Posted: January 9, 2012
I found my favorite pair of work gloves rather by accident. I was simply drawn to them as I walked through a hardware store in Littlestown looking for something else. I liked the color (teal), and the suede lining on the palm and fingers was soft but protective. After two seasons together, I left them in a basket in the potting shed to overwinter. Well… apparently glove fingers have become a favored nesting ground for stinkbugs. I shoved my hands into them, and yuck! I got the smell off my fingers, but no matter how I washed them, I never relieved my gloves of that scent. I found a pair with similar attributes this year, but it made me realize my attachment to those gloves. When I polled my fellow Master Gardeners, it was striking how people wanted to share their glove preferences. I guess the gloves are an extension of our hands, so choices become, well… personal. Different gardening chores require different types of gloves. They protect us during varied tasks such as planting, digging, weeding, pruning and perhaps even chemical application.
General purpose gloves are usually cotton or cotton/polyester, and light in weight (about $2 per pair). Almost all of the Master Gardeners have these around for tasks like potting and light weeding to protect the skin and keep dirt out. Cotton is nice in the hot weather because it breathes, and Bobbi notes that the kind with little rubber dots on the palm side are useful and durable. Debra adds that she likes hers to have a cotton back and wrist cuffs, which can keep particles from going up your sleeves or into your gloves. Gloves that are extensively rubber-coated can be hot and sweaty. However, several of the MGs mentioned a type of glove that is one step up from basic cotton. Betty, Barbara, Melissa and Phil all described cotton gloves that have the palm-side dipped in latex or nitrile. The coating protects from dampness, and is flexible enough to allow for picking up fairly fine objects. Nitrile is a synthetic rubber that is light and flexible, but resistant to punctures by thorns. Nickie reminded me that this is particularly important because rose thorns and others can drive fungal spores or bacteria into the skin, resulting in a nasty infection. This type of glove costs about $7 per pair, comes in many colors, and is washable; and they still have the advantages of a breathable back and cuffs.
Nickie is a landscaper as well as a home gardener, so she can give feedback that is pertinent to the really thorny tasks (pun intended). Because they take such a beating in her work, and protect her hands from serious risk, she is willing to pay $25 for a pair of sheepskin and neoprene gloves. In this price range, gloves can have special pads that protect the joints from blisters and calluses, and substantial gauntlets for the wrists and forearms. If you do heavy work, it’s an investment that can deter a pricier visit to the doctor or the emergency department. Phil notes, however, that for less than $10 you can still get some tough gloves: leather palm with a denim back, or goat skin with a hardened palm – and he agrees about the desirability of wrist protectors. Phil used to work on the railroad, where gloves had to be doffed and donned frequently and quickly. I enjoyed a trick he shared about always keeping his right hand glove with the palm up so he didn’t have to look when he slipped it on.
Finally, there are some special uses. When working with chemicals or poisonous plants, it is important to wear neoprene or rubber gloves that are impervious to the substance. This type of glove can also be useful for working in ponds.
Well, after all this advice from the experts, I do have one bit of wisdom to add. Store your garden gloves indoors this winter, so they don’t become a condominium for stinkbugs.
Julie Falk is a Penn State Extension Master Gardener from Adams County. Penn State Cooperative Extension of Adams County is located at 670 Old Harrisburg Road, Suite 204, Gettysburg. Call 334-6271.