When I garden I’ve received injuries from rose thorns on my arms, bruised knees from kneeling on stones too long, sunburn, insect bites and the usual cuts-and-scrapes from working with sharp tools. They’re minor and not worth worrying about. My most ongoing issue is my manicure.
I have an office job so beautiful hands are not de rigueur but not looking like a mess would be nice. Long isn’t necessary, but I’d love medium length, all the same length and well-shaped nails without torn cuticles. I have to admit that as a color-junky I love picking out and buying new nail polish. I just don’t have time for pampering my hands.
Dirt eats at and dries nails so they are brittle and thin. It also dries the skin on my hands and cuticles so that minor scrapes turn into really ugly affairs. Lifting and digging breaks nails. All in all it’s not pretty.
Having a pretty manicure and a pretty garden shouldn’t have to be mutually exclusive. Over the years I’ve developed a few techniques that are far from foolproof but can help alleviate “gardener’s hands.”
Always wear gloves. My favorite are Atlas Nitrile for everything but roses and for that I’ve got leather gloves with long gauntlets. Nitrile are inexpensive and come in lots of fun colors.
Put on a high powered hand cream before you put on your gloves, and again after you clean up after gardening. I love Evelyn & Crabtree’s Gardeners Ultra-Moisturising Hand Therapy (works great and smells like heaven – fresh green clover, lavender, sage rosemary and thyme). A tried and true standby like Nivea’s Extended Moisture hand cream is great too.
Scrape your finger nails on a bar of soap so that there is a wedge of soap under each nail. This helps keep the dirt out of that spot and reinforces the strength of the nails.
I’ve heard a moisturizing hand soak every couple of weeks will help your skin. The article I read recommended Aveeno oatmeal soak. They said instead of filling an entire bath (which has its merits too), to just fill a large sink and soak your hands to help strengthen and moisturize the skin and cuticles.
Use nail polish such as Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Xtreme Wear to reinforce the strength of the nail. I offer this with a caution that it really helps but is time-consuming because after you’ve gardened you have to remove what’s left of the polish and reapply. So while it helps preserve your nails it’s labor intensive.
Eat more dark green leafy vegetables from your garden. I don’t know if this really works since I do it anyways, but an online search suggests the extra calcium helps build strong nails. A friend told me she eats the shrimp tails in her shrimp cocktail for the same reason.
My mother suggested cutting my nails short and washing my hands more often. Good motherly advice.
If all else fails the fake press-n-stick nails are getting better all the time.