You don’t have to wait until the end of the season to protect your tool investment. It’s good practice to rinse your tools off after each use, dry them thoroughly and apply a light coat of oil to all metal parts. Use a stiff-bristle brush to clean stubborn, hard-to-remove dirt. If you make this a routine, you won’t have to do much at the end of the season when it comes to preparing your gardening tools for winter storage.
You should have a designated space or worktable where you can inspect your tools and perform any necessary maintenance. Covering the area with newspaper or plastic sheeting will not only protect the area, but it will also make it easier to clean up after you’re done.
Be sure to store your tools off the ground and away from moisture and other elements. Garages and basements with direct outdoor access are good storage places as long as they are dry. If you don’t have a place to store your tools and equipment, you may want to consider building or purchasing a tool shed.
Step 1: Check Blades
Wear heavy gloves when cleaning or sharpening sharp cutting tools. Wear goggles when using a wire brush to remove rust and dirt.
Sharpen very dull hedge trimmer blades by moving a file away from and diagonally across the sharp edge, making sure you maintain the factory bevel. Then decrease the angle slightly and hone just the last 1/16″ of the blade with a sharpening stone. If your trimmer has a serrated blade, do not attempt to sharpen it.
Most digging tools aren’t sold sharpened, so you should sharpen them from the very start. The more you use your digging tools, the duller they get. File the working edge to a 45-degree bevel with a coarse file.
Because a bow saw cuts in both directions, use a triangular file to sharpen both sides of each of the saw’s teeth to a 45- to 60-degree bevel. To keep track of where you are, file every other tooth starting at one end of the blade. Then file the remaining teeth the same way, working from the opposite end. Always file toward the sharp edge.
Clamp a pair of boards on the blade and lock it in a bench vise so you won’t have to keep changing the blade position in the vise.
Once the blades have all been sharpened and before you store these tools for the off-season, use a wire brush to remove surface rust and dirt. Wipe down the metal with light oil to protect it from corrosion, especially if you store the tools in a damp garage or basement.