If you’re going to spend the money on the proper tools for your garden, you will certainly want to make sure and take excellent care of them while they’re actively being used, and properly clean and store them while they are not.
A small watertight shed in your backyard would be ideal for storing your garden tools, but if you have a garage, that will work just as well. Hanging your tools rather than leaning them against the wall or stacking them like wood will prolong their lives as well. Never leave any garden tool caked with garden debris. Not even overnight. Get in the habit of cleaning them after each use – that way it will be much easier to thoroughly clean and prepare them for winter storage.
During the active growing season, keep a tall bucket full of sand (you can order both from Ace Hardware Superstore) mixed with vegetable oil in your storage area. After you are through using a tool for the day, quickly hose it off and dry it with a clean rag (we keep cut-up old bath and beach towels around for shop rags). Then plunge the entire metal part of the tool in and out of the oily grit mixture several times. The sand will help sharpen and polish the tool, and the oil will prevent it from rusting. Hang each tool up between uses.
When it comes time to store your tools for winter, thoroughly hose off your tools to make sure all the dirt and debris are gone. Dry them off and plunge them in and out of the oily grit mixture once again. If your tools need more sharpening than the grit can provide, use a proper sharpening tool. Use a steel wool pad, if necessary, to polish off any rust that may have formed, and as a final touch use a shop rag to rub all of the metal parts of your tools thoroughly with vegetable oil to prevent rust from forming while the tools are hibernating.
If your tools have wooden handles, check them carefully for splinters and use either sandpaper or steel wool to smooth them. Apply a protective oil or wax coating to keep the wood from drying out and splintering. If the handles are fiberglass or heavy-duty plastic, check for any cracks or evidence of stress and use good old duct tape to protect the area from further damage.