The past few pleasant days of warm — not hot or cold — weather have been delightful. I like the Indian summers we often have after a frost in the fall. Granted, the frost we had was spotty, but it set the season in motion. The autumn leaves are turning magnificent colors and the weather is changing to include cold weather and storms.
Many gardeners have cleared off their gardens and perhaps even tilled the soil while it was dry enough. Fall tilling pays off because the soil dries out earlier in the spring. In addition, insect eggs that may be buried beneath the surface are turned to the top where they are exposed to birds and freezing weather. These are good reasons to till in the fall but don’t do it if your soil is soggy.
Soon it will be time to put away the lawnmowers until spring and get out the snow removal equipment to clean up driveways and sidewalks. I know where my snow shovel is and it will work well if I do. It may be easy to “start” my snow shovel, but starting myself to use it may not be so simple. However, snow blowers may not start right up.
Too often snow blowers get parked — possibly outdoors — after the last snow in the spring because in our climate no one can be sure which snow storm will be the last. However, blowers that don’t get spring maintenance are candidates for a slow start or possibly some repairs in the fall.
Instruction manuals recommend taking time in the spring to clean the fins, drain the gasoline from the tank, change the oil, lubricate the piston, run the engine to remove gas from the carburetor and then to store it in a sheltered place. Taking care of these tasks goes a long way toward a quick fall start.
The same is true of the small engines that runs equipment we use during the summer. Before you store them, do some maintenance on small engines on lawnmowers, edgers, weed eaters, rototillers and any other motorized equipment.
It may seem wasteful to empty perfectly good gasoline out of the tank, but saving it is false economy. Gasoline left in the equipment during the winter evaporates, leaving gummy residues which can plug carburetors. Rather than emptying the gasoline, you can add fuel stabilizers to the tank to help prevent formation of gum and varnish deposits in fuel for up to a year.
It is still important to change the oil, clean up the engine and lubricate the piston. To take care of the piston, put a teaspoon of oil through the spark plug hole and crank the engine a couple of turns.
If you don’t have room in a garage or shed to store these machines, put a plastic tarp over them and tie it on to protect each piece of equipment as much as possible from the elements. The reward will come next spring when you are able to pull the starting rope and an engine roars to life ready to operate.
Lawn rakes may make another appearance or two this fall to remove leaves from the grass surface but eventually, they too will be retired for a few months. Extend the life and usefulness of such tools by giving them some fall maintenance.
Reduce rust damage in storage by cleaning mud and dirt off the metal parts of hoes, shovels, rakes and similar tools. Rub wood handles with linseed oil to protect them from the elements and help reduce slivers later.
Bring these garden tools indoors and hang them up if possible to protect them from exposure to the weather until they are needed again next spring. Clean and oil the blades of hedge shears and pruning equipment and treat the handles before putting them away for the season.
Proper care of garden equipment will add years to its usefulness and simplify your life next season. A little time spent now will result in time, effort and money saved next spring.
Tips for the week
If you haven’t already drained your sprinkling system, do so. Open valves and let the water drain. If possible blow residual water out using compressed air to avoid broken pipes in the spring.