Once you've put your garden to bed for the colder months, don't forget to do the same for your tools.

By BH&G Garden Editors
Updated October 13, 2020
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After the last leaf is raked and the final bulb is planted, it's time to settle your garden tools in for a well-deserved winter rest. Hand tools with metal blades, such as trowels, weeders, and shovels, especially need to be cleaned off and protected from rust over the colder months. Plus, giving them a little TLC at the end of the gardening season means they'll be ready to go and right where you need them when spring rolls around again. To keep your tool blades sparkly during hibernation, all you'll need is a little sand and oil. Follow these easy steps to ensure your treasured tools will be in top shape for another season working the soil, and for many more to come.

Lubricating Sand
Credit: Peter Krumhardt

1. Prepare the Sand Mixture

Fill an old pot or bucket (large enough to hold all of your metal-blade tools) with dry sand ($4, The Home Depot). Mix lubricating oil such as WD-40 or linseed oil ($7, The Home Depot) with the sand until it is thoroughly moist. Avoid using motor oil, especially for tools you use in your vegetable garden, so that you don't end up contaminating your soil with it. And while you could use vegetable oil, it tends to turn rancid in the summer heat.

Sticking Tool In Sand
Credit: Peter Krumhardt

2. Place Your Tools Into the Mixture to Store

Gather your clean and dry tools (rinse off any dirt or sap, or scrub off caked on mud with a stiff brush or steel-wool scrubbing pad). Plunge the metal ends into the sandy mix. Place the pot or bucket containing the tools in a cool, dry place for winter storage and let the mix do its work. Keep wooden tool handles from splitting and drying out during the winter months by rubbing them with linseed oil or mineral oil ($6, The Home Depot) before storage.

Wiping Tool
Credit: Peter Krumhardt

3. Clean Off Tools for Another Year of Use

When spring arrives, remove the tools from the sandy mixture and wipe down the blades with a piece of burlap or coarse cloth. If you'd rather hang up your tools over the winter, you can just plunge them into the mixture several times to remove debris in the fall and then polish with a coarse cloth before hanging them for storage. Keep the sandy mixture nearby to use anytime you want to spruce up your tools.

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