on, to say nothing about the possibility of the handle flying up and striking you in the face. Tools must not be left where their edges or point may be hidden by grass, leaves, or other material. Keep your fingers away from the blades of the lawn mower: merely striking your hand against the blades can lead to a brutal injury. A small, slight crack in a wooden handle can be repaired by wrapping the handle with tape. A glass filament tape is particularly useful for such a job.
Splinters in wooden handles of rakes, hoes, and shovels can be cured by sanding the surface until it becomes smooth again; this not only protects your hands, but keeps the cracks from spreading and causing the handle to break. A good way to preserve a wood handle is to apply several coats of quality varnish or to paint it. The metal parts of the tool may be painted, with a primer coat, and two coats of exterior paint. However, any metal part which goes into the ground should not be painted.
Aside from preservation by paint, the tools are easier to find when their handles are of a color which makes them conspicuous if left lying on the grass: The color, therefore, should not be green or brown, but a bright contrast to the grass such as red. yellow, blue, or white. The metal edges of shovels, hoes, rakes or other garden tools may become nicked. These may be smoothed with a metal file. Any rough surfaces should be gone over with steel wool or other abrasive which is good for metal. Dents may be straightened out by hammering with a mallet. A wheelbarrow break, in the wood or metal parts, should be repaired at once. Painting the wheelbarrow helps preserve the wood. The moving parts need occasional oiling, to run smoothly. For winter storage, keep tools in a dry spot as dampness could be harmful. Wipe all tools clean of any dirt or grass before being stored. The metal parts should be coated with a mixture of petroleum jelly and light oil, to prevent rust.
Caring for your garden tools will help them last year after year!
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