If you have ever witnessed the amount of sweat, toil, care and expertise that has gone into the design and production of a first-class garden tool, even one as mundane as, say, an ordinary spade, apart from the fact that it has just set you back a good few pounds, you’ll want to look after it correctly, if only because it will be easier to use, to say nothing of showing respect for the effort that went into its creation. A few minutes spent at the end of each working session will ensure that tools are kept in tip-top form. First, clean off all mud and other debris thoroughly, and dry metal parts if they are wet. Then wipe them with an oily cloth, ensuring that every bit has been covered with a thin film. Silicone aerosols, such as WD40, are a useful substitute for oil; they are actually water repellent so a quick spray all over with one of these should keep rust away until you next want to use it. Check wooden handles to make sure they have not been damaged and will not stick splinters into the fleshy part of your hand when you least expect it.
It is not doing your tools a kindness to keep them too warm. Storing them in, say, a heated garage where the air is too dry could cause the wooden handles to split and shrink. An unheated garage or tool shed is more suitable as the wood won’t dry out as much. Some people recommend wiping the handles over with linseed oil or similar to ‘feed’ the wood — I find that if you use them a lot, the natural oil out of your hands is enough.
I like to hang my tools on the wall. There are several good tool hangers on the market, or you can use ‘terry clips’ or even pairs of nails. Each tool has its own named place – in this way it is easier to see if you have inadvertently left one outside. I do not like to stand tools, especially sharp-bladed ones, for very long periods on the floor unless I am sure it is absolutely dry. Sometimes old sheds, especially brick and stone ones, have very damp floors and the sharp edge of a spade or hoe can rust away quickly under such conditions.