Are you a fair weather gardener? I once heard long-haired Norfolk boy and gardening hippy, Bob Flowerdew say on Gardeners’ Question Time that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Bob suggested searching charity shops for a second-hand ski suit so you can garden in the very worst weather! While I am happy to garden on chilly days or in a light drizzle (or mizzle even), I come indoors when it’s pouring, sleeting, snowing or hailing. Or when my nose and fingers are turning blue. I grew up in the tropics after all! As far as I’m concerned, that’s the time to enjoy your garden through double-glazed windows with a hot cup of coffee and the heating set to high. So you won’t catch me in a ski suit in my garden this winter.
Last Friday was a beautiful, sunny winter’s day and I was more than happy to be outside pruning and tidying up borders (see the gorgeous blue sky photos below). However, days like that are a rare pleasure, and I do still want to be able to go out into the garden when it’s cold, damp and grey. One way to stay warm is to pick the right job. Heavy work like digging over a bed or barrowing compost around can be wonderfully invigorating in winter (honest). You can even work up a sweat raking and bagging up leaves if you try hard enough! But not all garden jobs will warm you so thoroughly. If you want to carry on working in your garden through winter, you’ll need the right gear.
1. Bib and brace overalls
Earlier this year I bought myself a pair of Dickies Redhawk men’s bib and brace overalls, which are now my favourite clothes to garden in! After cutting off half a yard and turning up the hems, they fit perfectly. They’re really comfy and have lots of useful pockets. I keep my phone in the front zipped pocket so I can listen to music or podcasts* while working. I keep secateurs in the long pocket at the side of my right leg, so they’re always handy. The fit is roomy and I’ll be able to wear thermals underneath when it’s really chilly. These overalls are far superior to the old, worn out jeans I used to wear. Perhaps it’s just me, but jeans always slip down when I bend to dig or weed and hoicking them back up with muddy gloves leads to mud in my back pockets and knickers. Not good.
2. Lace-up leather boots
My lovely Doc Martens boots keep my feet warm and dry. It’s stating the obvious, but when it’s very cold, I wear thick socks! These boots have good thick, grippy soles, which protect against rogue spades and upturned rakes, and are ideal for pushing a spade down into the dirt. If I’m doing an extremely muddy or wet job, for example, moving the entire contents of a compost bin across the garden to a new site, I use a pair of half-length wellies by Town and Country. Most wellington boots are too tall for my stubby legs and rub behind the knees but these are just the right height and very soft.
3. A scarf
I’ve taken to wearing a long scarf (in an easily washable material), wrapped many times around my neck when gardening in the cold. It’s the perfect solution when I’m too hot to wear a jacket but too cold for just shirt-sleeves. I do advise you to tie it short though, so there’s no danger of it getting dragged into the shredder or tangled in your hedge trimmer blades!
4. Fleece top layer
I prefer a fleece to a woolly jumper when I’m gardening in cold weather. I know they’re not very stylish and made of horrible synthetic fabric but they’re so practical. A fleece is warm, easy to wash, dries out freakishly quickly and won’t suffer from pulled threads. I have come too close, too many times, to being irretrievably snagged on thorny branches while gardening in a woolly jumper – picture Mummy Pig in the Peppa Pig episode ‘The Blackberry Bush’.
Gloves with rubber-coated palms and fingers keep my hands warm and dry when I’m handling damp soil and wet leaves, as well as protecting them from cat poo, rose thorns and holly leaves. I always keep a back-up pair in my tool bag, so when the first pair gets wet through and my hands start to feel chilly, I can put on a dry pair.
A fantastic pack-a-mac by Trespass keeps me dry in light rain, and has lots of air holes and vents to prevent clamminess. But I don’t like working with a hood on; it makes me feel sensory deprived! So if it’s raining and I’m not quite ready to stop and go inside, I risk looking very uncool and wear a waterproof fishing hat. It was a bargain buy from Poundland.
So that’s how I stay warm(ish) and dry(ish) in the garden at this time of year. I’d love to know how many of you are still working or pottering in your garden in December.