Gardening gloves may seem like an optional piece of equipment, best for keeping hands clean and nails from cracking, but gloves are much more than that. Gloves provide protection from insects, splinters and thorn pricks; harmful plants such as poison ivy; and irritating sap or pollen from plants like butterfly weed, sunflowers, and milkweed.
There are also noxious weeds you might come into contact with that can cause extreme and long lasting health problems. Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is one such noxious plant. It carries a chemical called photosensitizing furanocoumarins, which can trigger a skin reaction sensitive to light, resulting in terrible blistering, scarring and possible blindness.
In addition, good gardening gloves will protect you from feces from cats and raccoons (which can carry toxoplasmosis and raccoon roundworm, respectively). There are also bacteria and fungi in the soil that cause tetanus, Legionnaires disease and a rare infection called rose gardener’s disease (a fungus that causes open sores).
Here is a primer to help you choose the gloves that will work best for you:
Roses are beautiful, but they do fight back. Coming away with scratches after gardening is never fun. Thorn-proof/rose gloves are the answer.
These elbow-length “gauntlets” are usually made from leather or synthetic leather and will protect you from the prickliest plant out there.
Look for puncture-resistant material, extra padding over the knuckles to protect the back of your hand from thorns and a padded palm. Stretchable and breathable material on the hand is a bonus, as is a gathered wrist, which will provide security and mobility.
If you’re a gardener who does a little bit of everything, a utility glove is your best bet.
Comfort, durability and stretch that bounces back are most important in the utility glove, because chances are you’ll be wearing these gloves often.
Look for breathable, absorbent material, a padded palm and a Velcro closure at the wrist. Choose a synthetic material that can be washed and hung to dry.
Make sure your choice is water resistant.
Gardening can be heavy work. If pushing wheelbarrows full of gravel, lifting landscaping stones or heavy digging is in your future, choose a work glove that’s up to the task.
Look for a heavy-duty material that doesn’t get sodden when wet. Also, ensure the gloves are reinforced in areas needed for hard work, such as the palm and under the fingers.
Make sure you can still bend the hand and do delicate tasks like threading a bolt or tying a knot.
Cotton gloves are best for light use, such as container gardening and working with bagged compost.
Keep in mind that cotton gloves are going to get soaked quickly and therefore are not useful in wet soil.
A cotton glove won’t mold to your hand like a leather or stretchy glove will, so make sure your choice fits you fairly well. Look for PVC dots for extra grip and an elastic strap on the back, which helps secure the glove.
Sometimes gardening requires a delicate touch, such as with transplanting seedlings, tying twine or cutting flowers.
These gloves are made of very flexible material such as nitrile or bamboo, which gives you the sensitivity of a bare hand. Look for a snug fit and a non-slip grip, and seek out gloves made from breathable and waterproof fabric.
Find the Fit
To find the numeric size, measure around your open palm with fingers together, leaving out your thumb. Round up to the next half size if available.
The glove maker will usually provide a chart that translates numeric size to small, medium, large, etc.
The fit should be snug but not tight, and your fingers should fit fully inside the glove’s fingers. A glove should feel snug and comfortable while allowing free movement.