Superb tools enable and facilitate tasks, but a gardener’s person needs attention too. Comfort, fit, pliability, breathability, protection, handy pockets, shade, waterproofing and longevity eventually trump fashion in the choice of gardening gear. Strangely, it takes quite a while to arrive at satisfying solutions. Herewith, the most practical and pleasing products I’ve found, top to bottom. Like to see pictures? Click the link below.
| There are many look alike cotton canvas hats. I’ve tried a few myself over the years. Tilley’s T3 hat takes the prize. It upholds its brim stiff rather than drooping, sheds light rain, doesn’t blow off the head, floats (I sail too), breathes, keeps one’s hair from fading and face from burning, cleans easily in the washer, lasts for years and, if it self destructs, will be replaced by the company without question. Straw has its charm, but this is a heavy lifter. Canadian made, $65. |
- Cover for Arms, Trunk and Legs
| Upper body garden wear depends completely on personal preference. Some like little halters or tee shirts to revel in summer warmth. But I work under very radiant sun for many hours a day, rooting among prickly surfaces and pesky bugs, and prefer the protection of cover. I like cotton (whisper light or flannel or sweatshirt, according to season), a loose cut that permits freedom of action and air circulation, and long sleeves. Serious gardeners' leg wear, however, demands specific attributes. During the 80s, Smith and Hawkins offered marvelous “Japanese Farmers’ Pants” with nice tailoring, plenty of pockets, and thick internal knee pads. The soft foam buffer proved a godsend for close, kneeling work. When those pants were no longer available, I shifted to low padded benches and heavy tie-on pads, but they were clumsy solutions Recently, a friend tipped me off to Carhartt double knee workers’ pants, which suit the need exactly. I can stash a pruner and folding saw in deep pockets beside each thigh, barely noticing their presence, and even hang an ungainly weed claw in the external cloth loop to the side. The double knee feature includes a small opening to receive a foam pad, which, although imparting a slightly bowlegged look, does cushion nicely. I’ve found, however, that the doubled knee cloth alone often suffices to moderate joint hurt and, of course, to extend wear. In summer I prefer Carhartt’s lightweight men’s dungaree double knee #B198, $35, fall and winter women’s canvas-weight model WB136. Made in Mexico. Foam kneepad inserts must be ordered separately from safeworker.com, “Soft Knees, product #1010, $19 the pair. |
- Work Boots
| If you’re just attending a cutting garden beside the house, light sneakers or any comfortable slip-on does the trick. But if the ball of your foot must press a spade hard into the earth, or stride through wet meadows or over rough terrain, you need the support and protection of a sturdy boot. For years I wore L.L. Bean boots with plasticized bottoms and leather uppers, but they chafe at the join, and feel hot. At the suggestion of our woodsmen, I switched to Herman’s Survivors from Walmarts, a very sturdy men’s high-laced boot. But they’re heavy. Ariat women’s waterproof boots are the ones I love and use now. They’re completely waterproof, light, shaped to a woman’s foot, and marvelously supportive. Item #16512 at Duluth Trading Company, $119. Made in China. |
- High Waterproof Boots
| When it’s rainy, you must walk through tall wet grass or standing water, or you just want to slip into something snug, barefoot, for a quick foray to the compost pile or firewood stack, Muck Boots prove unsurpassed. Not stiff like Wellingtons, they’re made of the same breathable material as wetsuits. Utterly waterproof, soft slipper-like interior, insulated against cold, super grip sole, last indefinitely, you can slip them on and off without hands— they’re wonderful. Muck Boot Edgewater Mid (12” tall) $75. Made in China |
- A Trio of Gloves
| For finesse work, nothing beats Foxgloves (Original, $20.) A second skin, petal soft, they keep your cuticles clean while you transplant delicate seedlings, weed, do a thousand careful garden chores, but are rugged enough to stand up long term. They don’t become slimy when wet nor stiffen when dry, and can be tossed in the washer to clean. Not suitable for thorns. Made in China.(www.foxglovesinc.com) For rough work, inexpensive pigskin gloves from the Deere tractor people serve beautifully. They’re great for shoveling, fencing and pruning. Most raspberry and thistle spines don’t penetrate, but blackberry thorns and some roses can be stinkers. Unlike the other Deere gloves, this model comes small enough to fit a lady's hand. I bought them this summer at a John Deere Tractor store, though I don’t spot them now on their web site (John Deere Pig Grain Drivers, style #WA2401J small, $6.99, made in China.) When it’s cold outside, I revert to my beloved L.L.Bean lined deerskin gloves that stand up to heavy woods work and keep one toasty. I don’t spot my old model among their current listings, but perhaps their Adirondack leather #TA51588 (men’s) or #TA51590 (woman’s) would be suitable subs. $20. |
| Even with the best hat and long sleeves, that rascal sun does its damage. I rely on plain jane Olay Complete—no fragrance, non oily, moisturizing, available in any drugstore |
- Long Term I.D.
| Lastly, this helpmate doesn’t attend the outside of the noggin, but the inside. It alleviates a constant gardeners’ frustration: lack of permanent plant labels. Felt tip markers fade on wood or metal within a season, pencil incised copper or aluminum tags degenerate in clarity with time. Yet one needs to know the location of previous years’ perennials before they poke up in spring in order to weed strategically or add new material. This trio of products solves the problem. Type in a couple lines of text on the labeling gizmo (e.g., Latin name, common name, varietal, year planted), and presto it prints the needful indelibly on tough, enduring, outdoor tape to affix to zinc markers. True, the 2½” silvery nametags are a tad gaudy when the ground is bare, but in no time little weedlets, detritus, or a bit of alyssum or such largely camouflage them. The temporary aesthetic blip is well worth the satisfaction of recallng a lovely heirloom lily’s exact name, or a rare campanula’s. Brother P-touch Electronic Label Maker, model #PT 1880, $50. Made in China.(www.staples.com) Brother P-touch TZ Extra Strength Adhesive Tape #TZS941, ¾” (18mm) black print on matte silver. $18, Made in Japan. (www.imagesupply.com) Standard Zinc Markers, set of 25 for $15. (www.gardeners.com) |