One of the best ways to live more sustainably is by keeping the things we have as long as possible. A "green" product is not just one that's made with the best materials or the best manufacturing practices; it also should be something that's well-made, so it can last as long as you need it. Garden tools are a perfect example of something that makes sense to choose based on quality. Once you've chosen something well-made, it's up to you to take good care of your tools. Here are some tips for keeping your garden tools in perfect shape.
- Wooden handles on garden tools need regular maintenance. Once a year or so, wipe the handle off and use fine sandpaper to gently smooth the wood. Clean off the dust, and rub in linseed oil, letting it soak in. Keep rubbing the oil in until the wood stops absorbing it. After about an hour, wipe off any remaining oil.
- Metal parts of tools can be cleaned off with a wire brush once a year. The wire brush removes dirt and light rust; if there's more serious rust, try soaking the tool in vinegar or using steel wool. Cutting tools should be filed to keep them sharp.
- It's a good idea to store metal tools in a bucket of coarse sand mixed with vegetable oil. (Use 3/4 quart of oil in 5 gallons of sand if you have a lot of tools. For a smaller container, try upcycling an old coffee can). The sand helps clean off dirt, and the oil prevents rust. Tools can be stored in the bucket over the winter, as well as between uses. If you don't clean your tools this way, you should rinse, dry, and oil them after each use.
(Image: Adele Peters)