Chlorophyll runs through horticulturalist Melinda Cordell’s veggie-loving veins. She has been frolicking through fields and studying shrubs her whole life, and she has learned many garden tool storage tips along the way to keep her gardening kit in working order.
“I started reading gardening books when I was a kid, because my grandmothers had books about houseplants and wildflowers,” said Cordell, author of Don’t Throw In the Trowel!: Vegetable Gardening Month by Month. “I was a real plant nerd in high school.”
If you also have a passion for growing flowers, vegetables or even a houseplant or two, keep reading to see how Cordell and another horticulturalist keep their garden tools from rusting and otherwise in great shape between days in the dirt.
Keep Garden Tools in a Covered Space
Rust is the number one enemy of metal garden tools, so it’s best to keep all your gear stored in a covered place and away from dew and rain.
“Have a mailbox out in your garden for your small tools,” suggested Cordell. “They’re relatively waterproof, and they will provide a dry place for you keep your stuff right there in the garden.”
In the rainy Pacific Northwest, horticulturalist and author Christina Pfeiffer keeps her garden tools safe from rust-causing water in a closet near her verdant backyard.
“The important thing is to have a place that’s dry,” she said. “I keep my tools outside in a tiny garden shed. It has doors, and it’s closed in to protect my things from the elements and to keep them all in one place.”
Clean and Oil Garden Tools Regularly
Damp dirt can also cause garden tools to rust or become stuck together – in the case of shears or scissors – so it’s important to clean them after every use and regularly oil them.
“I have a little bristle brush for barbeque grills that I keep in my tool bag,” said Pfeiffer. “Trowels, shovels, I will brush them off to get the damp soil off of them before I put them away. It’s a good, easy routine.”
She also uses WD-40, since it’s a moisture-free oil formula, to keep her pruning tools from rusting together after rainy days in the garden.
“I dry them off with a rag and then give them a light squirt of oil before I put them away,” she said.
To keep larger metal tools such as shovels and rakes clean, Cordell suggests filling a bucket with sand and motor oil. You want enough oil to make the sand damp, not wet.
“When you’re done with your tools at the end of the day, put the end of the tool in the bucket to clean it,” she said. “The sand will abrade the dirt and the oil will keep it from getting rusty.”
Garden Tool Storage Tip: Hang Large Tools
After you’ve cleaned and oiled your garden tools, hang or prop them up off of the ground to keep them in good condition.
“Hang up your tools so they don’t get waterlogged on the bottom of your shed,” said Cordell. “You can go to any store and get some hooks, and hang those puppies up!”
If you don’t have the time or tools to hang your garden gear, you should at least prop items up instead of laying them flat in your shed, and store the metal side up to keep it off the ground, said Pfeiffer.
She also suggests draining, coiling and then hanging garden hoses in your shed to keep them working longer.
“Store them so they’re under cover, so they don’t freeze or crack and break,” she added. “It’s just a good idea to give them the longest life.”