Dull tools get new lease on life

The Second Saturday with the Southside Master Gardener Association will feature tool sharpening from 8 to 11 AM at the Halifax Farmers Market on September 10.  The new SSMGA cookbooks will be available.
            Garden tools are an extension of the home gardener’s hand.  Good tools are an investment, one that needs to be protected especially when money is tight.  Fortunately, this is not difficult to do.  Bring your small hand tools to the Halifax Farmers Market on September 10 and the Master Gardeners will cheerfully clean and sharpen your tools.
Bring your garden tools to the Halifax Farmers Market on September 10 and Tommy Conner and Linda Singer will cheerfully sharpen and clean them free of charge
            We all know that sharp tools, especially pruners, are easier to use, but did you know sharp tools are better for the plant?  Dull pruner blades can tear
bark or mash a stem leaving a wound that is open and susceptible to the entry of diseases or insects.  The plant has defenses to heal from a sharp clean cut made at the proper place.
            One situation that is often overlooked is the need to keep tools clean and disinfected.  It is common for dirty tools to be carriers of disease.  Regularly disinfecting tools is as easy as having a squirt bottle of alcohol handy and spritzing tools before moving from plant to plant.  If pruning out diseased plant parts, it should be done with every cut.  The Virginia Extension Agency recommends using mouthwash or alcohol, but a weak bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water) or disinfecting cleaning solutions such as Lysol® are good alternative disinfectants.  
            It is a good idea to clean and sharpen your tools after every use.  The following is an effective method but if this seems to complicated just bring your tools to the market:
1.  Spritz tool with disinfectant before doing anything.  You do not want to spread disease pathogens to sharpening or cleaning implements.
2.  Use a steel wool pad in soapy water to clean the working surface.  This will cut through gummy resins and caked on dirt.
3.  Once clean, use a bastard or mill file to sharpen the blade.  Follow the angle of the bevel, pulling the file away from the tool edge.  Some tools have bevels on both sides so both sides will need sharpening.
4.  Tools such as trowels and shovels can be passed through a bucket of sand filled with oil.  Used motor oil works well.  This will provide a protective film on the tool to prevent rust.
5. A drop of lubricant such as WD-40® or 3-in-1 Household Oil® should be applied to working parts to keep them operating smoothly.
            “Thyme to Eat!” was created to support Master Gardener outreach programs such as public garden education, the children’s garden at the Southern Virginia Botanical Garden and Farmers Market programs, as well as scholarships for local 4H campers.   It is is chock full of riveting recipes like Gnudi, Pan y Mas, Beouf Bourguignon and even a Squash Bug Trap – well, we are Master Gardeners!  There are also traditional favorites such as Sweet Potato Casserole and Pecan Pie.  Cost of the cookbook is $14.

            Bring your small hand tools to the Halifax Farmers Market on September 10 from 8 to 11 AM and the Master Gardeners will clean and sharpen them at no charge.  As always, Master Gardeners will be there to answer your gardening questions and please visit the regular vendors with veggies, fruits, organic meats, herbs and eggs. Inside vendors have an assortment of handmade items, collectables and even portrait photography.  If you want to know more about the Master Gardeners and their programs, contact Bill McCaleb at the Halifax Extension Office 434-476-2147 or e-mail ask@ssmga.org.