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Get tools ready for winter

There's a subconscious belief more of a superstition, really that if we don't winterize our landscaping tools then Old Man Winter will somehow be prevented from invading our piece of the planet. It's like hanging up garlic to keep away the vampires, or not stepping on pavement cracks.

"Better not put 'em away just yet. There's always next weekend. Might still need 'em to do just one more job if the weather holds up."

Is that what you're saying to yourself? You leave it one more week, then another week, and then... before you know it, it's almost Spring. Might as well just the tools the way they are.

Not a good idea. Yes, it can a little depressing to winterize your landscaping tools if you see that task as a harbinger of cold, gray days ahead. But look on the bright side: a little TLC now will mean your tools are ready for action the moment you need them next season.

The first item on your agenda is to give all your hand tools a quick once-over with a wire brush. This should remove most of the dried-on mud and other assorted bits of flora. Then, all you need to do is to put some linseed oil on a rag and rub it in. Do this to both the metal and the wooden parts of each of your hand tools. Without the oil treatment, the metal parts are liable to rust and the wooden handles will eventually split, crack or just plain rot. If at all possible, store your hand tools on a tool rack, but at the very least get them up off the floor of your garage or shed.

When it comes to gas-powered tools, you need to empty the tank before you tuck them in for their long winter's nap. The best way is to start them up and let them run until they're out of gas. Take the spark plug out of your gas mower and put a few drops of oil into the hole before putting in a new plug. Scrape all those lumps of matted grass off the blades and see if they need sharpening. Why now? Because your local mower service shop probably isn't too busy right now, so you'll get your mower back faster and you might even be able to advantage of a "special" price.

Of course, this is also the perfect time to weed out the tools that really aren't saving. If you're not likely to use it again because it's blunt, shaky, rusty or all three. Throw it out. Believe me: it won't look any better next Spring!