So take advantage of a rainy winter’s day to shut yourself away in the shed and crack on with the job.

Set yourself up with a bucket of warm soapy water and a stiff brush, plus an old kitchen knife or a wire brush for easing off dried-on muck and clean up your collection of spades, forks, hoes, rakes and trowels.

Leave them to dry, then sharpen anything that needs it.

Mower blades, shears and secateurs are the obvious candidates but if you have an old iron spade or hoes (don’t try to sharpen stainless-steel ones) they’ll benefit from a light touch-up too, which will make them easier to use.

If you have a workbench with a vice for holding blades steady while you work on them, it’s worth investing in a decent sharpening stone – ideally several of different sizes and grades for different sorts of blades – though these days you can get tool-sharpening attachments for electric drills such as the Dremel, which are incredibly effective and easy to use.

If you don’t feel happy about sharpening tools yourself, look out for the sort of old-fashioned hardware shop that can do it for you.

You might even be lucky enough to have a travelling knife grinder and shear sharpener knocking at your door but alas they are largely a thing of the past.

When tools are clean and dry, get to work with a can of easing oil such as WD40 and spray all the metal surfaces generously to stop them rusting, paying particular attention to moving parts and places where water could linger such as the axis of shears and secateurs.

To economise, some people use general purpose DIY oil or even old engine oil, which they paint on with an old brush.

The real enthusiast will then wrap up tools in oiled paper and pack them away. However for most of us those see-through plastic storage boxes from hardware and DIY stores are a good way to keep smaller tools, so you can see where everything is, while long-handled tools such as spades and hoes are best hung up on proper tool racks on the wall of the shed or garage.

IF you own specialist gadgets, power tools or garden machinery the best advice is always to hang on to the owner’s handbook and follow the maker’s instructions to the letter, especially while expensive items are under warranty.

I know looking after gardening tools is another job to do but look at it this way: over the years you’ll save yourself the cost of replacing several new sets of gardening gear, leaving hard-earned cash to be spent on things you really want to buy such as plants, a new barbecue and garden furniture – and all for an afternoon’s work and a spot of elbow grease.

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