In the Garden:
New England
December, 2003
Regional Report

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Slip on a pair of these goatskin gardening gloves and you'll be hooked!

If the Glove Fits ...

I received my all-time favorite pair of gardening gloves for my birthday a few years ago. They were a beautiful dark red goatskin, satiny smooth and flexible. I never would have bought such a nice pair of gloves to use just for, you know, digging in the dirt. I had always bought cheap gloves of assorted materials, and I never gave them much thought.

But those red gloves spoiled me. They felt wonderful and gripped well. I took good care of them, carefully wiping off the dirt when I took them off, and always laid them flat to dry. No matter what I asked of them, they performing beautifully and comfortably. They lasted for almost three years. Eventually they succumbed to abrasion during the building of a new retaining wall next to my vegetable garden. Goatskin's supple texture makes it less than ideal for handling stone and other hard, rough surfaces. Cowhide gloves would have been more durable.

Still, I went right out and bought myself another pair of those red goatskin gloves. This time I'll reserve them for the jobs they're best suited for.

Each type of glove has its merits. Here are some guidelines of what each does best.

Leather Gloves
Different types of leather lend different qualities to a glove. Goatskin gloves are supple and give decent dexterity for many gardening tasks. They keep hands relatively dry and don't stiffen after they get wet. They are too soft for working with stone, concrete, and brick. Sheepskin gloves are similar in comfort, but they tear more easily than most any other leather. Some goatskin and sheepskin gloves can be machine washed.

The most rugged are cowhide and pigskin gloves -- your typical work gloves. These are strong enough for handling rough surfaces, such as rocks and wood, and for planting trees and shrubs. They also are the most protective for handling handling power equipment. Their downside is little dexterity, especially when lined for winter warmth, and they stiffen after getting wet.

Cloth Gloves
These run the gamut, from hardware store cheapos that work ok for working in dry soil to the colorful, hand-hugging Foxgloves, which are the best gloves of all for dexterity. If you work with prickley plants, be sure to choose a pair with palms and fingers that are reinforced with latex. These are on my wish list for the spring gardening season.

Rubber-Coated Gloves
A step up in protection from the reinforced cotton gloves are those covered entirely by a rubber or PVC coating. I use a pair whenever I work with roses. If they fit fairly snugly, they aren't too clumsy. I had a pair that was too large, and they kept slipping right off my hands when they were in the middle of a rose bush. Ouch.

The Fit
Don't buy any gloves that say "One Size Fits All." They don't. Ideally, you should be able to try on gloves before you buy. Make a fist and check for any uncomfortable spots that pinch or pull. If you can't try them on, here's a way to gauge your size.

Measure your flat hand around your knuckles (not including your thumbs). If your hand measures 6-1/2 to 7-1/4 inches, you need size small gloves. If you measure 7-1/2 to 7-3/4 inches, you need medium. If you measure 8 to 8-3/4 inches, large; 9 to 9-3/4 inches, extra large; 10 to 10-3/4 inches, extra extra large.

Your gloves are as much of a tool as your rake, and it pays to use the right tool for the job. And if that functional pair of gloves happens to also be beautiful ... well, what's the harm!


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