Sid Mullis: Take time to prepare gardening equipment for winter hibernation

Many of the garden tools and power equipment that we use during the growing season sit idle during the winter.


Take a little time and do some preventive maintenance on them so that your equipment will be ready for next spring.

Begin by winterizing your lawn mower, tille and weed trimmer.

Drain the gas or let the engine run until it is empty. If you don’t drain the gas, at least add some fuel stabilizer to the tank.

Drain the oil if it hasn’t been changed in a while and remove the oil filter and either clean or replace it.

Check all nuts and bolts to be sure they haven’t vibrated loose.

Mower blades and tiller tines can be removed and sharpened. Inspect wheels, belts and other moving parts. Replace them if needed.

To keep your shears and loppers in good condition for next year, clean them with mineral spirits or Lysol bathroom tile cleaner. Adjust the tension screw and give them a good sharpening.

Be sure to use a broad file while sharpening. Tools sharpened by a power grinder can overheat and lose their tempering, making the metal likely to chip or break.

Clean garden hand tools with liquid detergent and dry thoroughly. Blades of shovels and hoes can be sharpened with a file.

Apply a light coat of household oil. Treat all wood handles with a coat of linseed oil.

Drain all garden hoses and sprinklers and check for leaks. Repair or replace damaged sections. Replace any washers if necessary. Do not store hoses in direct sunlight.

Clean your pressure sprayers and dusters before putting them away. Make sure they are functioning properly before you put them in storage.

Clean stakes and trellises to rid them of dirt and plant materials. Hose down extremely dirty sections. Put stakes in bundles and stack them so they won’t get lost over the winter. Store trellises in an area where they won’t be broken easily by foot traffic.

As soon as seed flats and flower pots containing annuals are finished, wash and sterilize them before storing. A 4- or 5-to-1 ratio of water to Clorox will prepare them for storage.


WHAT TO DO WITH THE LEFTOVER CHRISTMAS TREE: Many of you take your Christmas trees to a recycling center
or set them at the curb for garbage pickup, but the following are some creative ideas of what you can do from extension horticulture specialist Matthew Chappell:

• Make a bottle tree. Cut all the branches about a foot from the trunk and put wine bottles on them. I have seen this done before. It’s definitely better with different colored bottles.

• Make a fish habitat. Drop three or four trees together in a pond or lake. Small fish will use the trees to hide from larger fish. Most recycling places take them to Thurmond Lake for this purpose.

• Make a bird pole. They can be used to hold bird feeders, but make sure to cut the branches to the trunk or put up a guard or the birdseed will become a squirrel feast.

• Make some mulch. You can do this if you have a chipper or shredder.

• Make firewood. Chop up the tree in small pieces and you will have some good kindling for the fireplace.

• Make a vine pole. Trim the branches off, but leave some for vine support. Sink the trunk into the ground. Plant a climbing vine such as a morning glory or clematis next to it.

• Make a walking stick. It takes a lot of whittling to do this. You could give it as a gift next Christmas.

• Make a coat rack. Cut all the branches off except a few at the top, which should be trimmed 3 to 4 inches from the trunk. It will turn out very good if you strip the bark because the wood is very pretty.

• Make a longbow. A lot of bow hunters are going back to the old style, the Old World way of doing it.