As most all of our participants’ gardens have been cleared off and planted with cover crop for the season, we have been focusing on cleaning and preparing for the winter. After several hours spent sweeping, organizing, and generally tidying up our storage room we decided it was time to clean all of our hand tools and put them to bed for the season. Over the past few years the coordinators of PMSS Grow Appalachia have made a point of purchasing good quality tools that will last for a long time, rather than buying new cheap tools every year. These tools are mostly hand-made and hold up well with consistent use; however, we also know that the life of these tools depends on our care of them, so we have been putting in the little bit of extra work it takes to ensure our tools are in good condition and ready to work next spring. The weather early this week was so wonderful that we were looking for any excuse to get outside and tool cleaning gave us the perfect opportunity!

Here are the steps we took to care for our hoes, digging forks, shovels, etc.:

1.) Because many of the tools were caked in dirt from working in muddy conditions we first washed them with water and a rag and let them dry for a bit in the sun.

2.) Then we had to address the issue of rust, several of our hoes were getting very rusty so we used steel wool to scour the blades (not all the rust will come off, but we were at least able to smooth out the really rusty spots).
Rusty hoe before

Less Rusty hoe after scouring with steel wool

3.) We then applied vegetable oil to the metal surfaces of all of our tools to keep rust from forming during the winter. Applying vegetable or linseed oil is supposed to keep moisture from accumulating on the blades, which in turn prevents rust.

4.) Lastly we had several new hoes and digging forks with untreated wood handles that needed some attention. For these new tools we used linseed oil to coat the entirety of the wood handles. To do this you can simply use a brush or rag to apply a layer of oil to the wood and then let the tools dry. The oil will be completely absorbed into the wood and will protect it from water damage.

Many of our tools are purchased from Earth Tools, a small, locally owned business that sells hand forged, good quality tools. You can find them at:

1525 Kays Branch rd.
Owenton, KY. 40359
Or online at:

If you would like more information on this subject this is a good article about proper tool care: