Tuesday, March 30, 2021 8:56 AM
Spring’s strengthening sunlight reveals a winter’s worth of accumulated flyspecks, cobwebs and dust bunnies, waiting for that first warm day when doors can be thrown open and eradication begun with a vengeance — in some households perhaps, though not necessarily this one. While I think of myself as a fairly hygenic person, my cleanliness relys more on an absence of clutter and on pared-down interiors than on my ability or desire to deep-clean a house full of stuff. I’m as likely to spend an entire day cleaning as I would dog-sledding or rock-climbing. But give me a small task, like cleaning up my tote of garden tools, and I’m on it.
If you don’t have a garden tool tote or caddy, acquiring one should be first on your list of spring organizational tasks. These bags have pockets that hold hand tools, spray bottles, insect repellent, seed packets, plant ties, a good bandana, and more. Some of the most practical ones are made to fit over a five-gallon bucket, forming a multi-pocketed carrier on the outside, while the inside can be filled with vegetables bound for the table.
I actually don’t have a many-pocketed tote, relying instead on a sturdy basket big enough to hold a few supplies and hand tools. It has the advantage of being quickly emptied, hosed out and dried a few times a season, and since it came from a thrift shop, the price was right. Rummaging around inside, I found the usual accumulation of empty seed packets, grungy bits of twine and raggedy plant ties, a dried-out permanent marker and a nearly empty container of bug repellent, along with three scabby garden gloves worn through at the fingertips — all to be tossed into the trash. I’ll be keeping the small file used to put a bit of an edge on my two hand weeders, a cast-aluminum trowel that I’ve had for over 25 years, and my hand pruners.
A new pair of nitrile-coated gloves will be the first addition to my newly cleaned basket, and I’m also going to splurge on a roll of reusable plant ties. For around $6 or $7 I can buy a 45-foot roll of half-inch Velcro ties that can be cut to length for use as plant clips or ties. I’m also going to put a plastic container with a snap-on lid in the basket to corral my reusable tie pieces. In addition to the Velcro, I’ll still need a ball of good sisal or cotton garden twine for the coming season, to be used for all kinds of chores from making pea supports early in the spring to corralling asparagus foliage late in autumn, and a new permanent marker pen will be needed for labeling rows and individual plants. As soon as it warms up and blackflies make their appearance, I’m also going to want a new container of a benign insect repellent to pop in the basket, as well as a small can of lightweight oil and a bit of old toweling or soft rag, useful for drying and cleaning muddied tools before replacing them into a caddy.
While I already have an inexpensive file in with my tools, I’d like to upgrade to a universal sharpener, which resembles a folding knife but has a sub-micron carbide blade that shaves blades rather than abrading them. It can be used to sharpen tools ranging from axes, hatchets and hoes to curved blade pruners and costs under $25, not an exorbitant price for the myriad ways it can keep all garden tools sharper.
Finally, while on a cleaning mission, it’s a logical time to go through seeds from previous years and toss any that are so out of date they won’t be viable. In general, discard sweet corn, pepper and spinach seeds after two years; beans, broccoli, carrots, lettuce and peas after three years; beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, eggplant, tomatoes, kale and rutabagas after four years; celery, turnips, radishes and melons after five years; and pumpkins, squashes (both winter and summer) and cucumbers after six years.
There, now don’t you feel better?
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