The leaves have finished falling and I'm off to the garage to begin the task of preparing my garden tools for the upcoming winter.

I divide this job into three parts, my power tools such as mowers, tillers and blowers, hand tools such as shovels, pruners, trowels etc. The third category is a catch-all for the remaining "stuff" such as hoses, sprinklers systems, fountains and the like.

Power Equipment

There are two schools of thought regarding overwintering of fuel; drain the tank or add a fuel stabilizer. I've tried both and can't really say that I prefer one over the other. The reason for doing this that gasoline especially 2-cycle mixtures can form a varnish-like material after sitting around for a period of time. This material clogs the jets in the carburetor and prevents fuel from flowing into the cylinder.

I like to use an old turkey baster to remove any fuel left in the tank. After you've removed as much as you can start the engine and let it run out of the remaining fuel, turn the engine a few times to ensure all of the fuel lines are empty.. Pull the spark plug and shoot a little oil into the cylinder and replace the plug.

If you use a fuel stabilizer, fill the tank with fresh gas, add the stabilizer pre the instructions on the bottle and let the engine run for 3 to 4 minutes to ensure the stabilizer is dispersed throughout the entire system.

Fuel stabilizer protects your engine

Check the blade on your lawnmower for nicks or other problems, sharpen or replace as needed. Oil the wheels and put it away until spring.

On tillers use a wire brush to remove any caked on soil from the times, check the gear oil and treat fuel as described above.

Remember to pull the spark plug on all of your equipment; clean, gap, or replace the plug as warranted.

Hand Tools

On shovels, spades, and hoes use a wire brush to remove and caked on soil and rust. Use a file to sharpen the cutting edges and apply a light coat of oil to prevent rust. I have a bucket full of sand that has a half-gallon of vegetable oil added to it. Throughout the gardening season I insert my shovels into after use, the abrasive sand removes any rust and the oil prevents it from forming, Hint: (I use cheap vegetable oil from the dollar store.) If your tools have wooden handles inspect of splinters and cracks, apply a thin coat of linseed oil.

Sand and oil keeps your shovels clean

Pruners, loppers, and pruning saws: remove any rust with a wire brush; pruners and loppers can be sharpened with a whetstone. Nicks can be removed with a fine file. Take pruning saws to your local hardware for sharpening. Apply a light coat of oil to prevent rust. Many of your finer pruners such as Felco have replaceable parts; this is the perfect time to disassemble, clean and replace worn out parts.

Last but not least in the miscellaneous category, which covers the following.

If you have an in-ground sprinkler system and live in an area that freezes, make arrangements to have the remaining water blown out. If the water left in the line or heads freezes it can damage the system and cause costly repairs.

If you have ponds, fountains etc. and live in an area that freezes you need to install heaters, or bubblers to keep the water from freezing. If not the pumps need to be removed, cleaned and stored in an area that doesn't freeze. The same applies for fountains or other water features.

While hoses don't need a great deal of care, the care that we provide is important if we want them to last. Rule one--don't kink the hose. Any kink becomes a weak point in the hose and kinks restrict water flow. Quite often the hose will crack in those locations. Store hoses on hose supports or reels, or coil loosely rather than hanging them on nails. Hose supports or reels prevent sagging and kinking. Before storing hoses away for the winter, drain all the water from them and store in a dry location.

Sprayers used for insect, disease, and weed control should be thoroughly washed and rinsed. Most pesticides recommend triple rinsing. This includes all parts of the sprayer from the holding tank to the nozzles. Apply oil to moving parts as required; follow the directions provided for your particular sprayer. Fertilizer spreaders should be washed thoroughly as well.

Wheelbarrows, carts and wagons need attention before winter. Clean them thoroughly and touch up paint chips with spray paint to prevent exposed steel from rusting. Grease wheels to prevent squeaking.

A little attention in the fall will help you get off to a fast start in the spring and ensure longevity of your tools.