February 05, 2023
Columns | Kendall County Now

Down the Garden Path: Guest columnist series--Now’s the time to take care of yard equipment

Gardening tools at the Joliet Park District organic community garden on Wednesday.

Given our current and future weather patterns, it is now time to “put to bed” a lot of gardening and yard equipment until next spring. While each piece may have a different garden function to ease our workload, they can have a lot in common when it comes to winterizing.

All things gasoline – 4- or 2-cycle

String trimmers, chainsaws and maybe a mower or two should have the gas drained, engine started and run dry, to get the fuel mixture out of the carburetor. This is the most common reason they do not start for us the following spring, a stale fuel mixture and gummed up carburetors and jets. Spark plugs can be gently cleaned or replaced, and be sure the spark plug cap is correct. A bad spark plug is likely the second most common reason both 2- and 4-cycle engines are hard to start or don’t start at all. The 4-cycle engines should be run dry or you can add fuel stabilizer to a full tank of fresh gasoline. Changing the oil leaves the engine with fresh oil and no oil contaminates that can harm internal engine parts. Engines that see limited use – like chippers/shredders, rototillers and snow blowers – are more likely to have stale gas and oil contaminates. This is because they are not run frequently or for an extended period when they are used.

All things electric – corded or battery pack

Corded or battery-powered gardening and yard tools take the least amount of winterization. Electric mowers need to have the decks cleaned, just like their gasoline relations, both above and under. Check the blade while you are there, sharpen and return or consider a new blade. Check the condition of the power cord (and any extension cord you use). Battery powered equipment has an extra step, keeping the battery charged. The biggest lament is forgetting to charge it when we are done with it for the season or finding out the battery is dead come spring. Battery technology is rapidly changing. Refer the owner’s manual on charging frequency and if a specific charger is needed to properly charge and maintain the batteries.

Non-powered tools (most everything else)

Shovels, rakes, long- and short-bladed gardening spades, tined diggers, and that enormous assortment of handheld tools should get some “TLC” as well. The cleaner the tool, the easier it works in the soil. Taking a rough rag, wire brush, or a cleaning tool of choice, remove any caked on dirt. Shovels, spades, and hoes can be sharpened. The final step will be to lightly coat the surfaces with a light oil to prevent surface rust from forming over the winter.

Even the lowly garden hose should receive your attention. If you do nothing else to the garden hose, be sure to disconnect it from the house. Your frost-free spigot is not frost-free if water is trapped by a garden hose left connected all winter. Drain the water as best you can and store inside if you can.

Special note: As of April 29, 2022, Richard Hentschel has retired from University of Illinois Extension with nearly 30 years of service as a Horticulture Specialist and Educator in northern Illinois.