Sure, a day dawdling in the garden isn’t exactly considered a high-risk activity.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still safety practices to follow to keep yourself healthy while planting your petunias and trenching your tomatoes.
Below are 6 important gardening safety tips to keep in mind as you gear up for gardening season this year.
“When thunder roars, go indoors.”
This rhyming wisdom comes courtesy of the National Weather Service. Lightning can strike 25 miles away from the storm cloud. So while you might have blue skies directly overhead, you can still be at risk of a lightning strike if you are within a 25-mile range of a storm. And it’s not as uncommon as you might think; your chances of getting struck by lightning are 1 in 3,000. Don’t test your chances by remaining outside as a storm rolls into your area.
In fact, my Uncle Brance was struck by lightning and lived to tell about it. As a farmer, he was always in the fields working crops, and he did not heed the thunder rule. Before you know it, he was struck by the electric force… Needless to say, he didn’t work on crops during stormy weather anymore!
Learn from my uncle and do as the NWS rhyme says—if you hear thunder, it’s time to go inside.
Watch your fingers.
Gardening tools, like shears, need to be sharp to work properly. After all, you don’t want to hack at your plants with a dull blade—that increases the risk of injury to the plant more than a clean cut.
Of course, a careless finger can become victim to a sharp object. Always wear heavy duty gardening gloves, and be extra mindful about hand placement when using sharp gardening objects.
I wish I could get my husband, Olin, to heed this advice better! Every year, he punctures, bleeds, blisters, and smashes his hands with all types of gardening equipment. More times than not, he will come in with a paper towel bandage wrapped with electrical tape. Oh well… the only time I get really concerned is if the gardening tools or equipment is rusty, then we go get a tetanus shot.
Don’t skip the sunscreen.
Sun is the real danger when it comes to gardening.
Frequent unprotected exposure to sunshine is a long term price your skin will pay, whether with wrinkles or skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., with 1 in 5 Americans developing it. Don’t let your love of gardening be part of the catalyst to becoming a statistic—always wear a water-resistant sunscreen of at least 30 SPF. And don’t forget to re-apply! A hat and long sleeves will provide additional protection.
I am of English descent and have very fair skin, so UV rays put me at a high risk for melanoma. When working in our U-Pick Garden, I always wear cool gloves, a long sleeve shirt with UV protection, long cool pants, and a wide brimmed hat. I don’t want to take any risk!
I’ve read numerous articles on how vitamin D comes from the sun, but every time I’ve asked my dermatologist, she tells me that we cannot get enough vitamin D from the sun and we need to take a D3 supplement. She insists that the UV Rays are a higher risk for me than the small amount of vitamin D that I would get from the sun. At 61 years old, and still without skin cancer, I will continue to heed her warnings.
Protect your skin from fertilizer.
Another reason gardening gloves are non-negotiable—if you are using chemical-based fertilizers in your garden, your skin needs protection. Thank you, gardening gloves. Even if your fertilizer is marked as “organic,” you still need to heed this tip.
(Want to learn how to garden without the use of pesticides? This post on 12 beneficial insects to control pests is a great place to start.)
Stretch before a day of gardening.
You know the feeling—waking up the morning after a day spent working in the garden and feeling like maybe you just ran a 5K. After all, many of the motions of gardening—bending down, heavy lifting, sitting on your knees—are movements most of us don’t do on a daily basis.
Your muscles need a warm up, even though you might not consider gardening a “workout.” Heck, you can burn anywhere from 200 – 600 calories while gardening—I wear a Fit Bit watch and am amazed at the cardio workout I get when I’m pulling weeds!
So take some time to move through a simple stretch routine to warm up your muscles prior to an afternoon bending, lifting, and shoveling. Your body will thank you.
Observe the safety precautions of the lawnmower and other lawn equipment.
Yep, the average lawn mower carries risk with it. In fact, it kills dozens of folks each year and injures hundreds of thousands. Lawn equipment has safety guides for a reason, and it’s important to follow those.
To bring this advice to life, Olin and his friend were once both bush hogging a field and though they were hundreds of feet away from each other, Olin still got hit by a piece of wood in the face (close to his eye!). Fortunately, it just caused a lot of bleeding and a scar on his forehead—no serious injury. But that was a close call.
So whether it’s a lawnmower, or another type of lawn equipment, always observe the safety measures to avoid accidents that could have been prevented.
Stay safe, and happy planting this season!