Along with bread-baking and jigsaw-puzzling, we’ve noticed gardening has become a popular quarantine hobby. Many are taking this extra time at home to exercise their green thumbs, tending to plants, flowers, and even herbs and vegetables that they’ll put to use in the kitchen. We’ve covered the best watering cans and other tools to keep your garden in tip-top shape, but if you’re a gardening newbie, you might be wondering what you’re supposed to wear while you’re doing all that planting, pruning, and harvesting.
Fortunately, as Sara Gatanas, general manager at Urban Garden Center in Harlem, says, “There isn’t really anything that you have to have for gardening” — besides clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. In fact, Gatanas and the four other gardening experts we spoke with for this story say they’ve gardened wearing everything from sundresses to pajamas to basketball shorts. What you choose to wear will also depend on your location and the type of gardening you’ll be doing. Obviously, suburban gardeners with expansive lawns need more sun and mud protection than urban dwellers planting on a windowsill or fire escape. Our five experts say there is some gear that can make gardening easier and more comfortable, though, and if you foresee your newfound interest becoming a permanent hobby, you may want to consider investing in some of their picks.
Best gardening clothes
While gardening apparel varies widely, the experts we spoke to all mentioned the importance of pockets for storing tools. “I would definitely have something with pockets so that you could carry your pruners around with you,” says Houston-based Timothy Hammond, known on Instagram as Big City Gardener. “Or maybe you have a couple of peppers that are ready to be harvested or even some herbs. You could just snip them, put the pruners back in one pocket, and then keep your harvest in another pocket until you get back home.” Katie Parks, who documents her Northern California gardening on her Instagram Freckles and Sprouts, agrees on the importance of pockets, and loves these Duluth overalls for that reason. “They have loads of pockets on the legs, on the front, a pocket for knee pads to be inserted into, and even a small harvest pocket that is detachable,” she says. “Some of the pockets have a small opening at the bottom of the pocket so dirt can sift out.” She also likes that the overalls are extra stretchy for bending and maneuvering around the garden.
Here’s a Patagonia overalls style that comes in men’s and women’s versions. Like the Duluth pair, they both have plenty of pockets and a space for adding knee pads.
Best gardening shoes
“A lot of people garden in Crocs,” says Gatanas, noting they meet all of her requirements for good gardening shoes: closed-toe for protection, a skid-resistant rubber bottom to prevent you from slipping on wet surfaces, and an easy-to-clean material.
In the summer, many gardeners prefer sandals, like Parks who says she “has the tan lines to prove it.” While she acknowledges that her favorite sandals, the Blowfish Granolas, “are not at all designed for gardening,” she likes that “they’re supportive, with arch support, and good ankle support.” She buys a pair every year, wearing the new ones casually with sundresses and rotating out last year’s pair to become gardening shoes.
Birkenstocks are also a favorite among gardeners, including Gatanas and Nicole Burke, owner and founder of Houston’s Rooted Garden. As Burke says, “a gardener is always running from this spot to that, and lacing up shoes or doing anything more than sliding them on is just too much to ask when there’s gardening chores to do,” making her easy-on, easy-off Birkenstock sandals an obvious choice for warm-weather gardening. In waterproof EVA plastic, this durable style can handle getting a little muddy.
For tougher jobs and colder weather, most of the gardeners we spoke with say they’ll switch to work boots that cover the ankle. “A lot of people, like the landscapers on our staff, are always wearing Timberland-style boots,” says Gatanas. “They’re rugged and you can get them dirty and wet, so that’s something popular in the gardening world.” Parks wears a work boot, too, especially in the winter when, as she says, “I do a lot of work with wood — harvesting branches and trees, cutting them up, and building fences and arbors. Also a lot of digging and creating new growing areas. There is a lot of hard work and mud involved, so I need something comfortable and durable.”
Hammond says that gardeners who work in mud or wetter areas often wear rubber boots, like rain or wading boots, that go at least 12 inches up the leg for staying dry. “If you step in a puddle, you don’t have to worry about your socks or your pants really getting wet,” he says.
Best gardening hats
Wide-brimmed straw hats are popular among gardeners for a number of practical reasons. According to Hammond, “straw breathes, as opposed to cotton hats, like bucket hats, that trap the heat up there.” Gatanas agrees that lightweight straw hats are best for staying cool, and she recommends one with a wide brim for keeping the sun out of your eyes and off your face and neck. Brooklyn-based gardener and blogger Marie Viljoen, of 66 Square Feet, bought her favorite hat in South Africa, where she’s from, but we found this very similar one on Etsy that, like Viljoen’s, is handmade in Ecuador from woven Toquilla palm straw.
Burke has owned a number of straw hats over the years and she says one of her favorites was from Lucky Brand. “I used to wear it in all my clients’ gardens,” she says.
If your garden attracts mosquitoes or other insects, you might like this sun hat, recommended by Parks, that has a hidden pocket along the brim with an insect-proof netting inside. “When the mosquitoes get bad, I can pull it all the way down around my face and neck and cinch it,” she says. The netting tucks away when it’s not in use, and the breathable hat comes in both men’s and women’s sizes.
Best gardening gloves
While gloves come in handy for heavy-duty gardening tasks, especially ones where your hands can get cut or scraped, Viljoen admits that she and most other serious gardeners she knows avoid wearing them whenever possible. “Gardeners really like to feel what they’re doing,” she says, “and with big, chunky gloves, you just don’t have very sensitive fingers.” However, if she’s doing something like repotting a plant where she has to dig up the roots and really get her fingers into the soil, she’ll wear these nitrile gloves. She likes them because they offer protection but are still “super, super thin.”
These gloves, made from thin and soft nylon, are Burke’s picks for lighter gardening work.
The next step up in terms of protecting your hands from things like thorns and branches are bamboo gloves, like this pair, recommended by Gatanas. “The fabric is nice because it helps your hands not get so hot,” she says. She also likes that these have a latex covering on the fingers for a better grip.
Burke is also a fan of bamboo gloves, especially this pair from The Bamboo Gardener. “These hold up better than any other variety I’ve used,” she says. “They’re breathable and still allow me to feel the work I’m doing even with protection on my hands.”
When Gatanas is doing especially tough work or wants to keep her hands from getting wet and muddy, she’ll wear these extra-tough gloves that can stand up to thorn pricks and won’t get wet and saturated. They also have smart fingertips so she can use her phone without taking them off.