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Spring has sprung and, as Joni Mitchell famously sang, “it’s time to get back to the garden.” You might be planning for your flowers and shrubs, but what about your garden tools? The savvy gardener cleans and maintains their tools to help prevent rust, keep the edges sharp, and remove soil and sap that could contribute to cross contamination. If yours need a tune up or a replacement, here are a few tips and also a few tools to get you through the season:

Spring cleaning

Ideally, tools are cleaned after each use and before being stored for the season. Scrape off any dried dirt or mud, scrub off rust with a stiff wire brush and remove sap with an agent like turpentine, lighter fluid or Goo Gone. Then, give trowels, spades and hand tools a good soak in a bucket of hot water with half a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid per gallon of water; give a good rinse with the hose after. You can also disinfect in a bucket with two cups of chlorine bleach to one gallon of warm water.

Check all hardware and handles to ensure screws are tight, rake tines are in good order and wooden tool handles are free of cracks or other splinter-causing defects. Sand down any rough spots with medium-grade sandpaper and treat with linseed oil. Sharpen shears, pruners and other cutting tools and oil any moving parts.

Check mechanicals such as string trimmers, other electric-powered hand tools such as pruners and shears. Check batteries for electric powered tools and mowers and replace those that have lost their charge.

Replace or update your tool kit

If you’re updating or replacing your kit here are a few recommendations:

Pruning clippers, or what the British call “secateurs.” There are numerous options in various price ranges from bespoke pruners from Burgon & Ball, circa 1730 and the only garden tools to be endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society ($36) to the ubiquitous Fiskars found in most garden centers and large retailers ($15 – $70). Many experts recommend bypass-style pruners (the slice of the top blade bypasses bottom blade), which cut quickly and cleanly facilitating healing heal. Highly rated Felco F-2 hand pruner ($60.50)

The Opinel No. 8 Pruning Knife, made in France, is an elegant hack for taming shoots and branches. Its non-corrosive stainless steel blade is beveled on both sides, has a safety catch and folds small enough to fit in your pocket.  Ergonomic design, and with a smooth, varnished beechwood handle, a pleasure to handle. ($26)

The Japanese garden tool maker, Nisaku, makes the Original Hori Hori Namibagata Japanese stainless steel weeding knife (hori means “to dig” in Japanese), with both a blade and a serrated edge that can dig small holes, whack weeds, divide plants, cut through roots (currently on sale $19.99).

The Wilcox All-Pro 202S 14″ All-Pro Trowel is an essential workhorse made of 16-gauge stainless steel. Featuring a no-slip grip, it breaks through soil, can do double duty as a bulb planter, and weighing only 11.8 ounces, won’t tire out your arm ($26).

The Stainless Steel Digging Spade from Bulldog, another heritage English gardening source, est. 1780, offers a 32-inch handle for garden digs such as edging,aerating and other flower-bed prep. Made of solid forged from one piece of steel, it carries a guarantee for the lifetime of the tool or 25 years ($65).

Getting a grip is easier with the right gloves, and the Gardeners Goat Skin Glove from WomanWork, a 36-year-old woman-owned business, is a form-fitting glove of soft top-grain goatskin specially designed to fit women’s hands ($46). Men’s gloves are available, too.

The Dramm Premium High Grade Long Spout Watering Can, is a sturdy five-liter durable  watering can made in the U.S., from high-grade, injection molded plastic. The extra-long spout is helpful for hard to reach places. Comes in six colors with a lifetime guarantee ($56 on