Are your tools covered with dirt and rust? Clean, sharp, quality tools can the difference between drudgery and efficiency. Take advantage of raining afternoons or the off-season to keep your tools in good shape. Im talking about cleaning and sharpening.
Lets start with shovels, a tool every gardener uses. Use a wire brush to remove any caked on soil or lots of rust. Once youve broken through that first layer of dirt use the steel wool to finish cleaning.
Cleaning does take some time and sweat - but its a great way burn off calories. Once clean, give your shovel a nice sharp edge. Use a three-sided file to bevel the edge so it moves smoothly through the soil.
Turn it over and remove any burrs that form on the backside. Use steel wool to clean and smooth the edge. With proper care your tools will probably last much longer than some of those perennials you put in your garden.
A bit more information: Save yourself a lot of work by cleaning your tools after each use. Wash off excess soil with a strong blast of water from the garden hose. Dry with a cloth rag or an old pair of cotton socks headed for the recycling bin.
Consider enlisting some additional help when the rust is more than your wire brush can handle. Check out some of the new environmentally friendly rust removers. Or follow the lead of your fellow gardeners who use undiluted white distilled vinegar. Soak rusty tools in a bucket overnight, wipe tools clean and dry before using or storing.
Invest in a vise to secure tools to your work station or tool bench while cleaning. The vise holds them in place allowing you to safely clean and sharpen. If nothing else, it is a good excuse for building your tool collection while keeping your existing tools in better shape.