Adventures in Gardening: Tool Time

by David Soper


Rule number one in gardening tools is to use sharp tools. My philosophy is that the tool should do the work with my guidance, not vice-versa. To make that happens requires sharp tools. There are at least four good reasons to keep your tools sharp:

1. Working with the tools is more pleasant, more fun.
2. The work requires LESS effort.
3. The work is done more efficiently (more work, less time)
4. You conserve your energy because the tool does the work.

And, it is much better for the plants to be cut well and cleanly with a sharp tool.

The actual sharpening doesn't have to take a lot of time. You don't need expensive grinders or even sharpening stones. What you do need is a 6" single-cut mill bastard file.

Put the tool to be sharpened in a vise, if you can. Then, using a continuous stroke, stroke away from the edge. Just repeat this step until the blade is sharp. How long that will take depends on whether you are sharpening your Felcos or a garden hoe. The principle remains the same.

If you start sharpening your tools on a regular basis, it will soon become second nature and you will come to enjoy the pleasures of working with sharp implements.

Here's a maintenance tip: Take an old plastic bucket or long wooden box and fill it part way with coarse builders' sand. Next, buy a quart of motor oil (the cheaper the better, but not used) and pour the oil in the bucket of sand. Try to stir up, if you can. It won't be easy. Also, since the bucket will now be fairly heavy, you might want to start this project where the bucket will end up.

And what do you do with this? At the end of each gardening day, rinse and stick your trowel, shovel, hoe, and any other metal tool you have used into the sand, one at a time, and move it around. This serves two purposes. It will help clean your tool and remove dirt and moisture, and it will apply a light coat of oil to the tool, thereby thwarting rust and extending the life of the tool considerably.


David Soper, The Garden Guy, writes and lectures on gardening topics. Read more on his website, Adventures in Gardening, www.gardenguy.com

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