I was always a bare knuckle gardener, at least I was for years. I liked the direct connection to the soil, the feel of the the plant stem; it was the only way I knew I was doing it right – by feel. But somewhere I got a bit fed up with perpetually dirty fingernails, having to wash my hands before sweeping hair out of my eyes, or touching anything in brief sojourns to the house. Another benefit to glove wearing: protection from sun and bugs. (re: sun protection I wish now that I had started wearing gloves when I was 14!)
So, I started experimenting with gloves. I hate most traditional garden gloves: the omnipresent cheap fabric ones are abominable and not even worth a look. I have small hands, and even small ones have loose un-finger-filled areas at the top that flap around uselessly getting in the way. In the medium range are those with thin rubbery palms, and fabric outsides. They come in fairly small sizes, and they feel pretty good. They are fine if you are wielding a shovel, digging weeds or soil, or for raking and pruning. For grabbing rough branches you need something with a bit of heft, so I keep these on hand for those tasks.
For heavy duty branch wrangling you can’t do better than these heavy duty Atlas rubberized gloves. They breathe from the top and the thick rubber gives really good palm protection.
I was hooked on these real kid gloves for awhile from Lee Valley Tools. They are fancily engineered – a mix of kid and breathable fabric – and they were the first gloves I swore by, because they felt so natural.
But thin and comfortable as leather or fabric gloves can be, it doesn’t have the same feel as using your bare hands for the more delicate tasks. So my glove routine went what I might term the Hand Condom route.
I used to buy boxes of green latex gloves from Lee Valley Tools, which had enough protection from sun, bugs and soil, and was almost like wearing no gloves at all. (insert condom ad copy regarding thinness and ‘sensitivity’ here) My sister used to say wearing gloves like these made her hands feel like they were suffocating, but for me, I felt like I was getting a spa treatment: my hands would always come out of the gloves all soft and smooth. The ones Lee Valley sells now in boxes don’t appear to be the same green ones they used to sell. They look like the ones I get in my boxes of….shhh….hair dye, the garden variety latex gloves. Too bad. The green ones were my Hand Condoms of choice.
Which brings me to my next glove tip: recycling my hair dye gloves for the garden. Yes, it means I walk around with garish reddish brown hands, but you can’t beat the price. I wear them until one of the fingers breaks, then out they go.
On the weekend I had just torn through my last pair of recycled latex gloves, and I needed some thin gloves for weeding. Dug out of my kitchen cupboard an old pair of Playtex ‘Living’ kitchen gloves – formerly my trusty dishwashing gloves of choice – popped them on and was very pleasantly suprised to find a new avenue of garden glovery! Supple and easy to pick things up, and thick enough to repel any buggy marauders. They work, they’re cheap, and they also cover up past the wrist, giving better sun and bug protection than many gloves.
Later on I ran outside to do a quick garden chore and I was wearing my Casabella kitchen gloves. These are my new – super fancy, and really The Best- kitchen gloves, making one of my least favourite chores, washing dishes, almost enjoyable. And now I know that they work brilliantly for the garden too. Extra long sleeves make them ideal for repelling bugs, and stopping arm scratches. I’ll make sure I have an extra pair now for garden use.
Now if only rubber glove manufacturers would stop making them in those two colours: yellow and pink. A nice lime green would be perfect.