Tips for storing lawn and garden equipment for the winter
Prepare tools for winter
We have all made an investment in our garden equipment and care should be taken to make sure they are in proper running order, or last as long as possible. Here are a few season-ending chores to help you be ready to start off next spring in great shape.
Power Equipment Late fall or early winter is a good time to service power equipment such as mowers, tillers and garden tractors. Run the equipment out of gas or treat the existing gas with a stabilizer, as untreated gas can deteriorate over time. If using a stabilizer, run the engine long enough for untreated gas in the carburetor bowl to be burned and replaced. This tip helps keep fuel lines fresh and free of particles that result in poor condition.
This is also a good time to replace the oil (and filter, if present) since the engine is warm. Check and replace the spark plug, if necessary. Some gardeners will also apply a light, spray oil into the cylinder through the spark plug hole. Check and clean air filters and replace if necessary. Many mowers and tillers will have a foam filter that can become filthy with use. If allowed to become dirty, engines will run poorly, or may not run at all.
This is also a good time to sharpen blades, clean tines, tighten screws, replace broken parts and do all the other things needed to keep equipment in good shape. Maintenance does takes some time and effort but it pays for itself by reducing frustration and lost time due to poorly performing equipment during a hectic spring.
For those that are not in DIY mode, fall and early winter is also a good time to take your power equipment into your local small engine shop for a tune-up and yearly repairs. This is normally a slow time for them and helps you avoid the spring rush, when you are ready to get into the yard and garden for spring chores.
Hand-tool Care Hoes, shovels and other garden tools often have wooden handles that can deteriorate over time. Storing tools in a protected location can slow that process, but normal use will still expose the tools to the elements. The end of the season is a good time to clean up and protect your tools so that they will last for many years. Weathering can raise the grain on wood handles, resulting in splinters. A light sanding can smooth any raised areas. Follow that with a light application of wood preservative, linseed oil or polyurethane to protect the wood. Wipe off any excess after a few minutes, as oil-based products can attract dirt.
Remove soil from metal surfaces. Use sandpaper or steel wool to remove any rust that may have formed. Now would also be a good time to sharpen dull edges. A light coating of oil will help protect metal through the winter and prevent rusting. Come spring you are ready to tackle any chore.
Hoses and Irrigation Lines Hoses and shallow irrigation lines may be damaged over the winter if water is not drained. Lawn irrigation systems usually have shallow lines but are normally built to be self-draining. If there is a main shutoff valve for the system, close it and then run through the zones to make sure any pressure has a chance to bleed off. Some systems may require a professional to blow the excess water from the underground lines. Contact your irrigation service provider, if needed. Garden hoses should be drained and disconnected from the water outlet. Drain hoses by stretching them out and coiling them for storage. Water will drain as you pull the hose toward you for coiling. Hoses are best stored in a protected place for winter — UV light can make hoses brittle over time.
Remember, a little care now can save costly repair or replacement costs down the road.