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Garden tool maintenance in the winter

The best time of year to do a bit of tool maintenance is the winter. Your lawn should have entered its dormancy period, growing very little. Most plants will have also slowed their growth while the weather is cool. It should take no more than an afternoon, and a few hours now will hold you in good stead for the looming spring and summer period.



The Lawnmower

If your property has quite a bit of lawn, you’ll find your lawnmower gets quite a workout week in week out without much love. The old 4-stroke can certainly take a pounding, but a few quite tasks will keep it running well throughout the year. 

Before you get started, make sure you disconnect the spark plug. You don’t want to accidentally start her up while working on it! Turn the mower over and drain any unused fuel and oil and discard in an appropriate fashion. Give the inside of the body a quick clean to remove any gunk. Usually, a good pressure wash is your best bet.

Mower blades can be sharpened, but if it’s been some time since you’ve given your mower some love a new set won’t break the bank, plus sharp blades are great for your lawn! Blades can be detached using a shifting spanner but may need to be ground off with a grinder depending on the condition. Wear proper protection when working with power tools such as angle grinders.

If the mower engine hasn’t been running well, replace the spark plug and air filter. Take the old ones into your local hardware and while you’re there grab a new bottle of mower oil. If you’re storing your mower for the winter, don’t replace the fuel until you pull it out again in spring.


Cutting tools

Start by giving your secateurs and shears a clean with steel wool and oil. This will remove any rust and built up grime and sap. If they can be easily disassembled, or more importantly re-assembled, take them apart and get right into the mechanism of the tool. Sharpen the blades with either a sharpening stone or a fine file. Before putting them back together, give them a once over with lubricating spray and store in a dry location for the winter.

Digging tools

Steel wool and oil will clean up your digging tools as well. If it’s been a while since they’ve been looked after, you might have to remove any built-up rust and dirt with a wire brush first. If the edge has become dull, give it a quick sharpen with a file or grinder to make digging and dividing plants easier, and healthier for your plants. Wooden handles should be given a light sand followed with a good dose of linseed oil. Store upright, preferably off the ground to eliminate long term moisture contact.



Your wheelbarrow is one of your hardest workers and most neglected. It’s usually feast or famine, beaten up, filled with corrosive or damaging materials and then left behind the shed to fill with water, rust and go flat until the next project. The first thing to go on a barrow will be the wheel, particularly if it’s been a few months between use. Replace the inner tube (or patch it if possible). For wooden handled varieties, a light sand and application of exterior paint or linseed oil will reduce splintering. For metal tray varieties, an application of rust converter or fish oil will prolong its life. Tighten all the visible nuts and store away leaning against a wall, tray side in and wheel off the ground preferably undercover. Before the next use, don’t forget to put some air in the tyre!

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