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Garden Tool Know-How

Little River County, Arkansas

As it starts to get colder outside and most garden items have done all they can do, this is a good time to spend a little quality time with your garden tools and organize other items.  Here are some helpful hints to prepare for the next growing season.

            Get a handle on tangled twine. Coffee cans double as hand twine dispensers. Drop the ball of twine or string in the can, then cut and X-shape hole in the center of the plastic lid. Close the lid, and thread the twine through the hole. This homemade dispenser is light enough to carry around the garden with you, and you’ll never fight with another tangled mess.

            Straighten up and work right. Gain some leverage in you everyday garden battles. Instead of bending, squatting, or kneeling to work in the garden, use long-handled or curved-handled tools. They’re easy to grip and easier on your body.

            Sharp tool reduce sore muscles. Just keeping your tools sharpened can save time and ease the workload on your joints and muscles. Use a file to keep shovels, hoes – and yourself -- in peak condition.

            Sit down on the job. Gardening should be enjoyable and relaxing. Bring a chair or stool into the garden to cut down on the usual and uncomfortable, squatting and bending. Carry tools in a bucket seat. Use a 5-gallon bucket to carry your small gardening tools. As a bonus you can flip it over and sit on it as you weed, plant, or just take a breather.

            Reflect on this hand bug tool.  Make a homemade bug finder by gluing a mirror to an old mop or broom handle. No more crouching, bending, or playing a frustrating game of hide-and-seek with pests. Just stroll through your garden, glancing at your makeshift mirror on a stick to spot bugs lurking on the underside of leaves.

            Make your tools measure up. Turn you hoes, rakes, and shovels into handy rulers. Just paint or notch marks for inches and feet on the wooden handles of your tools. That way, you’ll always have a measuring device when you need one.

            Dress like a handyman. Buy a canvas carpenter’s apron with several pockets at the local hardware store. Wear it while gardening. It’s a handy way to carry small tools or seed packets.

            Have no fear with sharpened shears. Always use freshly sharpened shears or clippers when pruning hedges or trees. Dull blades can lead to split or broken branches – and open the door to diseases and pests.

            Scour tools with homemade paste. Rusty gardening tools? Get them in tiptop shape with a little salt and lemon juice. Mix enough salt into a tablespoon of lemon juice to make a paste, apply to rusted areas with a dry cloth, and rub.  Or you could give rusty tools a vinegar bath. Before you decide to throw away that rusty trowel or other gardening tool, try soaking it overnight in cider vinegar. Wipe away the residue with a cloth and you may find it’s as good as new.

            Bust rust before it begins. Rusty tools can put you in quite a jam. Counter with some jelly – petroleum jelly. Coating your tools with petroleum jelly will help guard against rust.

            Create a sandbox for your tools. Mix 40 pounds of sand with a quart of motor oil.  After using your tools, push them through this gritty, oily mixture a few times to clean and lubricate them for storage. It’s an easy way to prolong the life you your tools and keep them rust-free.

            Dispense oil the easy way. Oiling your tools doesn’t have to be a messy job. Put some mineral oil in an old bottle of lotion or hand soap dispenser and simply squirt it on you tools. Wipe them down with fine steel wool, and they’re good as new

            Use old oil to keep your tools looking new. Kill two birds with one stone as you prepare your tools for the winter. Drain the oil from your power tools, then use the oil to rustproof your metal tools. Just dip a rag in the oil and wipe them down.

            For more information you may contact the Little River County Extension Office 870-898-7224. The University of Arkansas System of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital, or veteran status, genetic information, and any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/ Equal Opportunity Employer.

By Sherry Beaty-Sullivan
County Extension Agent - Agriculture/Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Sherry Beaty-Sullivan
County Extension Agent - Agriculture/Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
1411 N Constitution Ave Ashdown AR 71822
(870) 898-7224


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.