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Give your garden shed a winter tidy

Val Bourne / 02 February 2017

Give your garden shed some TLC over winter to prepare it for the year ahead. Read our guide to cleaning and tidying your shed, pots and tools.

Give garden shed a sort out
Winter is a good time to give your potting shed a tidy

If your garden shed is anything like mine, it descends into chaos as a busy spring turns into a frantic summer followed by an equally mad autumn. Winter is the time to have a grand sort-out followed by a trip to the local tip. That will give you the space to restock your twine, labels, compost, seed trays and pens while the garden centres are groaning with garden sundries. Once reorganised, you’ll be more than ready for the year ahead.

Make sure you’ve got plenty of time, and arm yourself with lots of large black plastic sacks, damp cleaning cloths, a dustpan and brush and the vacuum cleaner (with extension lead if necessary).

Read our tips on improving garden shed security

Get your pots in order

Start with the seed trays and throw anything out that’s damaged. Those spared will need a brush out and wipe, then they can be stacked neatly, but only keep a realistic number.

Next, examine your plastic pots and select the most useful sizes such as 9cm round ones (for potting up cuttings) and larger ones for potting up perennials. Keep a few deep pots, ideal for sowing sweet peas, then recycle the rest (your local garden centre may have a recycling scheme if your council does not). 

Check your terracotta pots and discard any broken ones, saving a few shards if you use them for drainage. If the weather is mild, lay the good ones upside down on the lawn and allow the rain to clean them for you. Don’t let them get frosted in severe cold snaps, though.

Then vacuum the whole interior of your shed (to prevent bugs and slugs from climbing straight back inside your cleaned pots) and restack everything neatly. Pots can lie on their sides and trays can be stacked on newly swept shelves.

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Sheds need shelves

Wooden ones fixed to the shed wall are the best type. If it’s impractical, order heavy-duty metal shelving such as the sturdy and easily assembled powder-coated metal shelves sold by Argos. 

Next sort out used twine, old labels, pens and so on, and revamp your storage system. Larger items – hoses and spray guns – can be stored in wooden crates, trugs or boxes. Avoid mesh baskets as these soon catch the cobwebs.

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Clean your tools

Keep only those garden tools that you need and love. Remove any rust and apply beeswax polish to the handles and blades: this gives a better finish than linseed oil and does not attract dust.

Larger tools are best hung on a simple wooden strip of half-inch-thick tongue and groove. Use screws to support handles and store spades, hoes, forks and rakes with their metal blades and tines facing downwards. Otherwise, if they fall they can be dangerous.

Sort out trowels and small forks, and arrange them in baskets or wooden containers. Place clippers in another. 

Get into the habit of cleaning tools after use. Have a sturdy bucket full of grit sand (J Arthur Bower’s is best) by the door. Keep it moist and plunge spades and the like into the sand when you’ve finished for the day. Place a plastic lunchbox or similar by the door, with a cloth impregnated with beeswax polish for handles and blades. 

A tin of WD40 is also useful for loosening secateurs and the like. Treat them well and they’ll last much longer. If you buy new spades, go for wooden wishbone handles and shafts with stainless-steel heads.

Protect the shed exterior

Add a stain to the outside of your shed when the weather allows. If you opt for a colour, keep it subtle and neutral, avoiding strong tones such as deep greens and sombre reds. Cuprinol’s Garden Shades offer Pale Jasmine and Arabian Sand, for instance. 

A light stain inside is a good idea in dark sheds with only one window. Otherwise, go for a clear preservative for the outside walls, such as Cuprinol Wood Preserver, a non-aromatic product pleasant to use. 

Soften the look of the shed’s exterior with a no-prune clematis such as the cherry-pink C. montana ‘Freda’ or the new eye-catching C. ‘Van Gogh’. You might add a thornless blackberry such as ‘Loch Ness’. All need warm walls.

Planning on building a new shed? Read our garden shed FAQ

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.