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7 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Garden Tools

You probably have most of these gardening suppliues already on hand.

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Spritz your tools to repel dirt

The secret weapon against messy tools: the cooking oil spray you keep in the kitchen cabinet. Spray a coat on a shovel or trowel before using it, and clay soil will slide right off. Spray the blades and underside of your lawn mower, and wet grass won’t stick to them.

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iStock/Chris Leachman

No need for fancy kneepads

Here’s a low-cost alternative for gardening kneepads: Use a scrap from an old closed-cell foam camping mat. This will protect your knees just as well as the fancy models in gardening catalogs. It’s tough, shock absorbing, and easy to clean with soap and water. If you or your kids don’t have an old pad to cutup, check with your local Boy Scout troop or a university outdoor program.

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Make tools easy to spot

Don’t lose your tools among your flower beds, shrubs, and grass. Exposure to the weather could harm them, and they could pose a danger to passersby as well. To keep your hand tools from disappearing, paint the handles bright red or orange, making them more visible, a trick dating back to at least the 19th century.

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Make a simple tool stand between garage studs

Before investing in a high-priced rack for your garden tools in a shed or garage, look at the walls: If the walls are framed with exposed 2 x 4 (38 x 89 cm) studs, anyone can build a stand for garden tools in a matter of minutes. All you need is some 1 x 4 (19 x 38 cm) pine, some old scraps of old 2 x 4, and some nails. For long-handled tools such as shovels and rakes, cut a length of 1 x 4 so that it spans a couple of studs and nail it into place about 36 inches (90 cm) above the floor. For shorter-handled tools like an axe, for instance, nail another length of 1 x 4 between two studs about 24 inches (60 cm) above the floor. For both sets of tools, nail another 1 x 4 across the bottom of the studs to form a foot piece that will keep the lower end of your tools from sliding out. Finally, to help keep the tools upright, cut short blocks of 2 x 4 as spacers and nail them between the 1 x 4s and the garage wall at both the top and bottom. Two blocks in each cavity between studs usually works fine.

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iStock/&#169 Kurzumkin

Give trimming a saucer ride

How do you move weeds, pruned branches, rocks, and the like from your garden? Hoity-toity gardening catalogs would have you believe you need to spend a small fortune on a pushcart. But, in addition to their expense, carts and wheelbarrows are heavy and unwieldy, especially on hills. The solution? A flying saucer sled. Attach a rope to a handle of one of these round, steel or plastic sleds, and you’ll have a sturdy sledge that pulls easily across grass and paths. If you have kids, come winter, this is one garden tool that will still find plenty of use!

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Put old golf gear to work in the garden

You can buy all sorts of carts and racks to wheel around the garden with your rakes and trowels. But you can skip right past that page of the gardening catalog if you have an old golf bag on wheels. Long tools fit neatly in the main compartment, and hand tools can be clipped to the outside. The pockets hold seeds, shears, and other smaller items. And if you discover any tees inside one of those pockets, they can be put to use too. Wooden or plastic tees make great color-coded markers for newly seeded gardens. Here’s how you can put popsicle sticks to use in the garden.

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Coil a hose without mechanical assistance

You can buy all sorts of hose reels and carts—some of them are so elaborate they look like machines the fire department ought to be operating. If you handle your hose right, you can coil it easily without the fancy gizmos. A hose with longitudinal stripes helps you coil the hose without twists—just keep the stripes running straight as you coil and uncoil. Unkink a hose by pulling one end across the lawn; the weight of the hose will help pull out those twists, and you can judge by the stripes when it’s straight. Leave a balky hose in the sun for an hour, and it will be much more pliable and easy to coil. Before storing a hose for any length of time, screw the two ends together so that bugs can’t nest inside.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest