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Lowenfels: Garden gloves have come a long way

Jeff Lowenfels

In all the years I have written this column, I think I've written about gloves exactly once and if memory serves that was just a mention because of a particularly neat set of gloves having been introduced at the annual Garden Writers Association convention.

This paucity of coverage was probably due to my not being a "glove gardener." I actually like to get my hands dirty in the soil. I like soil under my fingernails. I like to feel the temperature of the soil and to be able to judge the moisture content by the way the soil feels. I like my hands to callous over, so they feel like an Alaskan's hand when shaken. Gloves get in the way of such activities.

And when I garden, I always have to take off gloves to turn on hoses or use a wrench to screw on hoses or a Phillips screwdriver to fix a pump or tool or to plug something in. Again, in the way. Who needs 'em?

Don't get me wrong. I have about 15 garden gloves. Not sets of gardening gloves, but individual gloves. For every sock I have lost in the dryer, there is a glove hand in hand, so to speak. I keep the remainders and they have served me well. When I need an actual pair I usually can cobble together a set, though they may not match.

Anyhow, this year, for reasons that go beyond this column, I find myself trying to put gloves on every time I step outside to do anything in the yard, so I actually went out and bought myself a new pair.

When my dad bought garden gloves, there were two kinds; the cotton ones that were -- and there is no pardoning me for this one but at the time you might -- for ladies. Men gardeners used leather gloves that were more suited for wrangling cattle, their original use. These had those striped end pieces that flared outward and the leather was rough and added about an inch to the thickness of each of your fingers. Much better suited for a blacksmith than a gardener. Still, these were the garden glove of the day for guys.

Today it is a different matter. There are all manner of garden gloves, indeed, entire walls of them at the hardware stores. Some are specifically designed for the ladies. Others are more unisex. There is the old leather glove, as well, now more likely to be used while grilling meat over a hot barbecue rather than in the garden, given the other choices.

I could have gone with a $60 pair, but I choose the cheapest pair of rubberized gloves I could find, a $5 Wells Lamonts. These are blue weave with hands having been dipped into rubber. I knew I could type a column in them in a pinch, though the iPad would work better than a computer keypad. (And low and behold, the gloves actually work with iPads and iPhones!) These rubberized jobbies, are the "thing" when it comes to garden gloves these days.

Off I went to test them in the garden. Wow. Let's start with pulling out those old raspberry canes. (You still haven't, have you?) No sweat. And, no thorn residue in the hands! Fantastic. It wasn't going to take much more to convince me! Two broken plastic water pipe joints later, I know I could open that darn can of PVC glue without taking off my gloves. Wow. I can open my clippers, turn on and off the water and even play in water with these one. Sold.

Oh sure, I still take my gloves off to feel the soil, see how wet it is and if it is warm. But then I put them back on and get back to gardening. No cuts. No scrapes and no taking off and putting on every two minutes for some core. Times have changed. You may want to go shopping for gloves or give a gift certificate to the father in your life so he can get rid of those leather cowboy-train engineer things.

Jeff Lowenfels' new book is "Teaming With Nutrients: The Organic Gardener's Guide To Optimizing Plant Nutrition." Contact him at teamingwithmicrobes.com.

Garden calendar

THE ALASKA BOTANICAL GARDEN GALA: FOR A FANTASTIC EVENING TONIGHT CHECK OUT WWW.ABG.ORG. IT'S A MUST DO, BUT HURRY TO THE SITE.

DANDELIONS: IN FULL FORCE. FIRST DEFENSE IS TO MOW THEM WHEN THEY ARE IN FLOWER SO THEY DON'T GO TO SEED. SOMETIMES THIS MEANS MOWING SEVERAL TIMES A WEEK. ADIOS EXPERIMENTS CONTINUE. AVAILABLE AT ALASKA MILL AND FEED. I AM IMPRESSED. GET COVERAGE IN THE CENTER OF THE WEED. CLOVE LEAVES SPOTS, SO IT IS BEST USED IN FAIRWAY AREAS. DO NOT USE WEED AND FEED. THESE ARE NOT SAFE IN MY OPINION. BETTER TO LIVE WITH THE DANDELIONS.

CHICKWEED: PICK IT AND THEN MULCH THE SOIL

MEADOW RUE: APHIDS LOVE THESE PLANTS. CHECK YOURS. KNOCK THEM OFF WITH COLD WATER. SPRAY WITH AZAMAX.

THIN VEGETABLES: LETTUCES, CARROTS, BEETS. YOU KNOW WHAT NEEDS THINNING. JUST DO IT SO YOU HAVE DECENT SIZED CROPS NEXT MONTH.

NURSERIES: CAN YOU SPELL SALES?


Jeff Lowenfels
GardeningBy JEFF LOWENFELS