Early spring is when we are itching to get out in the garden. This is when you should get your garden tools in shape! Clean, sharpen and oil your shovels, picks, pruners, trowels, loppers, etc.
Steel wool can clean off any rust or caked-on dirt. Pure white vinegar works to remove rust too: pour into a bucket or small plastic tub. Submerse rusty pruning shears in the solution and soak overnight. Wash off the next day. You can also sand the metal with fine sandpaper to get a smooth finish. Oil your tools. It is a rust preventative and a wood saver. In one of my early landscaping jobs, my boss had a large container filled with sand and motor oil and we put our tools in it to remove dirt and oil them at same time. The sand acts an abrasive and the oil prevents rust. But this was not so smart.
Why? Because the petroleum oil goes from the tool into the soil! That is a no no.
What to do? Use BOILED LINSEED OIL. Remember to use BOILED linseed oil which dries quickly. Actual linseed oil can take ages to dry! Linseed oil is derived from the dried seeds of the flax plant and is a great alternative to any petroleum based product.
Blake Shreck of the Garden Tool Company knows a thing or two about garden tools. Blake notes: "A cautionary note: The boiled linseed oil that is available today has a small amount of solvent added to it to keep it from hardening in the can, so after you apply it to your metal and wood, let it dry completely before using your tool, (about 24 hours) that way the solvent will have evaporated."
Dip a rag in the boiled oil and coat a thin layer of oil on the metallic parts. Make sure to cover evenly and do not be tempted to add multiple coats or a thick layer of oil. Let it sit for about 15 minutes and then wipe off excess. Thicker layers take longer to dry and often do not dry to form a hard surface and multiple layers of thin coats are also not a good idea, because they become prone to being removed when scratched.
Its a good idea to oil the wood handles as well to prevent cracking.
Want to learn more about garden tool maintenance? Please see Blake Schreck's "Garden Tool Care and Maintenance" article.