Two thousand eighteen (2018) has started off as one of the coldest months on record in North Carolina. Temperatures recorded at RDU Airport stayed below 32°F for the first seven days of the year and averaged only 26°F. Locally, the weather station at the Horticulture Crops Research Station located just outside of Clinton, recorded eight straight days of temperatures below 32°F and an average temperature is a mere 37°F for 2018. This cold weather streak has caused many people to stay indoors and postpone any gardening chores that may be needed completing.
If this weather has you cooped up, there are a few things you can do to keep from getting behind this year, while staying inside. Begin by cleaning and sharpening tools. Sap, caked on soil, and plant material can be cleaned from tools using a wire brush and a little elbow grease. Scrub the metal parts of your tools with the wire brush until all plant remnants are removed. After cleaning the metal, apply a thin coat of lubricant on the cleaned parts and joints. Inspect handles for cracks or splinters. Replace any handles that has cracks, and sand until you have a smooth finish. Apply a waterproof sealer to wooden tool handles to help protect them from the elements.
Sharpen hoes, shovels, pruners, loppers, and saws. Use a flat file to remove burrs, and dings to cutting blades. Follow the original angle of the blades to maximize the cutting angle. Face the sharp edge of the tool away from your body and stroke down across the slope of the blade to help prevent accidents. Chain saw blades can also be sharpened with the proper tools. A round file is needed to sharpen the cutting blades, and a triangular file is necessary to file down the depth gauges on the chain. If the depth gauges are too high, the cutting blades can’t reach the wood. Re-sharpen your chain every time you refill with gas, and keep the chain out of the dirt. Handsaws and bowsaws are typically not sharpened. Purchase replacement blades and install when these tools become dull.
The most important thing to remember when working with any hand tool is safety. When you complete your yearly tool maintenance, you want to be sure you still have 10 fingers and 10 toes. Utilize leather gloves and safety glasses to help prevent accidents. Other personal protection equipment can include hard hats, goggles, ear muffs, long sleeve shirts, chaps, and steel toed shoes. For more information on hand tool maintenance and use follow the link at: https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/BSE/BSE-51/BSE-51NP-PDF.pdf.
For more information on hand tool safety follow the link at: https://www.ise.ncsu.edu/processes/laboratory-equipment/various-hand-tools/hand-tools-general/
Don’t forget about the Sampson County Friends of Horticulture, which offers monthly classes and gardening how-to’s. Classes begin Feb. 15 at 6 p.m., and are held every third Thursday of the month at the Sampson Extension Center. Membership is $20 for the entire year.
FMI: Contact the Sampson Extension Center at 910-592-7161.
Brad Hardison is an agricultural extension agent specializing in horticulture. Contact him by calling the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center at 910-592-7161 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.