It looks like a late fall in the garden this year. Let’s hope it doesn’t change overnight like some years past. There are a number of things to do before holing up for the winter.

Take time to check the handles of your garden tools, to sand any rough spots and give them a coat of linseed oil or fresh paint to keep them looking new. Clean and sharpen hoes, shovels, hand trowels and other digging tools keeping the same edge angle that they had when new. You can give the metal parts a light coat of oil or linseed oil to keep them from rusting.

This is also a good time to sharpen cutting tools like pruning shears, clippers, hand weeders, garden scissors and loppers. Most need to be disassembled to sharpen them properly. Keeping the blade angle correct will insure that they will perform like new next spring. Oil them before putting them away.

Service all the power equipment before they go into storage for next spring. Change oil now if you do it once a year -- old oil in the crankcase can lead to corrosion if left in all winter. Mower decks should be cleaned out so the mold and rust will not shorten the life of the machine. Sharpen mower blades, keeping them at the same angle as new and balanced to avoid vibration when running.

The greatest problem with power equipment is from gasoline left in carburetors over the winter. If there is a shut-off valve on the gasoline tank, close it and run the engine until it quits, applying the choke as it starts to stall. Otherwise, empty the gas from the tank (I use a hand suction pump) then run the engine until it quits. I use fuel stabilizer on everything with a small engine unless it is included in the oil of two-stroke engines. I learned that as a small engine mechanic when I was going through school 50 years ago.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

With more lawn and garden equipment going electric, the same maintenance applies to sharpening and cleaning. With the batteries, it is better to remove lithium batteries and keep them inside over winter. If you have lead-acid batteries in any equipment, remove them and keep them in a garage or outbuilding where you can put on a trickle charger or battery minder every couple of months in the winter.

Now is also the time to service snow blowers and make sure they are in running order before the first blizzard hits. Check the skid plates and bottom edge blade. Replace the bottom blade if it is badly worn, skids too. I weld a new metal strip on mine each year; if you don’t have a welder or a good friend with one, get new ones. Car polish in the chute and on other surfaces eases snow removal.

Storing gas-powered equipment in a cold shed or garage can lead to flying mouse nests when you try to start it. A trick I learned from the old car folks is to get a package of the stinkiest dryer sheets you can find and tuck a couple in each engine where the mice can get in to build their winter residence. Remember to take them out next spring before starting up. Air-cooled engines overheat very quickly if the nest is left in.

Before it gets any cooler, I am out to plant garlic and clean up some of the late vegetables. By the way, does anyone need kale?

These local garden articles will reach you each week throughout the gardening season, but gardening information can be found year-round by clicking on "Yard and Garden” at the University of Minnesota Extension website,, or by visiting our Facebook page at

Local Master Gardeners will respond to questions via voicemail. Call (218) 444-7916, and leave your name, number and question.