Off-Grid Tool Care Tip For Fruit And Nut Tree Pruning

Late winter is a great time to prune your fruit and nut trees.  I’ve been working to develop a ‘food forest’ for many years (I’ll write up an article about food forests soon).  When pruning your trees it really is a good idea to sanitize your tools as you move from tree to tree so you don’t pass any bacterial or fungal problems.  Think of it like when treating people, you want a clean scalpel, or clean needles don’t you?

My orchard (food forest) tends to be prone to fire blight.  And in that case I will clean my tools between each cut to ensure I don’t infect a different part of the same tree.

A quick note; my rabbits absolutely love to eat the bark and young branches from my pruning work.  It is a major source of food for them this time of year.

To clean my tools, I normally use a solution of 1 part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water.  I put that solution in a bucket and regularly dip my pruning shears and loppers into the bucket, swishing them around a bit for a simple and easy way to clean and sanitize them.

Chlorine is a pretty harsh chemical, and may not always be available in a grid-down situation.  What else could I use to disinfect my tools?  I called around to several of my herbalist friends and the easiest, DIY solution is to use home made vinegar as a disinfectant.

Petty cool, huh?  That’s what I thought too.  So I’ll finish my pruning this year using a solution of vinegar and water.  My vinegars don’t tend to be that strong, so I’ll probably do a 1 to 4 ratio of vinegar to water, or perhaps even lower.

There are so many uses for vinegar, I’ll be writing more as I find myself using it.  Stay tuned!  Do you have a method for cleaning your tools that doesn’t involve going to the store to buy anything?  do you have a favorite use for vinegar?  I read all the comments and love to read what you write.

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This post was written by Marjory


  • KilroyJC says:

    Love the vinegar idea! However, for those of us who are far less advanced (or in our particular case, on the brink of just starting out!), bleach is still the “go-to” sanitizer.

    BUT, we have not purchased bleach in several years.

    A visit to your local pool store for a high-concentration hypochlorite powder, A/K/A SHOCK, not only provides an almost inexhaustible supply of laundry bleach but also an emergency water treatment. (Make sure it does not contain any fungicides or clarifiers, and has at least 50& Hypochlorite. I use a 65% brand for my emergency water treatment kit.

    I mix about a tablespoon of shock into an empty bleach bottle, then fill halfway with water, and shake vigorously. Then I fill the bottle the rest of the way.

    A case of shock, depending on the brand, is between 20 and 60 dollars. I am only on my second bag of shock after about three years, and I have used some at extra-high strength for outdoor cleaning. at that rate, it will be over 25 years before I run out, and my laundry bleach costs pennies per jug now!

    1. JJM says:

      I would rather stock some powder or tablets rather than jugs of bleach, especially if I needed some chlorine to transport in a BOB or even in a vehicle. Of concern is HOW MUCH pool supply equals a gallon of bleach AND how much to add to a gallon of water for drinking????

      1. Hi JJ,

        My point was not to ever need chlorine. Use vinegar…

        Your question about how much chlorine to use with water to make it safe for drinking is a good one.

  • Robin says:

    Hi Marjorie,
    I use vinegar water for nearly all of my household cleaning! I love using it to clean my sinks, faucets, tile floors, laundry rinse cycle for towels, to spray on my husband’s sweaty running clothes if I can’t wash them that day, even my little boy’s mattress if there’s a nighttime accident (followed by baking soda). When he was a baby, I used it to clean his high-chair tray. We don’t like harsh chemicals — in fact I’m very sensitive to bleach in the air — so vinegar is perfect. It’s safe enough that my son is even beginning to use it in his chores to help disinfect doorknobs and light switches! We love it!

    1. Justin Arman says:

      Robin, thanks so much for your comment. Marjory will respond to you when she gets back from her wilderness trip 🙂 Wish you well.

  • Leslie Parsons says:

    I buy vinegar in 2 gallon jugs and use it for all my disinfecting and cleaning. In the greenhouse, vinegar gives us two for one: I do not mix it with water, but spray it onto tools and equipment at full strength and easily wash away mineral deposits along with the disinfection.

    If you are growing acid-loving plants, a safe and easy way of gently adjusting the PH is by adding a tablespoon of vinegar to a gallon, when you water. This technique works best in containers, but can be used for in ground plantings, as well. (Anyone growing acid-loving plants, in an alkaline environment, would benefit from a PH meter. The little kits are fine for a DIY soil test, but the ongoing cultivation of plants with special PH needs, requires regular monitoring.) I have used more extreme methods and have regretted doing so, because it is easy to over compensate and the soil takes a long time to recover. So, vinegar is the safe way to tweak your PH. If you are monitoring your levels, you can increase the amount as needed.

  • Jeff OConnor says:

    A drop or two in each ear will help prevent “Swimmers Ear” after a dip in whatever, pool, stream etc.

    1. Laurel Robertson says:

      Look for the extra-strength “pickling” vinegar (9% acidity) right next to the regular vinegar in the grocery aisle. It costs a little more, but is more than twice as strong, saving $ and packaging. Just dilute it more – or use full-strength for extra punch.

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