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Giving it the edge July 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Homes & Gardens.

A common inventory of garden tools includes leaf and garden rakes, hoes, shovels, trowels, pruners, gloves, garden hoses and a lawn mower. These tools must be maintained well since you will soon be pruning, planting, mulching, mowing and weeding again.

Lawn mowers > For those who like the old-fashioned way, people-powered reel-type push mowers need little maintenance. Just keep the blades sharp and spray a little WD-40 lubricant onto the cutting surface and axle shafts. Hang the mower in the shed or garage. As long as your lawn is cut regularly, a new version of the push mower will do an excellent job and is easy to use. For those who prefer mowers powered by petrol rotary motors, these are the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s guidelines for winterising and safely using them >

Outdoors or in a well-ventilated area, drain or run petrol tank dry of fuel. Disconnect spark plug wire and remove spark plug. Pour a small amount of light oil into the cylinder and pull starter rope to turn engine several times. Replace the plug. Clean caked-on grass and wipe down mower deck, handle and controls. Store mower and petrol in well-ventilated area away from all flames.

After every 20 to 25 hours of operation, take the rotary blade to a mower shop to have it sharpened and balanced. Change the oil and clean or change the air filter.

Every 100 hours, remove and clean the spark plug, or replace it if it is burnt or corroded. Lubricate mower wheels with No 2 multipurpose lithium grease, if the wheels and blade housing have fittings.

Electric mowers get their power from an electric outlet or a rechargeable, on-board battery. They are low maintenance. All you need to do is keep the housing clean, the power source charged and the blade sharpened and well-balanced.

Spreaders and sprayers > The tools for applying lawn and garden nutrients are spreaders and sprayers. Thoroughly clean sprayers and spreaders after every use. Many landscape chemicals are corrosive. If you fail to rinse these pieces of equipment soon after use, you may need to buy new ones or replace parts.

Pruning tools > There are lots of hand-held manual pruning tools. Because winter is the time for many pruning tasks, they should be prepared for heavy-duty use. Bypass pruners cut like scissors. Put a little oil on the pivot point; clean them and sharpen blades. Use a sharpening stone or a fine-textured, flat metal file. Use it to remove burs and sharpen the bevel. Don’t sharpen any pruner razor-thin or change the angle of the bevel on the blade. This will cause it to lose its edge quickly. Don’t remove deep nicks in the blade, just little ones. This will extend the blade’s life.

Anvil pruners have a single blade that cuts into a flat surface placed in its jaw. The cut of an anvil pruner depends on how the blade hits the flat surface. If the blade does not squarely hit the anvil, it will not make a clean cut on the part of the plant you are pruning. The anvil is a part that can be replaced if it has deep grooves in it.

A lopper-style pruner is a difficult tool to keep aligned and sharp because it tends to be used for large branches that require a saw. The lopper can twist or snap due to the leverage that can be applied because of its long handles. The most practical aspect of loppers is the long-handled reach. Be careful of the thickness of the branch you choose to cut.

Loppers and hand pruners also come with ratchet action, which is good if you need the extra pressure to prune through a branch. Don’t squeeze this pruner tightly. It will break the ratchet device.

Pruning saws are the handiest tools for cutting branches from about three-quarters of an inch to three inches thick. For pruning higher than you can reach, use a pruning saw fashioned to fit on an extension pole. Blades are curved, narrow at the end and wider as you move towards the handle. The coarse crosscut blade is very effective when sharp. When the blade is dull, replace it. Use a tree company to safely prune large trees. Do not climb the tree yourself.

Shovels > Prepare the digging edge of your shovel by honing it to remove burs, nicks and dullness. Leave the shovel edge somewhat blunt or thick at the end so you will not wear the edge down too quickly. An all-steel or steel reinforced, straight-edged garden or nursery spade with a 27-inch D-grip is my favourite multipurpose digging tool.

Handles > To get wooden handles in shape and reduce the chance for splinters, sand them with a fine sand paper and rub in a mixture of linseed oil and kerosene. Dilute the linseed with enough kerosene so that it soaks into the wood. All your wooden tool handles will last longer and will be a pleasure to use after being oiled. Work outdoors or in a ventilated tool shed.

Odds and ends > Now, it is time to get into your workshop and organise. Tighten the nuts and bolts on your garden equipment so everything is ready to use. Don’t forget to check wheelbarrows, rototillers and other tools.

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