Tool Maintenance

Store tools in a dry and protected place

Winter is a great time for garden enthusiasts to take stock of their equipment and to practice basic tool maintenance. Most tools require some type of maintenance to keep them in working order. Here are a few tips that you can do over the winter season to prepare for the spring.

 Make sure tools are properly stored during the winter. It is recommended that they are hung to keep them out of the way when not in use. Also keeping them off the ground will protect them from moisture.

Remove unwanted rust with a wire brush

 Survey tools for rust. If there is a small amount, apply a little machine oil to the surface and scrub the area with a wire brush. If a tool has a serious rust problem then its time to use a rust dissolver. Follow the directions on the bottle of the rust dissolver. If there is any reminding rust after using the dissolver a wire brush should do the trick. Coating your tools with oil when storing them over the winter will stop the oxidation process, preventing rust.

Rub wooden handles down with linseed oil

 Any wooden handled tool should be sanded down with sandpaper. Apply linseed oil with a rag to help seal the wood and keep the handle splinter free.

 Sharpen any digging or cutting tool by filing the edge. These are often the fastest tools to be worn down. A sharpened tool makes gardening life easier and prolongs the life of the tool. To maintain a sharp edge throughout the season use a medium-grit sharpening stone. Make sure to take care not to injure yourself while performing these tasks. Wear the proper protective equipment such as gloves and eye wear.

File cutting edges to keep tool sharp

To keep your tools in good working order throughout the season remember to remove any dirt or other debris from the tool once you are finished working with it. Doing this will also prevent the spread of plant diseases. Use a wire or nylon brush to remove any caked on mud that can not be hosed off. Let your tool completely dry before storing it away. A stored wet tool will most likely end up with a rust issue.

Follow theses simple steps and you will be a happy gardener come spring.

What To Do With All Those Leaves

Why not compost them. Leaves are a natural energy source and provide high levels of nutrients to your garden plants once composted. Even if you were to just pile shredded leaves up and let them sit over winter, a layer of compost at the bottom of the pile would greet you come spring. Here are some tips to help you on your way to creating a rich organic compost to feed your garden next spring.

  • Shred your leaves, whole leaves prevent air and water from circulating throughout the pile. Use a chipper/shredder, leaf blower that has a reverse ‘vacuum’ options or a bagging lawn mower. Double shredding is even more helpful as the smaller pieces will decompose at a faster rate.
  • Adding nitrogen to your compost pile will help move along the process much faster. A ratio of 4 parts leaf waste to 1 part green waste provides you with an optimum decomposition rate. Non-meat kitchen waste, including tea bags, coffee grounds and eggshells help make up the green waste. Coffee grounds and lawn clippings are both great sources of nitrogen and they also add moisture to the mix. Be careful not to add lawn clippings that have been treated with herbicides as the resulting compost may potentially kill plants next spring.
  • The more chopped up everything is the faster your pile will transform into rich black compost. Also mixing and turning the pile will facilitate the process.
  • Adding a chimney in the middle of your compost pile will allow air and water to flow throughout the whole pile. Create a chimney by rolling flexible wire fencing into a tube, making sure it will be tall enough to extend above the top of your pile.


For additional information visit these websites:

Your Own Compost Pile

Composting 101

Building Your Compost Pile

What Happened to my Impatiens?

This season throughout the northeast many Impatiens walleriana (annual garden variety) have been destroyed by Downey Mildew. Reports of this disease have been occurring in U.S. production greenhouses since 2004, but it was not until last year that a regional outbreak was reported in Florida. Now the disease has quickly migrated up into the northeast through wind and storm currents.

Fuzzy White Growth on Bottom Leaf

Downy Mildew thrives in cool damp conditions, favoring temperatures in the range of 58-72 degrees and with above 85% humidity. An increase in outbreaks have been seen in irrigated garden beds where impatiens are exposed to high moisture levels. Yellowing and stunted growth are the first visible symptoms. The leaf undersides of infected impatiens will have fuzzy white growth while the upper leaves will often show small yellow spots. The yellowing leaves will eventually fall off leaving only the stems.

If your impatiens have been effected by Downy Mildew it is recommend to avoid planting them in the same areas next season as the disease will overwinter in the garden beds. You may want to use alternative plants next year. Resistant annuals include New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri), begonias and coleus.

Defoliated Impatiens

To control the spread of this disease, remove infected plants as soon as you notice signs of the disease by pulling them up by the roots. Place infected plants in a sealed trash bag and dispose of them. Do not compost infected plants as this can spread the disease. When planting impatiens allow enough space between individual plants to allow good air circulation. Also avoid overhead watering of the plants, particularly when it is cool out.

Check out these links to learn more about this disease:

Penn State Extension: What’s up with the impatiens this year?

Shade Alternative Annuals

Managing Downy Mildew of Impatiens


Sprucing Up the Garden for the New Season

March is coming to an end and signs of spring area all around us.  It’s time to get our hands dirty and get out into the garden. Removing damaged plant material caused by winter weather and cleaning up debris piling up in the garden are import to freshening up our landscapes and minimizing disease and insect infestations.

Removing debris that have collected over the winter is one of the first steps to integrated pest management. Eliminating debris helps reduce decaying organic matter that may harbor disease as well as removing overwintering pests. Some of the diseases you will be preventing are leaf-spotting, rust, powdery mildew, bud and flower blight, and canker fungi.

Once all that debris has been removed, trees and shrubs have been pruned and your perennials cut back, its important to add a mulch layer to your garden beds. Adding a 2-3” layer of mulch will not only look good but it also prevents weeds and retains moisture.

For more information, please click on the links below.

Pruning Shrubs

Tree Damage

Spring Clean-up

Mulching Trees and Shrubs