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Master Gardener Wally Peck: Fall tool roundup

Now that the leaves have fallen and the deer have polished off the last of the carrots and hosta, it’s time to collect the tools, hoses and equipment and put them away for the season.

I know you have already had a blizzard of blather from the PACs in the mailbox but you don’t want to get surprised by a real blizzard shortly.

I spent the morning getting out the snow blower; changed the oil, put in fresh gas, lubed the chain, and fired it up for a test. All went well. Hope you remembered to empty out the gas when you put yours away last May.

Most small engine problems stem from gas left in the carb for an extended length of time – especially with ethanol blends. Fuel stabilizer added to the gas helps.

Problem No. 2 is oil that has been in for way too long or not checking the oil at all. As a minimum, change it once a season in snow blowers, twice for mowers, tillers and other equipment that operate in dust.

Equipment with engines that require mixed gas have different maintenance needs. They do not need an oil change but are especially susceptible to fuel problems if fuel is left too long in the engine. My advice is to drain out the fuel and start the engine, run it until it starts to miss, turn on the choke and run it dry. This goes for weed whips, blowers and two-stroke outboard motors.

If you have a bit of a masochistic streak, go ahead and sharpen the mower blades now so they are sharp next spring. This is also an opportunity to dig out the moldy stuff under the deck. Mmm good!

The old car guys clued me in to a little trick to discourage mice from building nests in your engines. Dryer sheets - the stinkier the better. Put them in the cover by the carburetor or where the critters can get into an engine to snuggle down for the winter. Many times I have started an engine or mower and had mice flying all over. Then it took a half hour to take the covers off to clean out the nest so the engine wouldn’t overheat.

Minnesota should be a test area for garden hoses. When the temperature drops to 40 degrees and the garden hose is still on the reel, you get to run a very effective test of garden hose flexibility. (Does it get cold in China too?) In any case, disconnect it from the outside faucet and drain before putting away. A frost-proof hose bib is only frost proof if it is empty.

Last is to gather up the hand tools, clean them off, and sharpen those that need it. Sand, prime, and paint the handles a bright royal blue if you can, now or in the spring (tools this color show up in green spring grass or in piles of golden autumn leaves). Then ponder those first green shoots of spring so we can do it all over again.

More information on growing raspberries is available from University of Minnesota Extension online

For help with gardening questions, call 444-7916, leaving your name, number, and question. A local master gardener will call to assist you. This service will be available through the end of the month when the Master Gardeners take some time off from their volunteer gardening work.