How to Clean and Sharpen Garden Tools
This shovel could use a little TLC.
Properly maintained quality garden tools are a joy to use and can last for generations. And, like most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Regularly cleaning and oiling your garden tools will prevent rust, keep them sharper, and allow the handles to stay strong.
But if you’re like me, sometimes you’re not as diligent as you should be—putting your tools away dirty or leaving them outside in the weather. Then before you know it, they’re on the fast track to the trash bin.
Here’s how to get a shovel, or other garden tools, in shape and keep them that way.
Gather Your Weapons
To clean and maintain your tools, you’ll need the following:
- Cleaning Supplies: Detergent, garden hose, sprayer, sponge, old rags or towels.
- Cleaning Tools: Steel wool, scrub brush, wire brush, and a rotary wire brush attachment for your drill.
- Sandpaper: (80 and 120 grit) Made to work on both wood and metal.
- Sharpening Tools: A fine metal file and a sharpening stone to hone edges.
- Lubricating Oil: Such as boiled linseed oil, tung oil, motor oil, lamp oil, or cooking oil. Boiled linseed and tung oil are probably the best choices, but you can use what you have on hand.
- Safety Equipment: Wear gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask when working on tools.
Step 1: Clean Tools
Start by giving your tools a good scrubbing to remove any mud and grit from the blades and handles. Dry with old towels, then set them aside overnight so they dry completely to avoid trapping moisture.
Step 2: Remove Rust
Use steel wool or a wire brush to scrub away any rust that has accumulated on metal parts. A rotary wire brush attachment chucked in a drill can make the job easier. As a rule, you want to remove the rust with as little grinding and scraping of the steel as possible to keep tools from becoming thinner and weaker over time.
Step 3: Sand Tools
Smooth worn wooden handles with medium grit sandpaper to remove splinters and deteriorated finish. You can also use sandpaper to remove any remaining rust from surfaces and crevices and to lightly polish the metal. When finished, thoroughly wipe down the tools to remove any wood or metal sanding dust.
Step 4: Sharpen Tools
Use a metal file to lightly sharpen the edges of tools. Again, you don’t want to grind away too much of the metal, just use it to smooth out nicks, remove burrs, and give a nice clean edge. On some cutting tools (like hedge clippers and axes), you’ll need to follow up with a sharpening stone lubricated with oil for a finer edge.
Step 5: Oil Tools
Using a clean rag, apply lubricating oil to both the wooden handle and the metal blade. Rub the oil into the surface then wipe off any excess. The oil will help prevent rust and condition the wood to keep it from absorbing water and prevent cracking. After the handle has dried, apply a second coat of oil to the wood if needed. Tools with fiberglass or composite handles will only need a good cleaning.
Some gardeners prefer to sand wooden tool handles and reapply a coat of exterior finish such as spar varnish. If you do refinish your tool handles, make sure the wood is completely dry first. I prefer using oil simply because I’d rather do a quick wipe down, rather than taking the time to sand the wood, apply finish, and wait for it to dry, but it’s really a matter of preference.
That’s more like it! Now, to keep it that way.
Now that your gardening tools look like new, take the time to keep them that way! At the end of every gardening day, spend a few minutes to:
- Rinse off mud and soil with a garden hose. Clinging wet soil is the main cause of rust on garden tools.
- Scrub away stubborn soil with a scrub brush, and use paint thinner to remove sap and pitch.
- Wipe tools dry with a rag or towel, or let them dry in the sun while you finish your chores.
- Hang tools up rather than standing them on their edges.
- Periodically wipe on a light coat of oil or spray surfaces with a penetrating oil. You can also put tools in a sand bucket to keep them clean and sharp.
Source: Mother Earth News
Squashes and pumpkins are among the most thrilling vegetables you can grow. Speed, vitality and generous harvests – they’ve got it all!
Growing Squash from Sowing to Harvest
Whether you’re growing summer or winter squash, get your crop off to the best possible start with our sowing-to-harvest guide to these first-rate performers.
In this short video 5 minute video we’ll show you how to grow super squash – every time.
Photography by Justine Hand for Gardenista.
Now that Easter is over we are inundated with Easter Egg Shells! This is an exciting time for the garden when we have additional resources for growing happy edibles in the Living Lab. At the end of every week when my containers are full, I set to pulverizing them into little bits with wooden spoons, thus compacting the shells so that I can collect more. If you prefer to use a food processor to grind up your egg shells, reduce to a fine powder and store in a mason jar. The finer the particles the easier for your plants to absorb the calcium. Keep adding shells to store throughout the year to use in the spring.
Though nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are most vital for healthy growth, calcium is also essential for building healthy “bones”—the cell walls of a plant. Composed of calcium carbonate, eggshells are an excellent way to introduce this mineral into the soil. To prep the eggshells, grind with a mixer, grinder, or mortar and pestle and till them into the soil. Because it takes several months for eggshells to break down and be absorbed by a plant’s roots, it is recommended that they be tilled into the soil in fall. More shells can be mixed into your soil in the spring.
By the same token, finely crushed shells mixed with other organic matter at the bottom of a hole will help newly planted plants thrive. (Tomatoes especially love calcium.) For an exciting recycled garden cocktail, try mixing your eggshells with coffee grounds, which are rich in nitrogen.
Finally, eggshells will reduce the acidity of your soil and help to aerate it.
It’s Dandelion Season! Looking for ways to use these healthy greens in your kitchen? Dandelion greens may not be the most popular greens out there but hopefully after this post you’re going to feel informed enough and comfortable enough to go out and give em a try!
Not only are dandelions delicious, they are a nutritional powerhouse! Dandelion greens are a dark, leafy green veggie that are packed with goodness. They are said to be one of the most vitamin packed foods on the planet! They have more fiber, protein, calcium and potassium than any other green out there and they’re rich in beta carotene, iron, vitamin A, E and K. Dandelion greens not only support the digestive system but they also reduce swelling and inflammation in the body. Needless to say, they bring a lot to the table.
Like many other light, leafy greens, they peak right at the beginning of Spring and go till about mid Summer. This is when you’re going to get the best flavor, the highest nutritional value, and they can be foraged for FREE!
You’re going to notice that the leaves are fairly irregular and a bit jagged, they look a little bit like an arrow. You want to make sure they are nice and firm and a rich green with no discoloration and no wilting.
Dandelions do tend to be a little bitter by nature but what you’ll find is the smaller the leaf the more mild and tender the flavor. Try to avoid the really big leaves and keep it between small and medium sized.
After foraging for dandelion greens you’ll want to keep them in the refrigerator under the high humidity setting in your veggie drawer, know that they’ll only last a couple of days so you do want to use them shortly after harvesting. Once you’re ready to use your dandelion greens, give them a good rinse in cold water. The bottom of the stems can be a little tough and bitter so trim those off and add to your compost bin.
Chop them off right where the leaf begins. Give the leaves a nice rough chop all the way up. You can either enjoy them raw in a salad or cooked. If you’re going to put them in a salad I would maybe suggest giving the leaves a little nibble first to see how mild or bitter they are. If they are a little bit bitter consider mixing the leaves with a little butter lettuce or a red leaf variety and then build your salad from there.
Dandelion greens really love big, bold, fat flavors so things like blue cheese, goat cheese, nuts and bacon are a perfect fit, be sure to give your greens a little fat love. When it comes to cooking these greens they love to be steamed, sautéed and braised. Again, they love big bold flavors so things like garlic, soy sauce and big, bold vinegars are really going to compliment these greens.
A personal favorite go to that’s really quick is to sauté your dandelion greens in a little bit of olive oil, fresh garlic and a few hits of soy sauce. Let those greens wilt down and finish it off with a big squish of lemon and voila! Quick and simple.
A teenager’s reflection on making Escargot: Farm to Table
Don’t do it.
Disclaimer: 104 snails were re-foraged from every part of the kitchen and our refrigerator. Jackson passed his French Class and I, leaving abruptly, enjoyed a movie, more than one glass of wine, and all the carbs. Snails were treated humanely in the making of this dish.
Jackson Hiatt, French Class circa 2014
Never before have I invested this much time into preparing one dish. Frankly, what respect I had for French cooking has now dwindled to almost nothing. I want to be really clear that this meal isn’t worth the effort, and at times is incredibly revolting. However, snails have proven to be decent escape artists so I’ll grant them worthy of the French since they follow in the footsteps of retreat.
I spent at least an hour gathering snails from gardens, yards, and sidewalks, usually in the rain and at one point in the late evening where I began to have some difficulty. 104 snails later I carried out the process of washing them and placing them in a jar to starve in order to cleanse their systems of any toxins. For two days I watered and cleaned them regularly. After three days I gave them carrots to eat and then starved them for another two days. This process takes a week. By the way, they have to be washed by hand which is not a pleasant activity and is not recommended for passing the time. Once they have been purged you must place them in a container which goes into a refrigerator or freezer so they will go into a dormant state. This makes the next step much more humane.
Place the snails in boiling, salted water for 15 minutes, simmer. This both kills and cooks them. Be warned, smaller snails with thinner yellow shells or snails that have suffered damage to their shells in the past do not cook as well. They may shrivel inside the shell to the point that you can’t pull them out, or they may even explode (At least some of their organs will).
After they have been cooked something to take note of is that the water turns to a brinish green and so do parts of the snails. They and the water will give off a wretched smell. Some people say that Europeans hold their heads up high because they think they are better than everyone else. This is not true, they are simply avoiding the odor that wafts off their cooking.
Once you extract the snails from their shells you can do as you please with them. I went with dousing them with a lot of garlic butter to disguise the snails themselves. The only unique thing about this is that snails, as far as I’m concerned for cooking purposes, are living tofu. They taste like what you put on them (and you must put something on them if you wish to hold on to your earlier meals).
The texture is chewy, although not as slimy as I anticipated and is easy to swallow. To sum up why this is a bad dish; my dog made faces rather than have a sample. It may be very obvious that this project aggravated me since it was an unappealing process and left me feeling sick. Now I only hope that the snail tribes don’t dub me as a murderer.
When designing your outdoor space, it is easy to just buy a fun planter at the store, but if you want more creative garden container ideas, this is the list for you. Each of these fun and creative containers takes something you can easily find in your home or at a flea market and makes it into a beautiful display for your plants.
Creative Planter Ideas for Your Garden
These creative garden container designs have projects for every aesthetic. Have an old desk, dresser, or chair you don’t know what to do with? Add some soil and your favorite flowers for a unique porch decoration. Want a more rustic-looking space? Try one of the creative garden containers using wood or stone.
There are even ideas on this list that you make with your kids as an easy family project. Round up old outgrown rain boots, toy trucks, or laundry baskets and make fun planters out of them together. Whether your outdoor space is large or small, there are creative projects to fit your needs. If you have a smaller yard, try one of the hanging containers to save space. Read on for instructions for making all creative garden container ideas!
DIY Rustic Log Flower Container
Anyone who is handy with a hatchet can easily create this planter. Cut into a firewood log, making a channel for the potting soil and plants. Leave space on the ends. Fill the log with potting soil. Add a mixture of charming annuals, and display this outdoors. Add rocks around it to keep it from rolling over.
Vintage Dining Room Chair
Replace the seat of an old chair with a flower basket. You can paint the chair in a bright color for extra charm. If you like, paint the chair and then distress the finish to give it a vintage look. Try contrasting the color of the flowers and the chair.
Cute and Easy Colander Planters
Colanders make great planters. Not only are they quirky and unexpected, but the holes provide ventilation and drainage for your plants. Small colanders can be used on a countertop or table. They look equally nice with succulents or jade trees indoors or with fresh annuals outdoors. You can even hang them like baskets.
Cinder Block Garden Container Ideas
Create modern-looking planters as easily as stacking cinder blocks. You can make these planters free standing or build them into a raised bed. Line the inside of each cinder block with a pot for easy planting. These look very nice with mosses, greens, and grasses.
Upcycled Plastic Laundry Basket Container
Upcycle an old laundry basket into this attractive burlap planter. Repair any cracks in the planter with packing tape or duct tape. Then hot glue sheets of burlap inside to cover the holes. Continue covering the planter with burlap until it is completely transformed. Wrap a finishing piece of burlap around the top and use it to cover the handles. Finish with a piece of rope.
Antique Metal Tool Box Planter
Find an old metal toolbox at an antique store or yard sale. Any small metal container with a hinged lid will do. If you are looking for an authentic antique look, display a tool in the box along with the plants. These containers are especially suited to succulents and greens.
Easy DIY Plant Chandelier Decoration
Find an old chandelier. It doesn’t have to be wired for electricity. Make sure the arms face up. Take off any globes or vases and remove the wiring if necessary. Clean the chandelier well. Sand lightly. Use epoxy to glue on plant pots and saucers. Paint the entire chandelier with spray paint. Add flowers and greens.
Shabby Chic Antique Pitcher Planter
This is a simple idea that provides some shabby chic charm to your garden. Find a large ceramic pitcher at a yard sale or resale shop. Fill this pitcher with potting soil. You can put some large rocks in the bottom to help with drainage and reduce the amount of soil you need. Plant a mixture of annuals in the pitcher.
DIY Stone Garden Container Tutorial
Be creative when using natural stones as planters. You may already have rocks with depressions that are deep enough to plant in. You can also try stacking rocks on their sides and planting in between them. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Succulents and greens would be attractive in these rock planters.
Pretty Wicker Basket Flower Planter
You can use an old laundry basket for this project or buy a new wicker basket. It’s as easy as finding a plain planter large enough to fit inside the basket and then planting it however you wish. Using a layered approach makes for a neat and attractive planter.
DIY Wagon Wheel Creative Garden Container Design
With an old wagon wheel, you can create an impressive display of succulents. Use a container the same size as the wheel. Line the bottom of the wheel with cactus soil. Add chicken wire as a support for your plants. Secure the wheel over the top of the chicken wire. Plant succulents in the holes, packing them in tightly for a finished look.
Antique Bathtub as Garden Décor
This is a fun and quirky idea that will make your garden stand out. It relies on finding an old claw-foot bathtub: you may be able to find these at estate sales or in resale stores. Fill the bottom with large rocks for drainage. Fill in the top with soil and plant with annuals.
Painted Tire Hanging Decoration
Find an old tire. Drill holes in the bottom for drainage. Line the tire with fabric weed barrier. Add Styrofoam packing peanuts to help with drainage. Fill the bottom of the tire with potting soil and add a mixture of hanging and vertical annuals. Hang it from a tree like a tire swing or on a sturdy nail on the exterior wall of your home.
DIY Seashell Succulent Container
This idea relies on finding large seashells with openings that are large enough to fill with potting soil. Select your shell carefully and drill a hole in the bottom for drainage. Succulents do poorly in undrained soil. Add plants and display your shells in a sunny place.
Antique Washtub Garden Tutorial
Use vintage washtubs to create a floral display. If you can find a washtub with legs, this would make a special accent for your arrangement. Raise all the tubs off the ground with rocks to promote drainage. It is easy to create an attractive arrangement of flowers and greens in these washtubs.
Galvanized Metal Watering Can
Find old galvanized metal watering cans. Look through your garage and garden for watering cans that can be repurposed, or try yard sales. Fill these planters with lush upright arrangements for the best look. It would be even nicer to use graduated sizes of watering cans going up a set of stairs.
Palette and Pot Planter for Small Spaces
Use this palette planter for kitchen herbs. It would be easy to lean up against the rail of a porch or deck. Affix metal rings to the palette with screws. Set small terracotta plant pots in the rings. To tie your display together, paint the tops of the pots with chalkboard paint and use attractive lettering to label your plants.
Upcycled Toy Truck Garden Planters
Toy trucks make fun and unexpected garden planters. Just make sure children are not tempted to roll your plants around and damage them. The toy trucks don’t need to be in good condition: rust is fine. Try filling these trucks with small succulents or upright greens.
DIY Stone Hand Garden Container Idea
Make this unique planter yourself with concrete. Mix concrete in a large bucket. Use it to fill sturdy rubber gloves. When the concrete is dry, simply pull off the gloves. Then fill the hands with pretty greens or flowers.
Easy DIY Vintage Book
An old book makes an eye-catching planter for succulents. Use a vintage book. Run a thin layer of white glue around the outside of the pages. Cut a rectangular hole into the pages with an exacto knife. This is the most difficult part and requires repeated cuts. Make the hole at least 1 ½ inches deep. Line the bottom with wax paper or a plastic bag and plant succulents inside.
Stone Heart Garden Decorations
Find flat heart-shaped planters at the home improvement store or garden center. Add potting soil to the bottom. Fill these planters with plants that will not grow too tall. Succulents or greens are good choices.
Space-Saving DIY Shoe Organizer
Each shoe pocket in this organizer can be filled with a plant. Using it as a kitchen herb garden would be nice, as the organizer can be hung on a sunny wall near the kitchen door. Be sure to water this carefully so that the plants on the bottom row don’t get too soggy.
Plastic Pipe Hanging Garden Idea
Make a hanging planter with PVC pipe. First cut the pipe and end caps in half horizontally. Epoxy the caps onto the ends of the pipe. Make a hanging ladder arrangement with chains. Secure the planters on the chains. This would be an ideal planter for herbs, lettuce, and other edible greens.
Upcycled Boot Flower Planter Tutorial
Find an old work boot at a thrift store. Remove the tongue of the boot. Drill drainage holes through the sole and the arch. Plant the toe of the boot with microgreens. Line the rest of the shoe with coir, the material found in the bottom of hanging baskets. Fill it with potting soil and the flowers of your choice.
Paint Can and Ladder Set-up
Use old paint cans and a small stepladder for this charming display. When planting, match the color of the flower with the color of the paint on the exterior of the can. The colors tie it all together for a quirky look.
Antique Wooden Washtub Flower Planter
An antique wooden washtub makes an ideal flower planter. It provides drainage and keeps the flowers up off the ground. All you need to do is lift the lid and secure it in place so it will not fall and damage your plants. Then fill the planter with soil and the old-fashioned flowers it calls for.
Upcycled Desk Garden Container for Your Porch
If you can find an old desk, this would make an excellent planter. Paint the desk and chair in a bright color to match. Pull the drawers out in a graduated fashion. Fill these with plant pots or potting soil. This design looks especially nice with a mix of greens and climbing flowers.
DIY Vintage Sink Garden Planter
A kitchen sink makes an eye-catching and attractive planter. Try securing old plates to the bottom of the sink and planting around it. Using white, frothy flowers gives the appearance of dish suds. A bathroom sink would also look nice with succulents and pebbles.
Wooden Plant Boxes with Built-in Bench
This planter bench is not an easy project, but can provide a learning experience for a beginning woodworker. Begin by cutting cedar planks. Sand the planks and assemble into boxes for the ends. When the planters are built, attach them with the bench. Stain the planter bench and add flowers to each end.
Pretty Vintage Garden Container
Use an old chest of drawers as a planter. First, paint and distress the finish if needed. Then pull out the drawers in a graduated order from top to bottom. Fill the drawers with potting soil and add flowers. Create a cohesive design by using flowers from one color family. Add interest by combining the chest of drawers with vases and planters.
DIY Wooden Wheelbarrow Flower Planter
Use a tiny wheelbarrow as an accent for your garden. Paint the wheelbarrow if desired. Fill it with lush and overflowing blooms to contrast with the wheelbarrow’s simplicity. This planter can be wheeled from one side of the yard to the other to change up the display as well as moving the planter to better areas of sunshine.
Concrete Planters for Your Garden or Porch
Find these understated concrete planters at the home improvement store. These are so sturdy, they will last a lifetime. Use a variety of levels for visual interest, beginning with a bowl that sits low to the ground. Fill these planters with a tall and dramatic arrangement of flowers. Snapdragons provide height and tulips provide a bright seasonal pop of color. Fill in the rest with annuals.
Tiered Clay Pot Herb Garden
This is a cute way to display kitchen herbs. Thread a rod through the pots, setting them at an angle. Stack the pots on top of each other. Fill the pots with soil, but do not overfill them or the plants might fall. Add ceramic labels for each level.
Painted Tire Flower Display
Use old tires for this charming display. First, paint three tires in bold, exciting colors. Then line the inside of the tire with a platform that fits. Stack the tires together in a pleasing arrangement and add soil. Use a variety of colors and heights to make a fun, creative arrangement.
DIY Rustic Flower Planter with Logs
Use a round piece of plywood as a base for this planter. Remove the bark from an assortment of fireplace logs. Use logs with varying height and width. Arrange these in a ring around the edge of the plywood and screw them in place. Add a plant pot inside for a rustic look.
Cute Rain Boot Hanging Planters
This idea is as simple as finding old kids’ rain boots at the thrift store. Use a mixture of colors and sizes for variety. Drill drainage holes in the bottom of the boots and add potting soil. Hang the boots on a fence or wall and add flowers.
DIY Clay Pot Garden Pond
Make a container water garden with a large ceramic bowl. Add pebbles to the bottom of the bowl. Use a portable filtration system to keep your plants in ideal shape. Use a variety of water plants, from greens to water lilies. Be careful to keep your garden from growing stagnant, or the plants will die.
Repurposed Garden Fountain Container Idea
Use a large concrete fountain as a show stopping display for succulents. Start with small succulents in the top level and plant larger ones as you go down. Trendy multicolored succulents have a special place in this arrangement. Plant around your fountain with lush greens.