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The smell of fall is in the air, so Jack Frost will be arriving soon. That means it’s time to clean up the garden. While most garden lists recommend cleaning and sharpening cutting tools before winter storing, I suggest you do it now. Dull blades crush stems on perennials and shrubs that are slow to heal. They also require more physical effort to do the job, which puts additional stress on muscles, especially in the hands. It’s not a good for those who suffer from carpel tunnel syndrome and arthritis.

To find a professional to put a sharp edge on your tools, check with your local hardware store or lawn mower repair shop.

My late partner, Jeff Ball, put me wise to the advantages of working with sharp blades several years ago but it was his kitchen cutlery he used to get the point across. A high-end sharpener and regular use of a steel to hone his blades kept his knives in tip-top condition, which made slicing and chopping a snap. I’ve kept up his tradition and today I can slice a cucumber almost paper-thin with knives that are more than a decade old.

To keep the blades of my garden tools sharp I use a large, medium and fine grade black disposable nail file, found in every large grocery store and drug store in the land. They are inexpensive to replace when they wear out or you loose them.

I’m always on the lookout for new tools to make my gardening easier and as I get older put less wear and tear on the old bod. My newest find is the lightweight, yet heavy duty Pro Lopper by Radius (radiusgarden.com) that weighs in at just over a pound.

The forged high carbon steel blades are almost identical to those you would find on a hand pruner, but instead of handles this lopper has shafts and handles that measure 10 inches in length. The shafts are made of elliptical light-weight stainless steel that have the strength to easily cut branches up to 1 1/4 in diameter. For me what makes the Radius Pro Lopper special is while using two hands it can be used as a hand pruner to cut, putting much less stress on the muscles in my left hand, the one that is vulnerable to carpel tunnel and other muscular problems.

Priced at $39.95, the Radius Pro Lopper is available at English Gardens and other independent garden centers.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to Yardener.com and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnews.com/homestyle.

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