Winter

“He that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.”
–  Confucius

Winter is the time to examine your gardening equipment.
I have to admit that over the years I haven’t always treated my garden tools as well as I should have. I’ve been guilty of leaving them outside when I’m finished. In the past, I’ve often bought the cheapest tools I could find. Eventually, I realised that buying quality tools and caring for them meant they didn’t need to be replaced so often. Working in the garden is easier with good, sharp, well-maintained equipment. After you find just the right equipment, it really does make sense to take care of it. After all, a high-quality tool can last for many years, especially with a little care.
Rather than just propping the spade and hoe in the corner of the shed, where their edges get knocked about, I now have a special place for each tool. I’ve hung hooks for everything from rakes to the old knife I use for dividing perennials. Hanging tools protects the blades and keeps the shed tidy so I can find a tool when I need it.
After working in the garden, do a quick examination and cleaning of your tools as you put them away. I find that keeping an old plastic spatula by the door of my garden shed works well to scrape off dirt and mud. Don’t use a metal trowel for scraping, you could end up dulling both tools. You don’t need to clean them as if you’re getting ready to store them for winter, but at least remove the loose dirt.
When you do forget and the mud has dried like concrete, the sharp spray from a hose and a nylon scrubber will clean it all off. After you wash the tool, make sure to dry it thoroughly with a rag. Tools put away wet will rust, making the surface rough. Examine the blade edge as you put each tool away. If you find large nicks or see that the edge is dull, it’s time to get it sharpened.
Remember that the most important tool in the garden is you. When you’re feeling dull or not too sharp, you should take care of yourself. The same is true of your garden tools. They’ll be more productive if they’re well cared for.