We won’t venture much into the garden over the next few months and just as we prepare it to withstand the winter weather we should treat our trusty tools in the same way.

We’ll continue using some tools, like loppers and secateurs for pruning and scissors for cutting string and these must be cleaned and sharpened throughout the year.

A special file or stone works nicely for secateurs and a grinding stone for loppers. I find a flat file also gives a good sharp edge on loppers and any other tools that need this, such as a hoe and spade. They also all need oiling; WD40 works nicely for me.

But shears of all kinds will be given a rest. I screw my shear sharpener onto the workbench and am using it all the time as it works equally well for scissors.

Spades and forks also need an extra clean up. If you’ve still got one of the old-fashioned spades with a wooden shank, rub in some oil (preferably linseed) to help it last a bit longer.

Sadly the shank on my trusty old spade broke a few years ago, so I gave the handle end a new lease of life by cutting and shaping it to make an excellent leek dibber. I try not to waste anything.

Mowers and other petrol-driven machines need cleaning up underneath and any petrol tipped out.

It can deteriorate over winter; lower-quality petrol may leave deposits and water may get in so the machine may simply not start in spring.

Some modern, battery-powered garden machinery has much more oomph than earlier models, so I’ve found they can tackle heavier work to replace petrol-driven ones. If you have any, remove the batteries and store in a dry shed.

You should also charge up the batteries from time to time as they may completely discharge and, if left like this, may become damaged or fail to hold their charge when used next spring.

Check out fleece and netting to make sure they don’t harbour bits of stick or weeds.

They do tend to discolour, turning an unwelcome greenish colour, so turn the hose on them and use a soft brush to clean up.

Small sections can go in the washing machine but I take mine down to the burn, trampling like the old-fashioned way of washing clothes in tubs.

If you haven’t been disciplined enough to bundle up and tie string round the material, it’ll save a lot of time in the spring to do it now.

If at all possible, hang fleece and mesh on the side of a wooden shed to keep it dry and stop the algae regrowing. I find stacking cloche hoops this way is also quite useful.


Plant of the Week

SILVER BIRCH, BETULA PENDULA, is a beautiful and versatile tree with stunning white bark that looks at its best when lit by low winter sun. Birch trees have a naturally graceful shape that is stunning whether bare in winter or covered by fresh green leaves in spring that then turn gold in autumn.
Silver birch tolerates most soils and is very hardy; it grows fast and needs minimal care.


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