Monday, April 15, 2013

The gloves are off!

Sounds as if I'm about to pick a fight with somebody and maybe I am! Now those of us that are not gardening celebrities, love to knock those that are and yes of course we are just plain jealous! Sometimes TV presenters take advantage of their guru status to postulate their own pet ideas and theories, some of which can be plain nonsense to those of us that have been in horticulture a rather long time. Now today is the day to have a go at the Gardener's World presenters! Now whilst I love Monty Don's gentle style of presentation and his obvious love of plants and gardens, he does sometimes have some peculiar ideas and bizarre ways.


In particular I cannot understand his habit of digging holes, planting seeds and generally grubbing about in the soil with his bare hands. Now whilst I can well understand that his beautiful dog Nigel might well have trouble handling a spade to bury a bone, I do not see the advantage to Monty of planting with his bare hands. I've noticed it many times and just a couple of weeks ago he was fossicking around in the soil with bare hands planting hydrangeas. I guess he's trying to portray a mystical sort of oneness with the soil and connectivity with the plants he is handling. Not only is it total baloney but he is advocating a very risky practice. Whilst Monty's soil may be the most wonderful graded grains, personally tilled for years, the same is not so for most gardeners. And to add to this, our very own Mother Earth, namely Carol Klein was doing the same thing last week, planting geraniums with her bare hands in the unknown soil of a community garden.



Quite simply, garden soil, whilst vital for growth is full of potential dangers. Firstly there are those risks that can be seen, glass, rusty metal and animal faeces. Hands up all those gardeners who have never come across any of these? Then there are the unseen but very real risks of tetanus, toxicara, staphylococcus and Weil's disease, just to mention those that immediately come to mind. Cut your finger on glass in the soil and the likelihood of infection is high. And above ground there are all the inevitable risks from spiny plants, rusty wire and splinters. If you've ever had a thorn down the back of a fingernail, you'll never prune without gloves again! Good tough leather gardening gloves are a must for any rough work in the garden.  Did you notice, that the professional gardeners at Wisley on last week's program were all wearing gloves?


Add to this the simple effect on your skin. Grime ingrained skin and blackened fingernails are not sexy! Any sort of garden work, often with wetting and drying, leaves the skin dry and rough. Gardeners need to look after their green fingers! For years I used Levington compost for nursery work - beautifully 'clean' but the dry peat just sucked the moisture out of my skin. I constantly had dry, cracked, painful hands and spent a fortune on expensive skin cream until I discovered the thin latex gloves. Buy a cheap box of 100 on the internet. They keep the moisture in your skin and pesky pathogens out.


Now I can just about hear the instant response  somewhere along the lines of "I couldn't possibly do that - fumble about in rubber gloves - I need to feel the plants!" Yes and I used to say that. But if a brain surgeon can operate with latex gloves, I guess we can all take a few cuttings without losing our basic skills. You'll quickly get used to it. The latex gloves are the thinnest but for those that have a rubber allergy, there are also vinyl which are not quite as close-fitting. I often wear latex gloves and then thick leather over the top. When doing a fiddly job like pruning and tying in a climber, I can take off the outer gloves to do the fiddly bits. And if your thoughtful partner brings out coffee and a slice of cake into the garden, hey presto - gloves off and clean hands without having to go indoor in muddy boots to wash hands!


C'mon BBC, the budget is not that tight, buy Monty and Carol some gloves!

10 comments:

  1. Humorous and serious post at the same time. I'm on two minds on this one, I understand the preference towards not wearing gloves and to be able to feel the earth and the plants, to be able to feel what you're doing without barrier. At the same time yes, the risks are definitely there and you highlighted them all...

    Just to add, there are disposable latex free gloves too, suitable for even the most sensitive of all hands!

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    1. Yes - I think there may always be jobs we like to do without any barrier - yesterday I pricked out seedlings with bare hands and I'm still alive!

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  2. I hope I'll never have to wear gloves to garden... almost 30 years now of bare hand gardening and I'm still good to go :)...
    We moved 10 cubic meters of soil last year... i did it with my bare hands. No tool because of my back. No need to say that my hands look pretty awful for a couple of months with the tiny stones in it. Who cares ? I had the pleasure to put my hands in the soil like a baby learning what is soil. It felt great !
    Vaccines can be a good help too...

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    1. Next time - hire a mini digger - no problems with back or hands and job finished in a fraction of the time - result the same!

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  3. Are latex gloves not a bit sweaty in the summer? I hadnt thought of catching nasties other than touching cat poo so i might have to invest in some tight fitting gloves, maybe cotton or leather, like this but cheaper http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/101349.htm

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  4. There was recently a lengthy thread in a FB group I belong to about the "best" gardening gloves. Turns out my favorite (http://www.amazon.com/Atlas-Nitrile-Gardening-Gloves-Green/dp/B001B4G968) is also the fav of many others! (and yes they do come in many sizes and colors).

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  5. I've never found them particularly annoying - certainly not more so than having filthy hands and grit under the finger nails. The ones you suggest in the link do look a bit restrictive. The thin latex ones come in boxes of 100 at less that £10.

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  6. Being responsible for 30 parks staff undertaking grounds maintenance within high profile parks I am always pointing out to guys the importance of gloves, and to wear them. I undertake considerable research on current trends on all safety equipment, gloves included. I was once told by a charghand (leader of a small team) that I cant possibly weed bedding displays properly if I had gloves on. He was blatant that I did not wear them so to weed. I respected him as he was a decent man but his comments would not stand ground today. Sadly I dont watch Gardeners World. It was good when Toby Buckland and Alys Fowler were on there.

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    1. Familiar comments - I recall a tree surgeon I managed many years ago refusing any protective equipment! Over the years I managed my teams, they came to accept the importance of gloves. All individuals had their own leather gloves and access to the latex ones in all the vehicles and workplaces. It became the norm to use them with no complaints.

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  7. You have enlightened me as usual on the cost / benefit of wearing gloves in the garden. I take it for granted - perhaps those are like driving with seat belts, once used to it, not a burden at all?

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