Gardening Articles: Care :: Tools & Equipment

Glove Affair

by Shila Patel


Bare hands in warm, moist soil may be one of gardening's primal pleasures, but the result is often scraped, chapped, and blistered skin. The more you garden, the more you need gloves. And by making various tasks even slightly easier or more comfortable, you'll be able to spend more time gardening.

Gloves are a perennially undervalued gardening tool. What other one offers such big returns of improved safety and comfort for such a small investment? Even if you think of gloves as an optional luxury for everyday tasks, consider using specialized ones for chores such as heavy weeding, pruning roses and brambles, trimming hedges, or operating power equipment.

After scouring home stores and gardening shops and catalogs, we've collected some representative types. Examples of each of these seven types are described below, along with a few kinds whose main reasons for being are that they simply look and feel great.

Which Glove Is Right for You?

The type of gloves you buy depends on how you garden. For example, gloves used for general gardening chores -- raking, weeding, digging -- differ from specialized gloves tailored for pruning thorny brambles, refilling a lawnmower with gasoline, or using a chain saw. Some gloves, such as those made of pigskin, are perfectly suitable for most gardening tasks, but even durable leather gloves are inadequate when you work with water or chemicals. For details about how much protection a particular glove offers against specific substances, check with your supplier.

The Perfect Fit

Glove sizes aren't consistent among manufacturers, styles, and models. Many so-called unisex gloves are cut for men's hands, which are usually broader and thicker than women's. Oversized gloves may bunch or slip off, tight gloves can cause muscle aches and cramps, and ill-fitting gloves often cause blistering and chafing.

To get the best fit, try the gloves on both hands and make a tight fist. You shouldn't feel any pinching or tightness. Try picking up small objects such as seeds or thin roots to determine the gloves' flexibility and comfort. If possible, try simulating the motions used with garden tools (rakes, hoes, or spades) to feel the glove at work. Testing the gloves with a tool may help you identify bothersome seams before you buy.

Placement and thickness of seams are key to the fit and comfort of cloth and leather gloves. Gloves with a seam across only the top of the palm, called gunn-cut, are usually more comfortable. Those with seams across the back, called clute-cut, often fit better. Most of the gloves you'll see are variations of both styles. For many gardeners, it's a matter of personal preference, not qualitative difference.

Whether on a gunn- or clute-cut glove, seams may be on the inside or on the outside. Inside seams are protected from wear and generally last longer but are more likely to chafe your skin. Outside seams, though less bothersome, wear out faster because they're exposed. It's a trade-off.

If you choose gloves with outside seams, look for ones sewn of new, high-tech durable fabrics such as Spectra, a high-tensile-strength synthetic. And if you have very delicate skin, consider knits or one-piece molded rubber or vinyl models.

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