Although it’s still the middle of January, many of us are already thinking about all the work we’re going to do in our gardens and on our allotments this year – when the weather warms up a bit. However, most of us forget that many of our tools may have spent more than a month or two in hibernation and will need a bit of tender loving care before they’re ready to brave the British climate! Looking after your prized Bulldog tools is not as difficult or time consuming as you may think and a little time spent now, will ensure that they last for many years to come.
First, make sure your tools are clean and dry; we know it sounds obvious but many gardeners (even experienced ones!) don’t clean their tools before they put them away in the shed. Wipe or brush any soil from digging and cultivating tools, clean the sap off secateur, shear and lopper blades, remove old leaves and thatch from between rake tines and finally check that pruning saws are free from wood chips. When you are satisfied that your tools are clean, give them a quick rub with an old rag to ensure that all metal and wooden parts are dry.
Then take another old rag and dip it in a little linseed oil (widely available and commonly associated with the preservation of cricket bats!), but take care not to soak it. Rub the rag lightly over your tools which have timber handles to make sure they retain some moisture and don’t dry out. Tool handles can become very dry and therefore brittle if they are left in weather proof or heated storage areas for long periods and are likely to snap as soon as you try digging or hoeing heavy Winter soils.
Blades should be kept as sharp as possible so that pruning damage on live plant material is kept to a minimum. A good sharpening stone will be an extremely useful addition to your tool collection and although quality stones are expensive, they pay for themselves by keeping your pruning tools working at their best. If you leave your tools until they are very blunt before you try and sharpen them, you will almost certainly struggle to get a really good ‘edge’ and might even need to take them to a local hardware store for a professional sharpener to do the job. However, if you sharpen your tools ‘little and often’ from new, you should always have a clean, sharp edge to work with and your plants will thank you for it! Most pruning saws are now fitted with hardpoint blades which are not suitable or cost effective to resharpen. This means you will need to check to see if your pruning saw or bowsaw blade is still sharp as it should be or if it needs replacing. All cutting blades should also be regularly dipped in disinfectant to ensure that any diseases present are not passed between the plants in your garden.
We hope that this advice is useful and will help your Bulldog tools keep performing every year as if they were new!