Cleaning Tools for Storage: Good Maintenance, Helpful Gift

1. Cleaning Tools for Storag...

Heather from a Southern California beach town contacted me recently about using sand for cleaning garden tools. She had come across my Seattle Times article on tool maintenance. This seemed like a good time to revisit this task, which I...
Autumn Garden Blazes

2. Autumn Garden Blazes

Autumn in my edible garden is a growing and even blooming season. With a backdrop of blazing fall tree color, cool season vegetables inch upwards like a roomful of nieces and nephews whose growth is notable at a holiday dinner visit. If...
Harvest Visit to UW Farm

3. Harvest Visit to UW Farm

Biking by the UW Farm on University of Washington’s east campus this week, I was drawn by a glorious field of colorful chard, so I decided to stop and take a little tour. UW Farm is a teaching space, and it includes not only UW...
advertisement advertisement

Cleaning Tools for Storage: Good Maintenance, Helpful Gift

Heather from a Southern California beach town contacted me recently about using sand for cleaning garden tools. She had come across my Seattle Times article on tool maintenance. This seemed like a good time to revisit this task, which I do every winter.

(Also, it occurs to me that a gift certificate promising to do tool maintenance would make a great holiday present for the gardener on your list!)

Hi Bill,

Someone from my local gardening group keeps her garden tools in a bucket of sand and swears by it. Then I posed the question if it has to be beach sand with salt and then refreshed once in a while and kept out of the rain or garden sand with no salt. She didn’t know either. And of course my google detective work isn’t panning out.

I look forward to your suggestions,

Heather

Hi Heather,

Cleaning garden tools in a bucket of sand is a great maintenance technique. I often just plunge them into the sand 4 or 5 times, then brush them off with a rag and store them in a rack or on a shelf. But you can keep them in the sand too.

tools in sand

I would not use sand that has salt in it – salt is corrosive to metals. Get a bag of play sand or construction sand (used to set patio pavers) from Home Depot or Lowe’s. Try to store the bucket of sand under cover, so it’s not too wet.

If you’re gardening near the beach in soil that has salty sand in it, I’d clean the tools promptly after gardening to get that salt off.

Some people mix a bit of oil into the sand (motor oil or vegetable oil) because oil on metal tools inhibits rust. But the oil is not strictly necessary.

If the tools already have rust or caked on stuff you can scrub that off with a wire brush or steel wool. A bit of oil while doing that helps too. You might want to wear gloves for that job.

Another great thing to do for your tools with wooden handles is to clean and smooth the wood with sandpaper once a year and rub in some linseed oil. That keeps the wood from cracking.

Final tip: sharpen digging tools like spades, shovels and trowels with a file (a “mill bastard” type, available at most hardware stores) in the winter. Then they’ll be all ready to use next season.

There, now you know more than you ever wanted to about garden tool maintenance.

Holiday cheers and happy growing,
Bill

Autumn Garden Blazes

Autumn in my edible garden is a growing and even blooming season. With a backdrop of blazing fall tree color, cool season vegetables inch upwards like a roomful of nieces and nephews whose growth is notable at a holiday dinner visit.

If family visits our place for a winter feast, some of it will come from the leafy greens and brassicas that flourish in our mild fall maritime weather.

Here are scenes from my autumn garden, with a list of seed sources for these varieties at the end. Happy fall!

Fall peas

The fall crop of Sugar Snap peas is just starting to size up, their white flowers in contrast to the brilliant fall color of the Crape Myrtle tree.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Two Purple Sprouting broccoli plants are set along the edge of a bed, with a cherry tomato plant still trying to produce behind them.

Groninger Brussels sprouts

These Groninger Brussels Sprouts are sizing up nicely. A few more are sprinkled around the garden because, ooh la la, you can’t have too many of these mini winter cabbages!

Kale plus

Russian Red Kale will be very accessible from the front of this raised bed.

Filderkraut cabbage

This Filderkraut cabbage, planted in March, has lots of loose leaves around a surprisingly shaped head.

Cabbage 2

Once the outer leaves are stripped away, the cabbage is much smaller.

Cabbage 3

Connie shows off the gnome’s hat shape of the Filderkraut cabbage. Delightful to look at — and makes a great cole slaw!

Sunday harvest

Red Kuri squash, Jack Be Little Pumpkins, tomatillos and even a few ripening tomatoes in the harvesting hod.

Green Tomatoes

Jaune Flamme produced a crop of tomatoes that are still slowly ripening – maybe one per week. At this rate, a green tomato pie is in our near future.

Mr. Lincoln tomato

Mr. Lincoln was tall and slender, both the president and this plant. One more tomato turning, but still a few that will probably not make it. To honor one of our greatest presidents, we will have fried green tomatoes.

Castelfranco radicchio

Perhaps the most beautiful salad green in the garden, this Castelfranco radicchio is providing tender inner leaves on plants that hung tough during a hot summer. Some went to seed, and the pale blue flowers are floating nearby. Note the leaves of forgotten parsnips that are poking up around this crop.

Castelfranco radicchio

The beautiful flower and intricate seed head of Castelfranco radicchio.

Chard

Peppermint and Rhubarb chard keep on giving, and a row of Early Wonder Tall Top beets size up behind. The chard was planted in March and have provided many cuttings. Clearly there are more to come!

Chard in and out of cloche

Some overwintering chard will be covered by this plastic cloche, and we’ll see if it makes a difference in health compared to the rest of the chard behind it.

Tomatillos

Tomatillos ripen in front of a raised bed cold frame which holds tiny starts of winter “cut-and-come-again” salad greens.

Little Gem lettuce

Little Gem romaine lettuce is growing nicely under a plastic tunnel cloche with zippered windows. But what is the prolific brassica that has sprouted in its bed?

Spinach

Abundant Bloomsdale spinach is protected under the Triangle Tunnel.

Asters

A pot of fall asters brightens the walkway near my vegetable bed and provides pollinator delight.

Squash

Seed sources:

Groninger Brussels Sprouts

Fliderkraut Cabbage

Sugar Snap Peas

Red Kuri Squash

Jack Be Little Pumpkins

Little Gem Lettuce

Abundant Bloomsdale Spinach

Castelfranco Radicchio

Peppermint Chard

Early Wonder Tall Top Beets

« Previous Entries