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Health Considerations in the Garden

Page history last edited by Gardener 13 years, 11 months ago


Working in the garden is an excellent way to get exercise. Enjoy the fresh air, colorful flowers, and diversity of creatures around your garden. Vary garden activity to use different muscles. Every 20 minutes or so alternate between such activities as hand weeding, hoeing and turning compost with a pitch fork. Teach yourself to use your dominant as well as your non-dominant hand. This will take practice but will work and you will appreciate your ambidexterity if you ever injure your dominant hand. In other words, if you are right-handed then weed with your left hand and rake with your left hand forward rather than your right hand. Only lift what your body is able to handle and use proper body mechanics. Keep the object close to your body. Fully bend your knees to use your thigh muscles rather than your lower back muscles. Drink water to keep hydrated. Know your limitations.


Body Wear


Wear wrap around sunglasses that provide 100% UV ray protection.

Wear safety goggles for such activities as pruning or weeding to prevent particles from flying into your eyes.


Wear tightly woven gloves that cover well beyond your wrist to lower your risk of skin irritation, cuts and sun exposure. To protect your hands from moisture consider The Mud Glove. The style shown covers most of the hand yet has some area for breathing through the cotton near the wrist area. Avoid the ones with only rubber on the fingertips as your hands will still get wet. Consider buying bright orange gloves so you can readily find them. The Mud Glove is available at such garden centers as Country Farm & Home in Mifflinburg. Foxgloves extend well beyond the wrist. They are expensive but the Foxgloves Grip style are sturdy and provide complete dexterity. Their new Ultragrip style may last longer but webmaster has only owned the new model a few months, so far they work well. In our area Foxgloves are only available through mail order.

Leather gloves provide the best protection from thorns and other sharp objects but webmaster has yet to find a well fitting pair which enables hand dexterity.


Wear socks tucked into your pants to protect yourself from mosquitoes and ticks.


Consider The Muck Boot Company products. The Edgewater Camp shoe style works well in the garden and comes in brown, green or navy so is suitable for wearing outside the garden. The comfort range is sub-freezing conditions to 85 degrees. The stretch-fit top binding helps keep out dirt and pebbles. 

Read the Sun Exposure section below for further Body Wear info.


Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected black-legged ticks. Further details at the CDC and Mayo Clinic websites.


Four Common Ticks of PA - PSU Dept of Entomology Entomological Fact Sheets.


Landscaping preventative measures by the CDC.


Pests & Pesticides  

Integrated Pest Management IPM is a sustainable approach to pest control. Pest prevention actions are preferred over intervention. If chemicals are included the least-risky, most pest specific products are selected. Problems may be avoided with cultural measures such as placing plants in their proper environment: correct light, water, soil. Learn to identify beneficial insects. Wheel bugs for example prey on such plant pests as Japanese beetles. Only 3% of our insects harm crops. Another preventative measure is to observe your plants daily for any changes. The sooner a problem is noted the easier it is to resolve. For example, when you notice Japanese beetles on your plants you could tap them into a jar with water on the bottom. Close the lid. When they are dead tap them onto your compost pile. Avoid Japanese beetle bag traps as they attract beetles to your yard. Read the Pests and Pesticides page for further details on IPM, Pesticide Profiles, and more.


Sun Exposure

Wear protective clothing of tightly woven fabric to serve as a barrier between skin and sun. If you can see light through a fabric UV rays are able to penetrate too. Clothing includes a wide brimmed hat, long sleeved shirt, long pants, and socks. UV exposure may be the most important factor in the development of skin cancer. Overexposure to the sun may also lead to undesirable changes in skin texture.


Apply a broad-spectrum (protection against UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen to any exposed skin such as your neck, face, lips, ears. Sun rays reflect up from water and light surfaces. The sunblock should be rated at least SPF 15, reapply as directed by the manufacturer. Check the expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than 3 yrs. Exposure to extreme temps can shorten the expiration date or shelf life.


Avoid sun exposure between 10 AM and 4 PM during Eastern Daylight Savings time, 9 AM - 3 PM during Eastern Standard Time, as this is when ultraviolet rays are most intense. Cloudy days are just as harmful as sunny days. UV rays can cause damage during any season or temperature. Work in the shade when possible.


Further details at the CDC and Mayo Clinic websites.



Tetanus is a disease of the nervous system caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. The spores are widely distributed in soil and the intestines of some animals, including humans. Early symptoms include lockjaw, stiffness in the neck and abdomen, and difficulty swallowing. Later symptoms are severe muscle spasms, generalized tonic seizure-like activity, severe autonomic nervous system disorders. Per the CDC everyone needs protection from tetanus. Bacteria generally enter the body through a break in the skin. For people who had initial childhood tetanus vaccines, a booster is needed every 10 yrs. Further details from the CDC.  


Further health considerations are at the CDC website: Health and Safety Guide for Gardeners.




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