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Winter Cleanup

Winter Cleanup

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It is still winter. Some days, though, belie the plain truth of the calendar. Never the less, with a warm spell or a few blossoms of brave bulbs and, suddenly, our hearts are in spring.

Effectively using this time in late winter can really change the face of the coming spring and, in a domino effect, the rest of the gardening year. Don't get caught napping. Time moves faster than we may think and spring can be too short to get in all that we would like to accomplish. By using the pre-spring days, we can not only get more of the joy of gardening, but also maximize our springtime experience.

Clean out the junk.
Clearing away the actual garbage from our winter garden is a great first step. Focus on the result and the feeling of accomplishment when it is over. Even if there is no way out of the plain truth - cleanup is a chore - it is a necessary evil. Like washing the dishes after a meal or tidying the kid's room, the ends justify the means. A "clean" garden is an invitation to experience the place or to add the new plantings. Best of all, a "cleaned out" garden does not have to be cleaned out!

So cart the junk out to the trash. Is it ruined lawn furniture, household stuff "temporarily" put into the yard, or a child's collection of old boards? Sure, the boards were for building a clubhouse, but they never got around to it and now they are too yucky and… just junk. Regardless, make the decision and dump it. After the rain and/or snow of winter, a lot of potentially fixable, salvageable, or "I might need this later" stuff is seen to be just junk. Bottom line: clear it out and you will be that much closer to a livable, loveable garden.

Tool Care
A fine, proper tool is a joy to use and makes the work so much easier. A poor or wrong tool is just a recipe for frustrated exhaustion. Clean off tools and get them ready for action. Ideally, this was done before winter, but if not, now is the time. If they are rusted, use a wire brush, sandpaper, steel wool, and/or spray with penetrating oil depending on how bad things are. Some WD 40 is also wonderful for smaller tools like pruners.

Garden Tool Care

Some recommend a bucket filled with sand that has oil poured on it. Sharply shoving the tool into the oiled sand will give finishing touches to the tool. This is also great for treating a tool after use.

Cutting tools include pruners, axes, hatchets, spades (Yes, a spade is a cutting tool, not just a littler shovel.), hoes, and some mattocks. Depending on the size and quality of the blade, they can be sharpened with a flat file, wheel, or whetstone for smaller, finer blades. Mower blades and saws should be professionally sharpened when needed.

Having a professional repair power equipment or sharpen tools in the winter avoids the spring rush.
Wooden handles, even if dried and starting to splinter, can be refurbished by sanding and then rubbing with linseed oil.

Buy supplies now!
When the gardening season hits, you want to just reach over and get whatever you need, rather than waste valuable time when you would rather be gardening. There is nothing like a well-stocked garden shed to actually encourage you to take on all those projects you thought about but never really got to.

A brief checklist:

Patio Pots
Patios or balcony gardens especially benefit from a pre-spring cleaning. They are suddenly turned into a place to be rather than a place to avoid. Clean out old pots that had annuals or other plants that just did not make it through the winter.

Be careful of the temptation to reuse old potting soil. It may harbor pests or diseases. Certainly safest is to dump the old stuff and use fresh mix for future projects. Steam sterilization is used commercially, but microwaving a pot of soil may not be very practical. Oven heating soil mix is mentioned in the literature, but when I tried it there was such an odor, my wife quickly called a halt. Bottom line - quickest and easiest may be just to throw out the old stuff and use new potting mix.

The list goes on, but you get the idea. Remember, these are all things you don't want to do during the busy spring season when everything else is clamoring for your attention. So Put on those extra warm clothes and gloves and go for it!

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