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Harnett County,
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How can I fix my "gardening" hands?


Question How can I fix my “gardening” hands?

Answer Rough, dry and dirty – These are adjectives people don’t like to use when describing body parts. Unfortunately, they describe the hands of many gardeners. Some gardeners proudly display these hands as evidence of their passion. Other gardeners would rather not let their passions spill into all aspects of their lives (love to work outside, but don’t want to look like you work outside). Most gardeners simply want their hands to feel comfortable.

When working outside, hands have a tendency to get dirty. Digging, mulching and weeding are typical grimy garden jobs. Dirty hands need to be washed (unless you are a second grader). This cleaning process removes the natural oils from our skin. In turn, our hands become dry.

Garden tasks like pruning, raking or pushing a lawn mower cause our hands to form extra layers of skin (callus). The extra skin gives us the toughness to perform these jobs, but it also causes our hands to feel rough.

The single best solution to “gardening” hands is wearing gloves. I prefer ordinary leather gloves, but there are many types of gloves available. One popular type is cloth with a rubber lining which covers your palm and bottom of your fingers. Cotton gloves allow your hands to breathe and not get as hot. However, they also allow briars, snake fangs and splinters to contact your hand more easily. Any type of glove will keep your hands clean and prevent roughness. Check out this website for more glove info

Use a moisturizing soap (containing emollients) to clean dirty hands and prevent dryness. These are also called superfatted soaps. Lukewarm water is also recommended instead of hot water. Be sure to leave your hands damp instead of drying them completely. Damp skin absorbs moisturizers better than dry skin.

If your hands do become dry, use hand lotions and creams that contain mineral oil or glycerin. If these lotions aren’t helping, try a hand lotion that contains alpha hydroxy acids.

Other tips to prevent dry skin - stay hydrated (drink water), use a humidifier in your home and take shorter showers. Cutting back the number of showers to one per week will increase the natural oils on your skin and decrease the number of people that want to carpool to work with you.

For more info on dry hands and skin conditions, contact your dermatologist. For info on mulching, pruning or mowing, call me at 910-893-7533 or email me at

The Dunn Garden Club gave me a bottle of Crabtree & Evelyn Gardeners Hand Therapy ( Now I’m addicted to it. While my hands were never too rough to milk a cow and rarely snagged on pantyhose, now they are as soft as a seal pup’s belly.

Gary L. Pierce

Horticulture Extension Agent

Harnett County

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