With fall here and winter on its way, we need to begin cleaning up our gardens. Fall cleanup does not end in the garden, for longevity of our gardening equipment, we need to clean it up and prepare it for winter months as well. If we take the time to cleanup our equipment and store it in the best locations, our tools can be an investment to help us in the garden for many years.
The first step is to clean up your vegetable gardens when you are done with them for the year. Remove tomato cages and clean them up for storage in a garage or shed to help them last for multiple years. Remove all plants and compost them or put them in the trash if they had problems with insects or diseases this year. Till up your garden this fall and incorporate manure or compost to help with organic matter next year. After tilling, cover the bare soil with some type of mulch to avoid wind erosion of topsoil, grass clippings or straw will work well for this and it can be tilled into the soil next spring.
When completed with hoses for the year, be sure to drain them of any water. Then coil the hose and hang it on a hook or in a hose reel station for the winter months. You can always get the hoses back out during the winter on warm days to water trees and shrubs if the winter is dry, just be sure to drain them when done watering in the winter months.
When finished using any tools, be sure to clean all debris off of them. Scrape off caked on mud with a wire brush or steel wool. Sharpen pruning tools so they are ready to go next spring. Apply a light coat of an oil to prevent any rusting from occurring. These tools are best kept in a garage or a shed and out of the harsh winter elements to help them last longer.
For sprayers used during the season, the best cleanup would be a triple rinse. Rinse out the sprayers three times with water to remove any pesticide residue from the container. It may also be a good idea to clean nozzles and screens with soapy water. If the pesticide sits in those nozzles over the winter it will be difficult to clean them out next spring so that the equipment may be used again.
Pesticides and fertilizers can be stored for future use. Store all pesticides in their original containers with the label still attached. Store them in a cool, dry location where they won’t freeze, as this can be harmful for the product and the container. Do not allow granules or other dry pesticides to get wet.
As for power equipment, be sure to follow instruction manuals on care and servicing requirements. As a general rule, clean out grass clippings and other debris from underneath the lawnmower deck and clean all caked on mud from the tiller prior to winter storage. Also, sharpen lawnmower blades and check to see if the air filter needs to be changed at this time so they are ready to start mowing next spring. Be sure to turn off the equipment and disconnect the battery prior to any work done to avoid injury or other accidents. It is best not to store gasoline through the winter as it does not ignite easily making those machines work harder to use it.