2008 will be my 30th year in the garden. But it’s only my third year wearing garden gloves. Until a couple years ago, I never wore gloves in the garden unless I was pruning roses or raspberries.

There are a couple of reasons I was so resistant to wearing gloves. First is that living in northern Vermont, I already have to wear gloves five months a year just to keep my hands from freezing. When winter is finally gone I want nothing to do with coats, hats or gloves.

The main reason is that until recently, you had to choose between stiff, heavy leather work gloves and prissy cotton gloves that were suitable for a garden party but useless in the garden.

Fortunately, garden gloves have finally caught up with the 21st century—just in time to rescue my 50-year-old hands! I’ve gone from never wearing gloves to always wearing gloves almost overnight. This conversion was made possible by three innovative glove designs.

Mud Gloves
These are the only gloves I wear in early spring and late fall. It’s a comfortable knitted cotton hand that’s been dipped in flexible, waterproof vinyl. All but the wrist and very top of the hand are completely protected from cold wet soil, bristly brush and rough stones. I now keep at least 3 pairs of Mud Gloves in my glove basket on the front porch, and will usually use all of them at some point over the course of a weekend. Depending on the work and the weather, they’ll get wet or encased in mud. Or I’ll remove them to answer the phone or pull back my hair and manage to lose them for a few hours. Several different companies are now making this type of glove. The fit and thickness of the vinyl varies, so try a few different styles until you find the one that’s right for you.

This style from West Country, called the Garden Glove, has a fit like a driving glove.
Knitted Nylon and Faux Leather Work Gloves
I have large hands, but they’re long and slender. In days past, men’s leather work gloves were the only option for working with stone and other rough materials. I found those gloves loose and sloppy. Enter West Country Gloves. Their knitted nylon gloves have a close, comfortable fit and palms that are covered with textured faux leather. I’m not usually a fan of faux, but in this case, you get the same protection as leather, in a material that stays drier and never stiffens.
I wear these gloves hard and have gone through several pair over the past couple years. Everyone in my household has at least a couple pair, and I’ve also given them as presents to most of my gardening friends. They now come in fun colors like purple and green, and there’s even an insulated version that’s perfect for stacking and hauling wood.
Nitrile Gloves
These are the gloves I couldn’t live without. I feel a little sheepish admitting that I put them on almost every time I head out into the yard and garden. My collection now includes about a dozen different brands and colors and sizes. All are made of lightweight knitted nylon, with a very thin layer of flexible rubberized material on the palm. They’re cool in even the hottest weather. They dry quickly and can be washed in the washer (though I find the rubbery coating lasts longer if you hand wash them). I recommend always having at least a couple pair of them around so you can put on dry ones when you go back outdoors after lunch or tea.
The best thing about these gloves is that the water-resistant coating is so thin, I can (and do) wear them to do everything, including planting seeds and thinning seedlings. They let me feel what I’m doing. This is a practical advantage, but for me it’s also metaphysical. One of the reasons I garden is because I get to experience a dissolving of the space between me and plants and earth. In the past, gloves got in the way of this connection. (My guess is that this will either make complete sense to you or it will sound a bit crazy, but I can’t think of any other way to put it.)

We now offer a wide-ranging selection of gardening gloves for the 21st century. Do you have a favorite glove to recommend? If so, please leave a comment below!

-Kathy LaLiberte, Director of Gardening