The Plant Man column
for publication week of 12/19/04 - 12/25/04
The Plant Man
by Steve Jones
Garden tools need some winterizing TLC
It's getting to feel a lot like Christmas. But it's not so much Santa as
Old Man Winter that gardeners and landscapers need to be thinking about
First and foremost: Have you winterized your garden tools yet? If the
answer is "Yes" reward yourself with a dip into the cookie jar. If not...
well it's almost too late but not quite. Here's a quick run-down of what you
need to do:
I'm talking about the non-power tools, such as shovels, forks, trowels and
shears. Get a wire brush and scrub away at the metal parts to remove
dried-on mud and the beginnings of any rust you might see. Then take a rag
and rub some linseed oil into both the metal and the wood parts of each
tool. This prevents the metal from rusting and the wood from drying out and
The fuel tank should be emptied before gas-powered tools such as mowers,
rotor cultivators and weed trimmers are put to bed for the winter. Gas left
in the tank is liable to deteriorate, making it harder to fire up in the
spring. The easiest and safest way to drain the tank: Start the engine and
let it run until it's out of gas. You might also want to replace the spark
plug now instead of waiting for spring. Remove the plug, put a few drops of
oil into the hole and pop in a new plug.
It's frustrating to find that a hose has split because water left in it over
the winter has frozen, expanded and burst through the vinyl. The trick, of
course, is to drain as much water as you possibly can from your hose and
then store it properly. As you might know, I'm a big fan of self-coiling
hoses which I described in detail in my recent column on gifts for
gardeners. (If you missed it, go to www.landsteward.org then click on "The
Plant Man" and scroll down.) If you're still using a "regular" hose, coil
it onto a hose support or hose reel and store it in a shed or garage if
possible. If it must remain outdoors, at least cover it with heavy tarp or
a specialized hose reel cover.
These need to be thoroughly washed and dried before storing. Pesticides in
particular need to be triple-rinsed out of any sprayer, just to be sure you
don't have any residue that you might accidentally spray onto plants next
spring! I like to store sprayers open and upside down so they can drain and
air-dry over the winter.
Clean off any dirt or debris with a rag and grease the wheel if necessary.
Store in a garage or shed, or turn it face down (to prevent the collection
of rainwater or snow) and cover with a tarp.
And now, there's just enough room for another reader's question...
QUESTION: "I have a water dilemma. I was trying to start a small scale hydro
garden in one of my spare rooms. I purchased all of the start up equipment
and with that came a Electrical Conductivity meter. The PPM (Parts Per
Million) of my water before I add any nutrients is 875 PPM. I have sent a
sample of my water to a university for study. Getting to the point, what
should I be looking for as "harmful agents" to my outside gardens? I am
very worried that some of my poor growth problems that I have tried to solve
with compost and manure may have been a water salinity problem." – Rich
ANSWER: With regard to the water, my wife Cheryl and I use regular city
water in our nursery greenhouses with no ill affect to the growth of the
plants. However, it might be an issue in your area and you are very wise to
get an analysis. Furthermore, even though putting down compost and manure
are good for your plants it might not be the only thing you need to do. You
might also need to work to improve the soil in which you grow your plants.
If you need some information on soil-improvement products, let me know.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and
landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and additional
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