Recently, I posted a question on Facebook asking about other people’s favorite gardening attire. I did not get 1.9 thousand answers as I often see on some pages. Maybe three or four kind souls commented. They were partial to jeans, straw hats and T-shirts; pretty standard choices for folks who enjoy playing in the dirt.
Since I did not receive enough answers to count it as scientific research, I simply began to take note of the most popular dress on our Calhoun County Master Gardeners members.
My out-of-state sister had reported to me that the members of her garden club dress in their finest and eat lunch. Master Gardeners come to meetings from their yards. We are glad to see each other; no judgment is ever passed about the state of our clothing.
One of my dearest gardening friends dresses in cut-off blue jeans and flip-flops year round. Seeing her in long pants and a sweatshirt reminds me to check the weather for a Nordic blast before I head out.
Many of the hard-working volunteers at Cane Creek Community Gardens have really snazzy aprons embroidered with a Cane Creek Community Gardens logo to top their T-shirts. Big pockets make these aprons great gardening gear. They even have baseball hats to match.
I have an apron. I save it, however, for special occasions, as it is too dear to ruin with stains.
Although many gardeners lean toward baseball hats, it seems straw hats got more votes in my informal poll.
It is easy to spot our MG advisor David West in a crowd as he is always wearing his iconic straw hat.
Skeeter, an industrious MG volunteer, is often seen sporting a John Deere baseball cap. Skeeter is a pro on our John Deere tractor. I admire a man in a really bright green cap with enormous yellow letters.
I also have a John Deere hat, but I look pretty silly in it so I tried to get my husband to wear it. He said he feels a little strange as he has never sat on a tractor. The hat now hangs on my hat rack at the ready, in case I ever learn how to drive our shiny green MG tractor.
Gardeners realize without question that they are going to get dirty, sometimes even nasty, often hot and sweaty. My gardening shirts, although freshly laundered, wear the badges of my many hours in the dirt.
The knees of my pants are invariably dirty, and my rear end dotted with leaves or pine straw. My husband says I remind him of Pig-Pen from the “Peanuts” comic strip, as little pieces of dirt fall off of me wherever I go. Pocket checks find a used Kleenex to wipe off a sweaty forehead or a piece of trash, or a dead flower.
I try to wear a Master Gardener shirt whenever I garden in public, to let the world know that MGs are busy gardening elves. I am especially partial to my chartreuse green shirt. If I wear it, I hope the cars passing where I am pulling weeds might notice and avoid me.
I recently got new shirts, but they are so pretty and pristine I hate to christen them with red clay.
I have two identical pairs of pants in different dark colors that are perfect for the garden; they have lots of pockets and have been washed so many times they are as thin as paper.
They are waterproof; no matter how many times I have accidentally soaked them with a runaway hose, I am dry and ready to go in just a few minutes.
One note: Soaking wet pants are not quite as comfortable in the winter.
I really prefer long pants for serious tasks; crawling through the flower bed in shorts can be painful if I happen to encounter a pile of holly leaves or stems with rose thorns.
As long as we are critiquing gardening wardrobes, note that appropriate shoes are essential to a comfortable gardening experience.
Posh new sneakers and gardening are obviously not always the best combination.
Many of my friends wear hiking boots; frankly, I am a little envious of them. An old foot surgery left me unable to handle boots. Hiking boots are usually a dark color; thus they don’t show dirt in a matter of minutes. A gardener can walk through mud puddles, red clay or high grass fearlessly.
I wear old tennis shoes. Inevitably, once a week I step in something really gross, which I then have to pick out of the treads with a stick. Or perhaps I just walk through some soggy soil and it clings to my shoes as if it were applied with Super Glue.
At times I neglect to look at the bottoms of my shoes, or wipe my feet well as I go into the house. My husband is sure to find the trail of whatever mess I have walked in. Frankly, I have walked through the house in shoes so gross that disinfecting wipes were called for.
I do try to leave my gardening shoes outside. I usually go in and out so many times a day that removing my shoes every time becomes a chore. Often, there are so many dirty shoes surrounding the door that my husband has to step over the pile to get in with the dog.
I need some of those little booties that neat plumbers wear.
My favorite gardening shoes have aged to the point that I have completely worn the bottoms off. There are no treads left, so nothing sticks to them.
My spouse pointed out that my shoes have no real bottoms and I am merely walking on the insides. So I bought a new pair. They sit very primly in their Zappos box because I can not bear to get them dirty.
Although my dermatologist would certainly approve of my doing so, I rarely wear a hat in the garden. Hats are hot and constantly fall down over my eyes.
I do own several appropriate hats, including a baseball cap with mosquito netting to keep me from eating gnats. My hats hang quietly in the house waiting for their turn. My favorite was a gift from my daughter; it reads “Head Gardener,” in case someone did not know.
WHAT NOT TO WEAR
I searched the internet to see what various vendors recommend for gardening clothes. There were some beautiful clothes from a company called Gardening Girls. One pair of overalls was striped in blue; others were adorned with little pink roses. I might wear these charming clothes to a fancy dress tea, but never actually to sit in the flower bed to weed.
I have a long-sleeved shirt with a Master Gardener logo that has been with me through many garden adventures. I admit it has a few scars and it is a little large. I wear it frequently, even if I am not gardening. It is very soft and nicely broken in.
One day, I paired this shirt with my favorite jeans. The jeans did have lots of holes, but I understand that is quite stylish now. I bought them to garden in, but decided they were way too upscale, thus I reserve them for outings.
On this particular outing I was dropping off donations at a food pantry. As I approached the desk, the receptionist looked at me and pointed ever so sweetly at the sign-in sheet for assistance and said, “Sign in there and we will get to you in a minute.”
Maybe I don’t look as good as I thought in my old shirt and holey pants. I love them anyway.
Whatever the choice of gardening costume, the most important quality is that it makes the gardener happy and encourages the wearer to get out and relax without fretting over cow manure, red clay or a bag of topsoil.
Sherry Blanton writes about gardening for The Anniston Star. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.