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Preparing home gardening equipment for the winter

Homeowners depend on a variety of equipment to accomplish home landscaping tasks. During winter, most of it is not used and should be appropriately stored. However, some preparation is necessary before putting it away.

Tim Daly

The offseason is a good time for equipment maintenance and repairs. These steps will help increase the life and overall dependability of the equipment.

Lawn mowers should be thoroughly cleaned first before storing. Clean all the underside of the equipment with a piece of steel wool or similar material. Remove any clippings that have accumulated under the covers and body of the lawnmower. Thoroughly wash the mower and under its deck. Use or drain any gas from the fuel tanks. Do not store gasoline over the winter months since old gasoline does not ignite quickly, which could interfere with the operation of the machines. Change the oil, change the spark plugs and replace air filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Thoroughly inspect every part of the mower. Check the drive belts for ones that frayed, warped or have started to slip and replace as needed. Sharpen or replace the mower blades.

If you have equipment with batteries, they should be removed to prevent the possibility of battery acid from leaking and damaging the equipment. They should be stored in a dry, secure location. 

The equipment should be neatly organized and stored in a sheltered location. Everything should have a proper place and should be kept secured. If any equipment must be stored outside, use a cover that is well fitted and secured to protect it from the wind and the rain.

On shovels, rakes, and hoes, wash and brush off any soil and debris. Apply a light coat of oil or WD-40 to the metal parts of the tools. To reduce the likelihood of damage, properly hang the tools on a wall instead of throwing them into a corner. Check the handles, especially the ones made of wood, to make sure they are not coming loose from the shovel and they do not have cracks or defects. Replace any broken handles.

Clean pruning tools with a rag and some bleach. Scrub them with steel wool to remove soil accumulations. Lubricate the hinges and springs. Use a metal file to sharpen the blades at a 45-degree angle. Pruners with removable blades should be replaced with new ones. Always make sure you wear protective gloves when sharpening tools.

Clean the tires, handles, and the tray of wheelbarrows with water and soap. Tighten loose nuts and bolts and use a bicycle pump to fill the inflatable tires if needed. Apply spray paint to the exposed steel to prevent rusting. Store the wheelbarrow inside a garage or tool shed. If kept outside, turn it upside down to avoid the accumulation of rainwater in the pan.   

Remember preparing and maintaining the equipment for winter storage is critical to protecting your investment. A few simple tasks can go a long way to keep it in optimal condition so it will be ready for use the following spring.

Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with UGA Extension Gwinnett. He can be contacted at 678-377-4011or