NO SUCH THING AS A GREEN THUMB
By Joy Scott
Texas Master Gardener
There are many benefits associated with gardening, but also the risk of injury and other health issues. An excellent summary of safety tips can be found at https://tinyurl.com/yjf4v784. By approaching any gardening activity with planning, mindfulness and application of good safety practices, the risks associated with gardening can be mitigated.
Another great resource on gardening safety is a summary of recommended actions, found at https://tinyurl.com/ybf79smw . Horticulture magazine has an excellent article on gardening safety at https://tinyurl.com/34as3x3w.
Van Horn is in the Chihuahuan Desert, known for a constant supply of sunny days and one of the highest UV ratings of just about anywhere in the nation. The sun is typically bright and hot, presenting a challenge to everyone working outdoors. Combined with our extremely low humidity level, the ever-present risk of dehydration requires constant fluid intake by anyone gardening. Taking frequent breaks and scheduling gardening tasks during early morning or late evening are common sense practices that can help in coping with the challenges of working outdoors during times of high temperatures.
Choice of clothing and personal protective gear can also help make gardening safer. Keeping direct sun off the skin by wearing long sleeves and long pants is recommended. Protect the face with a broad brimmed hat that shades the face and neck. There are many makes and models of gardening hats available. Some even are rated for SPF or Sun Protection Factor. Footwear for gardening should protect the feet; open-toed shoes and sandals allow rocks and soil particles direct contact with feet. A better choice is to wear shoes that support the ankles and arches and provide protection from direct contact rocks, soil and gardening tools. Provide protection for hands by wearing gloves. There are many types of gardening gloves available. These range from inexpensive cloth gloves to specialized gloves with molded claws for digging. Gardening gloves can be purchased that have special pads built into the gloves that offer joint and wrist support. Using protective gear can go a long way towards helping gardeners stay safe and avoid injury.
Having a first aid plan in place is another way to stay safe while gardening. Unexpected encounters with insects, vegetation, rocks, roots and gardening equipment can be the source of personal injury. Slips, trips and falls are causes of a high number of serious accidents. Keep a list of names and phone numbers of relatives and friends who can help in a highly visible location. Have a first aid kit or a go to box of favorite remedies for insect bites and stings. Allergic reactions have the potential to be life threatening. Mosquito bites also could be a gateway to serious health issues such as the Zika virus and West Nile virus. Best practice for prevention of bites is to limit skin exposure by wearing long sleeves and long pants when gardening, as well as using an effective insect repellent.
Staying focused on the task at hand can go a long way towards preventing accidents and injury. Mindfulness of your immediate surroundings can help eliminate distractions and curb multitasking. Some research suggests that staying focused and mindful can also increase happiness.
Gardening is a great way to get immersed in nature and enjoy the outdoors. Keeping a few simple practices in mind when gardening can help make the experience safe, happy and healthy. The contemporary author Michael Pollan is quoted as saying, “The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.” So go for it, plan your next meeting with nature right in your own garden.