I don’t like gardening gloves. I’m not sure if I’m the only gardener on earth who doesn’t; but I’m pretty sure I’m the only one on earth who will admit it in good company. Whether you explain it by evolution or by divine plan, the human hand is an unparalleled feat of engineering. It is a marvelous tool. It is undoubtedly the most important tool a gardener will ever use. I use garden gloves only when when I’m working with plants with seriously life-threatening properties: like Rugosa roses, which have thorns the way werewolves have teeth, except Rugosa roses are real. I’m not even allergic to poison ivy. I weed that stuff with my bare hands.
During the garden season my hands do the same work as the hoes, trowels, shovels, hand tillers, and garden forks I keep in my tool bucket. And as you can see in the photo, they look like it. I am not particularly afraid of germs in garden soil or compost (the way I am of toilets seats, doorknobs and toddlers’ kisses — shudder). I do know that there is some sort of fingernail fungal condition not uncommon to avid gardeners, though I’ve never encountered it myself. What bothers me about gardening bare handed… the only thing that bothers me… is that when I am not being a gardener, I am being a professional person. I use my hands in front of people who either don’t garden, or have figured out how to garden well while wearing gloves. This is particularly embarrassing to me as an African American, because sistuhs, in general, like to keep their hair and nails done proper.
No matter how I scrub, garden soil gets in the beds of my nails. Digging at it tends to shove it deeper into the beds. In spring, if I am not careful, my hands look like an auto mechanic’s. Don’t get me wrong: there isn’t anything wrong with having hands that look like an auto mechanic’s; but it helps your case if you actually do the work of an auto mechanic. There is even, for me, something strangely attractive about a man with strong well-used hands. But… well… brace yourself. This Tomboy is about to shoot from the hip. Wait. First, you have to promise not to let the cat out of the bag. Okay, lean close, because I have to whisper it: I’m a gurl.
Sue me, already, I don’t want to have mechanic’s hands, okay? Even worse, I am a college professor. My work requires me to carry myself with gravitas, as a professional intellectual worthy of respect and trust. Having dirty nails costs me in intellectual street cred. Plus, it just plain feels nasty. I’m a woman who sometimes likes to put on spike heels and tear up a club’s dance floor.
My mother solved this dilemma for me by telling me my Grandma’s simple trick (my grandmother hated dirt more than she hated the Devil). I’m passing her trick on to you just in case you meet one or two gardeners like me who hate thick, clumsy, soggy, clammy gloves getting in the way of their sacred contact with the soil:
Before going out to garden, rake your nails across a bar of soap several times until your nail beds are packed with soap. Firm the soap in your beds by pressing down on each finger tip gently. The soap will easily come free of your nail beds when you come in from the garden and scrub them with an old toothbrush (or whatever type of scrub brush you use for cleaning up after gardening). With this simple trick, you can garden Saturday morning, dance Saturday night, then shake the Pastor’s hand on Sunday morning with full confidence in your public image. Try it! It works!