Get Your Lawn Mower and Gardening Tools Ready for Spring
Caring For Pruning ToolsKeeping your pruning tools properly sharpened, lubricated, and cleaned makes yard work so much easier, and your plants will thank you for a clean cut, because clean cuts heal faster. The easiest way to keep your pruning tools in great shape is by giving them a good wipe with a rag after each use. This way, there won't be any leftover dirt, debris, or water that can lead to rust. If you use the shears on any plant that has sap, be sure to clean the blades with a solvent, such as kerosene, to remove any sappy residue. Periodically, you should give the shears a good cleaning and greasing, especially before putting them away for the winter months. You can lubricate the bolt by applying a few drops of oil where the bolt joins the blades, as well as to the spring that spreads the hand shears' handles. If the tool has wooden handles, apply oil to the handles, unless they are coated with varnish. When not using a pruning tool, store in a dry place that is out of reach of children. An especially good time to thoroughly clean and oil your pruning tools is when they won't be used for a long length of time, such as at the end of the season, going into winter.
Sharpening Pruning ToolsWhen using pruning shears, you'll want to cut with blades that are sharp. Sharp blades make for a much easier cut, and plants will thank you, because a sharp cut means a faster healing process for the plant. After long use, the blades of pruning tools will become dull after exposure to dirt, sand, and grime. The blades can collect tiny chips that will make the blades dull. To sharpen the blade of pruning tools, you'll need a whetstone. A file can be used for quickly removing metal that has been nicked, not for sharpening. When using a whetstone to sharpen your pruning tools, be sure it is thoroughly wet before using, so that any metal particles that get released are whisked away when sharpening. Hold the whetstone against the blade, and while following the angle of the blade, move the blade or whetstone in an even motion back and fourth, or in a small circular motion. Observe the tool before sharpening. Some tools, such as an anvil-type pruner, you will only need to sharpen one blade, and sharpen both sides of this blade. Be sure to follow the original shape of the blade. If the blade is straight and flat, do not try to make it curved. For hedge shears, bypass hand shears, or bypass lopping shears, both blades do need to be sharpened. Since these blades cut as they slide past each other, sharpen each blade only on its outside edge.
Caring for Your Lawn MowerA lawn mower is a vital piece of equipment for maintaining a beautiful, lush lawn and landscape. Realistically, it most likely takes the biggest beating compared to all other lawn and garden equipment. Just imagine all of the rocks, sticks, and other debris that it runs over that you might not have seen when scoping out the yard before getting the mower started. Often times, mowers get neglected until something breaks or it doesn't start. Fortunately, a little preventative maintenance will do the trick to keep your mower running as long as possible, and you don't need to have previous experience to keep it running smoothly.
To start, give a look over the owner's manual for tips from the manufacturer about keeping it clean and well maintained. After each use, when the mower is turned completely off, give a quick sweep of any grass on the outside of the mower, and with a gloved hand, turn the mower on its side and reach under the deck to give a quick brushing off of caked grass. A couple times during the mowing season, give the mower a good cleaning by turning it over when the gas tank is empty, and spray off the under deck with the hose to loosen dirt and dried grass. Then scrub off any remaining dirt and debris with soap and water.
Once or twice a year, the oil should be changed. This can be done right at home, or you can take it to a small engine shop for a small cost. To change the oil at home, check the owners manual. It's a fairly simple process to do yourself, although you will want to refer to the manual included. Make a habit to check the quantity and color of the oil before each use, when the engine is cold. When the oil starts to get old or contaminated, it needs to be drained. New, fresh oil looks golden or amber colored, and when oil starts to become old it will darken in color, which means it needs to be changed. Start by disconnecting the spark plug, then locate the oil fill cap. On small tractors, it may be located under the hood. On push mowers, you'll need to turn the mower over a suitable container to drain the oil, then be sure to recycle the old oil. If your mower has an oil drain plug underneath, use that instead of turning the mower on its side. Replace the old oil with new, fresh oil, and be sure to consult your owner's manual for the correct oil type to use.
Other easy yet important maintenance includes changing the spark plug every year, to ensure a good start up. Spark plugs are inexpensive, yet vital to a functioning mower. Air filters will also need to be checked and cleaned often, or replaced. Air filters are exposed to a lot of dirt, dust, and debris, so it's important to keep an eye on the condition of the air filter. It may be necessary to sharpen the blade of the mower once a year as well, although this can be easily avoided by picking up any sticks, rocks, or debris in the yard before mowing. It is recommended to take the blade into a repair shop for the inexperienced. They will only charge a small fee to sharpen the blade, but you will know that it was done properly. Getting a tune up from a small engine repair shop is also recommended, especially for those that are very inexperienced with anything related to engines. A tune up may cost between $50-$75, although you'll know that the equipment will last much longer with yearly tune ups, and will run more efficiently when in use.