The pace of things tends to slow down a bit this time of year in the garden. Although we may continue to plant, prepare beds, harvest winter vegetables and enjoy cool-season flowers, most gardeners find this a more relaxed time of year. This is especially true for high-maintenance jobs like mowing lawns, shearing hedges and watering as lawn grasses and shrubs are dormant and cooler, wetter weather reduces the need for extra irrigation.
But taking a little time now can save time and money when you move into high gear next spring. Before you put away gardening equipment consider a few winter preparations that can save delays and costly repairs next spring. Gardening tools and supplies are expensive. With a little care and forethought you can help your tools last from season to season.
An important job is to make sure all gasoline is burned from any gas-powered equipment or add a stabilizer to it. This helps keep the lines and carburetor clear. It is also a good idea to place a few drops of oil into the sparkplug hole and crank the engine to lubricate the internals. Check the spark plugs, change the oil and clean the air filter.
Wash the underside of the mower’s deck and scrape off any old grass and debris.
If any piece of power equipment needs repairs or service now is a good time to get that done so everything is in good shape and ready for work when you need it next year. Check the owner’s manual that came with the equipment for specific recommendations.
Disconnect, drain and store any water hoses that you will not need to use this winter. This extends their life and protects them from freeze damage.
Clean and sharpen tools before you put them away. Wipe metal blades with an oily cloth to coat them with a thin layer of protective oil that helps prevent corrosion. Sand and coat wooden handles with a protective sealer.
Store liquid pesticides in a locked cabinet in a location where they will not freeze. Some garden pesticides have a water base and may freeze if stored in an unheated shed during prolonged periods of below-freezing temperatures. If the liquid freezes, the container may be damaged, allowing the material to leak out when temperatures warm.
Don’t forget to add the generous bounty of leaves nature provides this time of year to your compost piles or use them to mulch shrub and flower beds. Shred the leaves by running over them with a mower with a bag attached so they will decompose more quickly. Stockpile pine straw in plastic bags to use as mulch and for freeze protection.