KC Gardens

How to properly winterize your garden tools, from lawn mowers to shovels to hoses

Power equipment such as lawn mowers need a good tune-up in the winter so it can be ready for use in spring.
Power equipment such as lawn mowers need a good tune-up in the winter so it can be ready for use in spring. Adele Wilcoxen

We invest in our garden equipment so care should be taken to ensure they are in proper running order. Here are a few chores to help you prepare for spring.

Power equipment

Now is a good time to service power equipment such as mowers, tillers and garden tractors. Run the equipment out of gas before storing for the winter or treat the existing gas with a stabilizer. Untreated gas can deteriorate and clog the equipment. If using a stabilizer, run the engine long enough for untreated gas in the carburetor bowl to burn off. This helps keep fuel lines fresh and free of particles.

Change the oil while the engine is warm. Check and clean air filters and replace if necessary. Many mowers and tillers will have a foam filter that can become filthy with use. If dirty, engines will run poorly or may not run at all. Check and replace the spark plug, if needed.

Sharpen blades, clean tines, tighten screws, replace broken parts and do all the other things needed to keep equipment in good shape. Maintenance does take some time and effort, but it pays for itself by reducing frustration and lost time due to poorly performing equipment during a hectic spring.

For those that do not consider themselves handy, take your power equipment into your local small engine shop for a tune-up.

Hand-tool care

The end of the season is an excellent time to clean and protect your tools so they will last. Hoes, shovels and other garden tools often have wooden handles, which can deteriorate if left in an unprotected location. Weathering can raise the grain on wooden handles, resulting in splinters.

Sand smooth any raised areas. Apply a wood preservative, such as linseed oil or polyurethane, to protect the wood. Wipe off any excess after a few minutes, as oil-based products can attract dirt. Remove soil from metal surfaces. Use sandpaper or steel wool to remove any rust. Now would also be a good time to sharpen dull edges. A light coating of oil will help protect metal through the winter and prevent rusting.

Hoses and irrigation lines

Hoses and shallow irrigation lines may be damaged over the winter if not drained. Lawn irrigation systems have shallow lines. If there is a main shutoff valve for the system, close it and then run through the zones to make sure any pressure has a chance to run off. Some systems require a professional to blow the excess water from the underground lines. Contact your irrigation service provider.

Garden hoses should be drained and disconnected from the water outlet. Drain hoses by stretching them out and coiling them for storage. Hoses are best stored in a protected place for winter as UV light can make hoses brittle over time.

Dennis Patton is a horticulture agent with Kansas State University Research and Extension. Got a question for him or other university extension experts? Email them to garden.help@jocogov.org.

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