1. Stinging nettles! Weeding barehanded and pulling up some of these in your fist can mean all day irritation. The plants have tiny little spines that deposit an irritant into your skin that’s painful, and lasts. If you get stung, a paste of baking soda and water or a topical antihistamine can soothe the skin. Stinging nettles do have their good side; grown purposely in the herb garden, they are edible, but handle with gloves when picking. Cooking removes the sting.
2. Thistles! Impossibly prickly, it’s a feat of daring to pull them up with bare hands, even if you are really careful and only grasp the less prickly bottom of the plant. Which of course I have tried to do, many times, with predictable results. Have you ever tried to get a thistle out of your finger? There’s a reason that story book lion was unhappy.
3. Ants! Knocking over a rock while weeding can unearth a colony of ants, and many do bite. It’s amazing how fast they run up your hand, chomping as they go.
4. Keeping nails clean and unbroken. How can you tell a gardener? Look for someone with dirt under their nails. One tip for keeping nails clean without gloves includes digging your nails into a bar of soap, but I find I hate that stuffed-nail feeling. Plus, it doesn’t work all that well. Gloves will protect those nails. And let’s face it, nails are there to protect our fingers, not just to look beautiful. There’s nothing like a ripped nail to make me head back to my gardening basket to get my gloves.
5. Protecting the skin from that old devil sun. Hands the most exposed part of our body, along with the face. In terms of aging, they say “the legs are the last to go”, and hands are definitely the first. Why do legs stay so young looking? In Canada, they are covered up half the year. Working outdoors without gloves is a terrible idea for this reason alone. Garden gloves are the best sunblock you can wear.
Old fashioned, bulky fabric gloves that work best on a scarecrow than an actual human have given way to improved designs. Newer gloves are thinner, more pliable and stay put so you can almost forget you have them on. Many are made of thin, pliable rubber and latex. Check out new gloves next time you’re in the garden centre. And, in a pinch, even your kitchen rubber gloves will work.