While we are all encouraged to try gardening to calm our minds, it’s not an activity we can do mindlessly. Sure, anyone can water the plants, pluck out the weeds, and smell the flowers without special skills. But mending some gardening problems with nothing but your bare hands is a different story. Simply put, make sure to wear gloves!
If you are an inexperienced gardener, and you have kids always watching what you do, you need to be extra careful while tending to your plants. Touch something with your bare hands, and your kids will no doubt copy the action. And if you just touched something potentially dangerous, your kids may not realize that as quickly, and get themselves harmed.
That said, here are the things around your garden you shouldn’t touch with your bare hands and why you should do so.
No No’s for Bare Hands in the Garden
1. Thorny Stems or Shrubs
If your landscape was designed by someone else, and you only have a vague idea of the plants used in it, you may accidentally touch a thorny stem or shrub while gardening. Common examples of such include holly, natal plum, Silverthorn, cacti, and bougainvillea.
Getting pricked by a thorny plant may require you to get a tetanus shot. That is because tetanus bacteria can live in soil and enter your body through wounds. Hence, you should never use bare hands and instead, either wear sturdy gloves while handling thorny plants or stay updated with your tetanus vaccine.
A beetle may look harmless but think twice before catching it with your bare hands. It can be quite painful when they bite, and though it does not cause a serious problem, your exposed wound may be vulnerable to other gardening bacteria and viruses.
Stay safe and avoid touching any bugs in your garden altogether. Be particularly wary of ticks, which live in woody and grassy areas. Their bites can cause Lyme disease, an illness that causes fever, chills, headaches, and muscle aches. You don’t even need to touch an infected tick to get bitten, so it will be wise to apply insect repellent every time you’re gardening.
3. Poisonous Plants
Even gardens can have poisonous plants. Their charming looks and fresh scents can be deceiving, so be wary if any of these blooms are in your garden:
- Lily of the Valley – contains toxic compounds that cause dizziness, vomiting, and rashes
- Rhubarb- eating its leaves may cause kidney failure
- Wisteria – typically harmless to humans, but highly toxic to cats, dogs, and horses
- Daffodil – poisonous to dogs, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and convulsion
- Hydrangea – contains cyanide, but won’t likely cause harm unless ingested in large amounts
- Night shade – can cause dilated pupils, hallucinations, convulsion, balance issues, and rashes
- English yew – ingestion may cause dilated pupils, dry mouth, and dizziness
- Hemlock – in severe cases, it can cause lung paralysis after ingestion
- Rhododendron – the honey it produces can cause vomiting, confusion, and heart problems
Always monitor your kids and/or pets, because they’re the ones most likely to play with your garden plants. Enclose the poisonous plants in fences if necessary.
4. Dead or Sick Trees
If you notice some branches on your trees that have lost their luster, with their leaves brown and brittle, call an arborist or a tree-trimming expert right away. Have the lackluster branch taken out, and your tree assessed for health issues while you’re at it.
A dying tree should not be left alone in a garden. Its rotten bark and branches may be infested by critters, fungi, and bacteria. Its wood has also gone fragile since it doesn’t receive nutrients anymore. As such, it may snap and injure anyone standing below it. If not injuries, it may cause damage to the property instead.
5. The Soil
Though it can be tempting to touch garden soil with our bare hands, especially if you’re engaging in some kind of mindfulness activity, it’s not highly encouraged. The soil may be contaminated with parasite larvae, fungi, bacteria, and chemical remnants that may enter your skin if you have cuts or open wounds. In addition, some insects and thorns may lurk in the soil and hurt your skin. Play it safe and wear gloves each time you need to touch the soil, and use tools if you need to dig.
6. Pesticides and Other Lawn Care Products
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved over 200 pesticides for lawn care, but they’re often mixed together and sold with other hazardous chemicals. If directly touched with bare hands, or ingested, these chemicals may cause birth defects in unborn babies, mutations, reproductive issues, or even cancer. Stick to organic mulches to be safe, or consult your local gardening center for the safest lawn care products to use.
While gardening is easy for the most part, it takes a bit of vigilance and basic know-how to make it completely safe. In other words, develop your green thumb before touching your plants. Always consider using gloves to protect your bare hands and stay safe.