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- Growing In Your Garden Now - Fava Beans
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- Rain gardens: an attractive solution to a challenging environmental problem
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- Get a head start on spring with cold frames
- Snails and slugs: keep them out of the garden
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- Attracting honey and native bees to your garden
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- What's That Plant?
- Keeping Cut Flowers Fresh
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- Herbs: tough, attractive, practical
- These plants are true companions
- Companion planting in the vegetable garden
- Get Grounded – Healthy Soil Does Matter
- Mushrooms on the March
- Our Gentle Winters are Good for Vegetables
- Rodents like it Warm
- Know What Makes an Invasive Species Invasive
- California Natives - Plant Like a Native
- Consider a Simple Water-Catchment System and Rain Garden/Bioswale Before Winter Rains Arrive
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- A Green Autumn
- Rx for Pests: Ants
- Fine Tune Your Garden
- Colorful Drought-Tolerant Plants Thrive in Marin
- Water Restrictions and Recognizing Signs of Water Stress
- UC Researcher Is Helping Plants Survive the Drought
- Summer Is Perfect For Peppers
- Do the Leaves on Your Trees Look Scorched?
- Fine Tune Your Garden
- How to Recognize Drought and Water Stress
- Spring is the Time for Potatoes, Asparagus and Citrus
- Don't Let Stink Bugs... Bug Your Vegetables
- Harvesting Berries
- Water Heroes
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- Fruit Trees; Why We Treat Them in Dormancy
- Fondness for Old Friends
- What Happens to Garden Bad Guys in Winter?
- Plants that aren't blown away by the wind
- A hill o' beans
- Fruit tree thinning
- Fragrant plants: Add some chocolate or Kool-Aid to your garden
- Top 10 resolutions for Marin gardeners
- Trees with interesting bark shine in winter
- Who says your garden has to be green?
- Plant bulbs now for spring beauty
- Gardener's checklist for fall
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- Rx: Living with deer
- Growing berries in Marin
- How to build healthy soil
- Gardener's checklist for summer
- Water-saving tips for the home garden
- Gardener's checklist for spring
- Stop the popping - Controlling hairy bittercress
- How to control aphids
- Brightening up the winter garden
- Selecting a fruit tree
- What to plant and harvest in the winter vegetable garden
- Rain, rain, don't go away
- Gardener's checklist for winter
- Getting rid of rats
- Fall: a time for planning and planting
- Asparagus: spears for years
- Lawn: use it or lose it
- Rx for powdery mildew
- Community Outreach Projects of UC Marin Master Gardeners
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- Marin Master Gardener Independent Journal Articles
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Fondness for Old Friends
Removing rust from gardening tools not only improves their appearance, but also protects them from further corrosion and deterioration. Chemical rust removers can be harsh on antique gardening tools, leaving them stripped of their natural patina. Natural methods of removing rust can be just as effective, yet more gentle on antiques and safer to use around pets and children.
Ordinary household vinegar is a very safe, mildly-acidic solution for removing rust from antique gardening tools. Simply place the tool in a plastic container, and then fill the container with straight vinegar until the tool is completely submerged. Let the tool soak in the vinegar for 24 hours to allow the acid to permeate and loosen the rust. The tool might appear dark, but that dark residue will come off once you scrub it with a non-metal brush under running water. Remember to thoroughly dry the tool to prevent corrosion from setting in again.
Salt & Lime
Just lay the rusty gardening tool on some old newspapers, then sprinkle regular table salt over the rusted areas. Salt acts as a mild abrasive, while lime has acidic properties. Squeeze the lime liberally over the salt-covered rust, and then allow the salty solution set for about three hours. Finally, scrub this salty mixture off the gardening tool using the remaining lime rind or a non-metal scrubbing pad. Rinse the tool under running water and then dry the tool thoroughly with a towel.
Surprisingly, molasses works great at removing stubborn rust from metal. Mix one part molasses to 12 parts water (tap water works fine) in a plastic bucket. Fully submerge the gardening tool in the molasses mixture, and then check it every day. You'll probably notice most the rust has dissolved after just 24 hours, but if it some rust remains, simply keep the tool in the solution until you are satisfied with the rust removal. It might take up to a week before all the rust dissolves from tool.
Although bad for your health, cola is a good choice for removing rust from metal. Coke and Pepsi, are especially effective rust removers. They contain phosphoric acid, which is known to dissolve iron oxide from rusted metal objects. Just fill a plastic container with enough cola to fully submerge the rusted gardening tool into and let the tool soak for 24 hours. Check the tool after a day and attempt to wipe off the rust using a non-metal scrubbing pad or brush. If the rust comes off easily, then continue scrubbing the tool until all rust is fully removed. Otherwise, continue soaking the tool in the cola until the rust is loose enough to scrub completely off.
Finishing & Storing
If the handle is wooden, give it a quick sanding and a light coat of linseed oil. To give a final clean the metal parts, scrape off any residual rust or dirt with a wire brush; use steel wool and a little oil to remove small amounts of rust. If the rust is super stubborn, you may be able to order a replacement blade. If not, it is time to buy a new tool or use a rust-removal solution.
In most cases, it is not hard to sharpen blades yourself. Hoes should be sharpened each time they are used. Fasten the hoe in a vice, and using a sturdy file, grind a 20-degree angle on the beveled side of the blade. Sharpening a new hoe is hard, slow work, but once it has been sharpened, a few strokes with a file should be enough to renew the edge.
Shovels and spades can be sharpened the same way, although they don't need to be as sharp. Pruning saws can also be sharpened with a vice and file, but their small, opposing teeth require slower, more careful work.
Hand pruners, loppers, and shears benefit from sharpening after each use. These hand tools can be treated much like knives and sharpened with a whetstone, or you can use a small bastard file, especially if there are any nicks in the blade.
If your shovel or hoe has a broken handle, the hardest part of replacing it is removing the rivet that holds the handle in place. Removing the rivet may require a Dremel, grinder, or hacksaw, which may be beyond the tool arsenal of many small-scale gardeners. If you have the proper tools, replacement is fairly straightforward. Once all the wood is removed from the shovel, drill a hole in the new handle, and simply screw or rivet (riveting is better) the new handle in place.
When your tools are clean, sharp, and well-oiled, you can store them in any dry spot for the winter. A useful trick year-round is to store tools in sand that has had vegetable oil added to. The sand removes rust and the oil prevents new rust from forming. Use a 5-gallon bucket to store shovels, and a smaller container for pruners.