It’s a wonderful day to be a rain chain in Seattle. The “pineapple express” we’re experiencing right now is giving it a workout.
But what about me, the gardener who is chomping at the bit to get my spring vegetable crop in the ground. I’m going to have to content myself with some other useful tasks that can be done under cover.
Here are three tasks for the rainy afternoon:
1. Sterilize pots for transplanting. I’ll need larger pots for my tomato and pepper starts, once they’re up to transplant stage in a few weeks. To prepare, I’ll wash the pots now, and sterilize them in a water bath that contains a bit of bleach.
2. Visit the nursery for some starts. I love to plant seeds of my favorite veggies, but have a short attention span when it comes to getting them to eating size. So I will buy a few starts of the same crops I’m growing from seed. The nursery starts will be producing a couple of weeks before the seeded plants are ready. And I get a longer harvest.
3. Sharpen and oil the tools. Probably the most important rainy-day task, and one that will pay dividends through all the busy gardening seasons.
The shovels, hoes and clippers can use a good sharpening with a metal file. First, remove the rust with steel wool. If bad, use 80-grit sandpaper or a brush attachment on an electric drill. Wear goggles if using a power tool.
Then, determine the original bevel that the tool had when it came from the factory. If I hold it up and look down the edge of the blade, I usually can see the angle of the bevel, even if the tool is dull. I’ll hold the mill file at that angle and work it down the blade, from the center toward each end with multiple strokes. When it’s shiny and sharp, I’ll flip the tool over and run the file once or twice along the back side to pick up the shards of steel left behind by the sharpening.
Any tool with wooden handles will benefit from cleaning, sanding and a coat of oil. Wash the handles with water, use 100-grit wood sandpaper to smooth out the nicks or splinters. Then apply a coat of linseed oil with a cloth. The tools last much longer if given a little tender loving care.
When the spring weather is just too cold or wet to get out into the garden, spend some quality time in the potting shed, or visit the nursery for a dose of greenhouse-grown starts. The sun will probably come out tomorrow.