Extension Educator, Horticulture
It may seem odd to spend time discussing gloves, but then again gardeners can wax on for hours on the nuances of making compost. There are some good health reasons to wear gloves besides just preventing your hands from resembling the Hulk's.
A fungus called sporotrichosis has been found in several kinds of organic material, in particular sphagnum moss. It can cause a disease infection in humans that is characterized by ulcerous skin lesions. The soil amendment sphagnum peat moss does not carry the fungus; however the small cuts and abrasions from outside work can get infected with other diseases.
For years I hated wearing gloves when I worked outside; mainly because they never fit. My hands are proportionally sized to my vertically challenged body. Men's gloves were too big and kid's gloves too small. I felt like Goldilocks. I searched garden supply stores and farm supply stores, but I couldn't find gloves that were just right.
Companies have finally realized women do outdoor work and need good gloves. Gardeners will more than likely need a couple different types of gloves depending on the activity. Nobody really wants to be changing gloves like Cher changes dresses at a concert, but it's tough to get one type of glove that does it all. Gloves may need to be waterproof and chemical resistant, not too hot in summer or warm for winter use, and durable but still allow some flexibility and dexterity. If moving rocks or bricks is on the list of chores, plan on getting a good pair of leather gloves. However, leather gets stiff if it gets wet. Some of the new fake suede gloves are durable, washable and flexible. There are many types of gloves available, but here are a few of my suggestions.
In the late 1980's a fellow gardener told me about the company Womanswork®. As the name implies they specialize in gloves that are actually designed for women and are not just downsized men's gloves. www.womanswork.com
I like their comfort flex spandex with micro-suede finger tips and palm. It even comes with a terry cloth spot on the thumb for wiping the sweaty brows of glowing women. The gloves have a Velcro® closure at the wrist to keep soil out and are machine washable. Smith & Hawken® makes a similar glove. Some styles can be found locally in specialty garden centers. Womanswork® also showcases real life "strong women" on their glove tags. The profiles are of women who are making a difference and embody the Womanswork® logo "Strong Women Building A Gentle World".
For summer weeding and planting I like the lightweight high tactile grip gloves; not too hot and allow plenty of flexibility for planting the smallest of seedlings. They are generally a nylon glove with heavier plastic on the tips and palm.
Mud gloves® are great gloves for working in ponds, bird baths or mud. They are 100% cotton knit glove dipped in thick texturized rubber and machine washable. www.mudglove.com
Foxgloves® believe that gloves can be stylish and useful. They come in beautiful bright colors as though we were all headed to the cotillion. The gloves are so pretty, at first I hated to get them dirty. Once I realized how comfortable the knit is and how well they wash, I got over my neatnik tendencies. www.foxglovesinc.com
A few sources for gloves and wide variety of other garden supplies are: Gemplers www.gemplers.com PH: 800-382-8473; Hummert International www.hummert.com PH: 800-325-3055; A.M. Leonard www.amleo.com PH: 800-543-8955 and check local garden centers.
Odds are you have a gardener on your gift list. Or buy yourself a couple pair of nice gloves. You work hard. You deserve it. Comments are from personal experience and do not reflect endorsement by the University of Illinois.