It’s tempting to skip tool cleanup when your gardening chores are done — there’s always something else that needs your attention. But wise gardeners will heed this advice from the British Ministry of Agriculture’s Allotment & Garden Guide of January 1945: “A little care is well worth while. Many a tool has had years taken off its useful life by being allowed to rust in a damp shed. No good gardener lets his tools rust, for he knows they take more energy to use when their surfaces are dull.” The Allotment & Garden Guide offers these rules to make tools last in “first-class order.”
1. “Never put your garden tools away dirty.Wash off any soil adhering to them and dry them with an old cloth.”A strong stream of water from the hose works well for removing soil from tools; if you work over a bucket, you can catch the water for
2. “Always wipe them over with an oily rag before putting them away.” Keep a cloth moistened with vegetable oil or mineral oil in a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag on a hook next to where you store your tools.Wipe the metal parts of your tools with the cloth when you put them away.Refresh the oil on the cloth as needed; when it becomes too soiled from repeated use, either wash it in soapy water or throw it away.
3. “Don’t leave them lying about where they may rust or rot.”
4. “The best way to keep [tools] in good condition is to use them often.”