Organizing Small Garden Hand Tools Small

Garden Tool Care and DIY Storage Bin

Cleaning and organizing the garden tools may not be the most glamorous job, but it certainly gets the gardening year off on the right flip flop.  Plus, I discovered a handy new way to organize my small garden tools and that’s pretty darn exciting (if you disagree with me now, just wait until mid summer when you have a hundred things to prune and you can easily find clean, sharp snips in no time at all – yeah, that’s exciting).

I’ve read in a few places that a great way to store your tools is in a bin filled with sand and a little oil.  Last summer I decided to give this a try.  They ‘recipe’ recommend adding coarse sand to some sort of bucket and adding motor oil.  I didn’t want to use motor oil as I was worried about the adverse affects on my organic garden, and I thought vegetable oil would go rancid, so I left out the oil and just oiled my tools regularly.

The benefit of this method is that your tools are easy to grab and easily kept organized.  The drawback is that the sand really mucks up your tools, particularly the pruners.  It gets into all the crevices and it just doesn’t work for me.  I do not recommend storing your tools in sand but if you have a way that it works for you, please let me know.

Since I liked the organization I got with my small tools, I decided to replace the sand with river stones.  This works beautifully!  Fill up 1/3 of a shallow but wide bin with round river stones and insert tools.  It holds them in place so you can find them easily, it takes up very little room, and it’s simple to maintain.

It’s also a good idea to wash and sharpen your tools regularly. Many gardeners will wash, oil, and sharpen pruners before each gardening day.  Others may do it more often (i.e.: between plants which is always a good idea if there are disease issues that can be spread), and some do it less often (one a week, a month, never.)  Keeping tools clean and sharp will ensure they perform as you wish, last a long time, and don’t spread disease.

I try to keep my tools clean and sharp but it’s not a perfect system. I work best with scheduled activities so in both the spring and fall I like to follow this hand tool maintenance program:

1. Collect all tools from wherever they have migrated to and lay them out grouped by type.  Cull any duplicates or unused tools, replace or repair broken tools, and buy new tools if some have gone missing.

2. Fill up a basin with soapy water and wash all tools.

3. Take apart and sharpen pruners.  Only do one pair at a time so you don’t mix up parts.  Wash all the bits, scour with steel wool, and sharpen with a diamond blade.  When you have the pruners put back together, oil them with some olive oil.

4. When all tools are clean and ready to get back to work, store them in the handy, dandy bin of stones for easy access.

About the Author : Stephanie Rose

A city girl who learned to garden and it changed everything. Author, artist, Master Gardener. Better living through plants.

View all posts by Stephanie Rose

  1. Christine @ Park House Love
    Christine @ Park House LoveApril 1,12

    Thanks for the handy tips…I always end up just sticking my garden tool in any open square of soil nearby that I see in our yard. I like the idea of sticking them all in one place, easy to find without need to hang them all up!

  2. Samantha
    SamanthaApril 2,12

    You have amazing creativity and talent! Want to link up to another party??? I hope so- I found you at 5 Days 5 Ways. Tonight I am hosting “Cowgirl Up” and it is a linked linky, share your post once and it appears on 4 awesome blogs. Hope you’ll come party with us!!
    :) Samantha @ Crafty Texas Girls

  3. Melanie
    MelanieApril 3,12

    Hmmnn. I’ve never washed, oiled or sharpened any of my gardening tools. I feel like a slacker :) I like your storage idea though.

  4. Jan @SouthernJunkin'
    Jan @SouthernJunkin'April 4,12

    Very good idea! Thanks for sharing!

  5. door251
    door251April 4,12


    Love the blog, you def have a new follower.

    I was wondering if you knew what kind of plants are good for heavily shaded gardens? we have a tiny tiny city garden, but it is surrounded by big oak trees which i suspect are sucking the life out of everything, couple that with it not getting an ounce of sun and me being a complete novice, i’ve no idea what to plant in there, everything from last year died.

    thanks for your help!!

    • Stevie
      StevieApril 4,12

      door251, it’s hard for me to make recommendations as I don’t know where you live. Planting under a big tree like that can be difficult as whatever you plant there will have to compete with the tree, and the tree has the advantage!

      I would walk around your neighbourhood and take photos of any plants you like that are growing under trees or in shade. Then take those photos to a nursery in you area and ask if those would be right for your area. Ask the nursery staff for more suggestions as well. I would just make sure it was a trusted nursery, not a plant section in a hardware or grocery store, as the staff will be very knowledgeable if that is what they are trained for.

      Let me know how it goes.

  6. Emmon
    EmmonApril 6,12

    One of the things I like about this is it’s a good way to keep busy and productive without planting things outside too early! We almost started doing that a couple of weeks ago here in Michigan. It was in the 80s and VERY tempting!

  7. Erika @ HomesteadSimple
    Erika @ HomesteadSimpleJuly 11,12

    This is a super idea! I really like the storage idea of doing it like this!! We’d love it if you’d share this at our Home is Where the Heart is!

  8. plicketycat
    plicketycatMarch 7,13

    The sand and oil trick does work really well for my bladed and tined implements, even if it doesn’t work as well for pruners and shears. I didn’t want to use motor oil either and also thought that vegetable oil may go rancid… so I filled mine with food-grade mineral oil like the kind they use for wooden cutting boards. Another benefit to the sand and mineral oil is that, in addition to keeping metal blades and tines clean and sharp, you can also keep wooden handles in tip-top shape by rubbing a handful of the oily sand along the shaft whenever it starts to look a little weathered.

  9. Ila
    IlaApril 24,13

    Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you been blogging
    for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is magnificent, let alone the content!

  10. catherine
    catherineOctober 6,13

    Help! What can I do to save my best pruners from a serious case of rust??

  11. Stephanie
    StephanieOctober 7,13

    Catherine, follow the instructions in this post for cleaning and sharpening. Use the steel wool and hopefully they will recover. If not, then make sure you store your new pair where it is dry in the future :)

  12. Shallon
    ShallonOctober 14,13

    If you are still looking for an oil, try mineral oil. it is recommended for wooden cutting boards because it is food grade but does not go rancid. and wow – I have only 3 had tools – guess I don’t garden much!

  13. Denise
    DeniseMarch 31,14

    I use mineral oil in the sand stone mix.

  14. Jim G. The Big Red Triker
    Jim G. The Big Red TrikerJanuary 23,16

    What a simple solution to an organizational problem!!! I would only add my trusty can of WC-40 to the bucket as I always try to find a tool and WD-40 before pruning or planting or whatever. Thank you

  15. Brenda
    BrendaFebruary 25,16

    You can use mineral oil in the stones or sand and it keeps rust away!!

Leave a Reply