This was first published on April 24, 2014 as an email newsletter…

Gardeners, into your starting blocks….

After a winter like what just passed in the Mid-Atlantic, we are all SUPER READY to get out there and start digging, pruning, cutting, mulching, planting, hauling, raking etc.  But after a winter of NOT doing any of these activities, it’s also not a great idea to go full-tilt the first day–so go easy on yourselves!  That said, here are..

My TOP TEN  garden safety tips:

1. Good gloves–Hand protection is super important to avoid cuts and contact with what you might not love to set your bare hands upon–poop from a neighborhood dog, a hill of ants, pieces of glass.  I love Atlas Gloves.  ( BTW, I receive no endorsements from them or any company; just want to give some solid recommendations.)

2. Covered toes–You would be amazed in what I’ve seen folks head out back wearing–bedroom slippers, bare feet, sandals, flip-flops.  Garden tools are heavy and sharp!  Seriously, folks…this is a big deal. I wonder how many ER visits are from toe and foot injuries in the garden.  Use that pair of sneaks that you would otherwise put in the trash; they are good for the garden.  And happy to be useful.   And covered eyes; always, always wear safety glasses when operating string trimmers or power tools.

3. Speaking of tools, choose the right ones and the right ones appropriate for the work at hand.  Pick those comfortable for YOU, which may not be the same as those landscape crewmen would use; these guys work like oxen–believe me when I tell you I’ve seen enough of them in action.  Don’t try to cut a limb or branch with a hand pruner; choose a lopper or saw. Ensure the tools are sharp and clean, just like your kitchen knives.  (More about tools and tool care in a later newsletter.)  Cleaning tools after each garden day helps prevent rust from settling on them thus helping them function properly.

4. Long sleeves if you can stand it–lightweight, light color, breathable fabric to protect from sun, thorns, insects.  Ensure clothing is not so loose and baggy that it can get caught on tools.

5. Sunscreen!  We know the phrase “red-neck” for a reason….remember that many garden chores are done facing down so you might not realize just how much heat your neck gets upturned directly to the sunshine.

6. Hats–scalps are tender spots. Be mindful if you are applying chemical sprays; hat lids can trap vapors near your face.  Remove hat when spraying.

7.  Quit before you get tired.  I commit to a 3pm quitting time because at that point I’m “feeling it” and have time to get cleaned up and my honey, Rob, will fix me his specialty–a nice, cold, martini. Also, gardening is not a race.  Miss a few weeds?  They will be there, I promise.

8.  Consider what you have the physical ability to do and what is smarter to hire out to be done with a crew and/or a machine.  No garden activity is worth injury. Things like moving big rocks, big trees, removing expanses of ivy.  Things that might take you a really long time and you’d rather be doing something more fun.

9.  Know your poisons….as in poison ivy, poison oak.  If the problem is minor, put a gloved hand inside a plastic bag, pull out the offender, turn the bag inside out to seal inside without contact.  Even if the vines look dead or dormant, I would suggest behaving as if they are not.  Wear goggles if severing the base of vines from trees (gloves of course) and thoroughly clean tools with gloved hands afterwards.

10.  Change things up.  If you’ve been on your knees weeding for a length of time, get up and stretch.  Go do another chore that allows you to be upright for a bit.

BONUS TIP—drink plenty of water if it’s hot.
BONUS TIP 2–A hot bath and a cold martini cure a variety of ills….

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