Even those of us who like to get our hands in the soil have times when a pair of gloves is essential. No one wants to pull out nettles or prune spiny shrubs without some protection, and on cold and damp days a good pair of gloves saves our hands from the elements. We wanted to find the best gloves that would protect our hands, but also be versatile enough to help us through a wide variety of tasks.
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Climbing roses, nettles, thistles and brambles are no match for these gloves. Even the needle-sharp thorns of Berberis thunbergii didn’t get through the gloves however tightly we squeezed our handful of cuttings.
Despite the thick leather, we still found it easy to knot twine around our blackberry stems and to pick out tiny weed seedlings from our veg beds. The thick, fleecy lining did get a little hot as we were digging, although this would be very welcome on a cold winter’s day.
These gauntlet gloves are extended to protect your wrists and forearms. Unlike other gauntlet gloves we tried, the fit was much better around your fingers, and the leather supple enough to easily open and close the catch on secateurs while thorns are kept at bay.
The gloves initially felt tight around the back of the hand, but the gauntlet was wide enough to fit well over the sleeves of a sweater and waterproof.
These versatile gloves were a Best Buy when we looked at lightweight gloves and they’re a great choice for winter work. The leather was thick enough to stop thorns, yet also supple, so you can carry out fine tasks.
They’re waterproof enough for you to work in wet weather without getting cold. We found the ladies gloves a little snug on bigger hands, but the leather soon stretched to fit.
Not everyone finds thick leather gloves comfortable, so if you’re looking for something lighter that still keeps away thorns and nettle stings, these are a good compromise. The soft leather fingers let you tackle most jobs with ease, but still protected from nettle stings and most thorns.
The back is stretchy and the simple Velcro fastening made them easy to pull on and off. The palm is padded, giving a bit of extra cushioning when you dig.
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These flexible, soft-leather gloves are much more expensive than our other Best Buys. But we think they’re worth investing in because they’re water resistant, robust enough for tougher jobs and extremely comfy to boot. We found that the one-size men’s or ladies’ gloves stretched to fit our different hand sizes well. They’re toasty warm, good at resisting water and very protective, making them a great choice for winter gardening. The only downsides are that the cuffs are a bit baggy, so soil can get in at the top and the fabric is thick, which makes some delicate tasks more difficult. They don’t stiffen much if you get them wet, but machine washing them decreases their water-resistance, so is best avoided.
These colourful gloves fit like a second skin, giving your hands and wrists great protection from dirt. They’re an excellent choice for people who just want to keep their hands clean and don’t want to feel encumbered. The nitrile-coated palms provide excellent grip and the gloves are so light and flexible that it’s easy to forget you’re wearing them. They’re less suitable for heavy work, such as pulling nettles, because they’re not padded and stings can penetrate the fabric areas. The fabric is breathable, but only the nitrile-dipped palms are waterproof. The pale coating does get discoloured by dirt, but they’re machine washable and made it through five washes without any signs of stiffness or deterioration.
These have a heavy-duty latex coating on the palms and darker-coloured fabric that doesn’t show up the dirt as much. They’re a cheap and excellent choice for a wide range of lighter gardening tasks, such as sowing seeds, weeding and deadheading, because they give you a good level of dexterity and feeling. They also looked and felt as good as new after we washed them several times in our washing machine. The gloves are very comfortable, breathable and provide some protection from dampness in the soil. But they’re quite thin, so there’s no padding to soften the impact of digging or to protect you from tougher thorns, stings and prickles.
We can probably all think of occasions when we need a stout pair of gloves in the garden, but how tough do they need to be?
A thick pair of gloves is essential if you have a thorny shrub that needs a regular prune, such a wall-trained pyracantha. However, bear in mind that you will need to be able to open and close your secateurs, and possibly tie in stray stems, so the gloves should allow some dexterity. Many that we tried had very thick leather, which was great for repelling thorns, but they were ill-fitting, especially around the fingers, making it hard to carry out finer tasks.
If nettles and brambles area problem, then your gloves need to repel sharp thorns and stings. However, do you really need gauntlet gloves? Many thorns will rip wind and water-proof jackets, but if you garden in a thicker jacket, this may give enough protection on its own.
You might not want to garden in the rain, but it doesn’t have to be pouring down for your soil to be wet. Digging and weeding can lead to very wet hands, as can handling damp compost. We found leather gloves gave the best protection from cold and wet, but not all of them were comfortable when damp.
Sizing is often difficult for gloves. Most we tried had very little information online on how large or small the gloves are. Tight gloves can limit your movement, but gloves that are too large will slip around and chafe. Check with your garden centre or DIY store to find out if you can try on different sizes of the gloves you’re interested into see which size fits you best.