I once read somewhere that humans tend to take better care of their cars than they do their own bodies. My car is a wreck – it’s the one place that I let it all ‘all hang out’. So, in my case, I’d say I take better care of my garden tools than I do my own body. And, by extension, I have a lot of tools that have been with me for a really long time. I’m not alone in this; most of my closest friends are gardeners, and all of us have one or two tools that are older than we are – your mother’s snips, your grandfather’s hoe, and even a handmade grain scoop.
The only common denominator to account for this longevity is that all of these ‘tools of the trade’ were lovingly taken care of. Back in the day, out in the country, no one had the luxury of a Saturday errand to Home Depot to pick up the latest gizmo or cheap-as-dirt-made-in -you-know-where-thingamabob that was guaranteed to make your chore quicker, easier and more effective than anything on the market! Your tools were not replaceable at a moment’s notice, and lots of time, you even had to improvise. Yep. Make something out of something else.
If you absolutely want to save yourself time and money, even a few headaches, it’s time to start taking care of those tools that help make your garden grow. And, now is an excellent time to take a detailed inventory of what’s on hand, what needs some attention and what you may need to replace. Full disclosure: I left my wooden stakes and supports out in some pretty wet conditions this winter, and now I’m seeing some warping and splits. I’m a die-hard fan of wood, and my supports have lasted a good long time, but many will need to be replaced.
I use a lot of hand tools, and all are filthy and in need of a good bath and some oiling. The handles on my hoe and spade could use a little TLC, and my gloves need several cycles in the washing machine. Mind you; I have an excuse. My ‘seed shed’ was demolished this fall in a big clean up of some very very old buildings that had withstood the test of time, but in the end, progress won, and I didn’t have a spot of much of my ‘tools of the trade’. So, boiled linseed oil and a bit of sandpaper for rust, basic soap, and water to clean and sterilize to keep bacteria and fungi at bay, sharpening stone for blades, line in your weed trimmer. We don’t have a lot of ‘heavy equipment’ but our mower gets check for blades, oil changes, and tire pressure. If you are a big equipment gardener, then this is where we part company as big engines are too complicated for the likes of my pea brain. But, whatever I can control, I do!
Aside from my tools, I’ve got an arsenal of oils and soaps and powders and granules that need to be inspected, and my sprayers all need to be cleaned. Yes, I know, I should have done all this in late fall, but I didn’t. My soil is being tested as I write, and soon the supply ordering will begin. My seeds are ordered, my plants are reserved, and my notebook is filling up with more and more ‘to do’s’. There will always be a ‘last minute’ chore or one package of seeds I forgot to order, but over the years, I’ve learned that early preparation makes my job, actually my passion, a lot more enjoyable. So, right now it’s a focus on the ‘non-green’ aspects of gardening. You have 4 areas to consider right now: digging, weeding, watering and pruning. The hoses need tending, but that won’t happen until the last frost day on my calendar. So, for now, get started on these little chores, and next time, we’ll start considering the most critical factor of all: Soil!