It is finally time to get out into the garden and clean up your perennial and vegetable beds! But, before you start the clean-up task, you should assess your garden tools and make sure they are up for the task. A good scrubbing, oiling, and sharpening now, will make sure your tools are in top shape all season.

Start the tool clean up with a good scrubbing. Use any type of mild soap and a scrub brush to clean away any dirt and debris. If you find any rust on your tools, use a wire brush or steel wool to scrub it away. You can also use a rust removing cleaner, but often a stiff brush and a little elbow grease is all you need.

After your tools are clean and dry, sharpen any blades or cutting edges. Sharp digging knives and shovels will cut through the dirt easier and sharp pruners will create cleaner cuts, which is healthier for your plants. Run a sharpening steel or stone along the beveled side of the blade several times. Be sure to follow the same angle as the bevel. Next, run the sharpening tool along the back of the blade a few times to remove the burr. Depending on how often you use your tools, it is also useful to have your tools professionally sharpened every now and then. Many garden centers offer professional sharpening services at their stores. Often the service is provided by a traveling sharpener, so check the schedule of your local garden center to see if and when they offer this service.

Finally, use a cloth to coat your tools with a light coat of oil and lubricate any joints or moving parts. The oil will help protect the surface from rust and it will make all of the moving parts move smoother.

To keep your tools clean and lubricated all season, consider making a tool holder for them. Fill a pot or bucket with a sand and mineral oil mixture. When you are finished with your tools, simply slide them into the sand mixture and keep them there until you need them again. The sand is slightly abrasive, which will help remove any dirt and keep the blades sharp. The oil in the sand will keep the tools lubricated. Just make sure to keep the tool holder in a dry spot, so it doesn't fill with rain or snow and cause rust issues.

Now that your tools are ready, get out, enjoy the sunshine, and clean up your yard and garden!