Sun Smart Gardening

Sun smart gardeing

Give a gardener a trowel, and they’ll happily spend all day outdoors – but, as it happens, that’s not a wise move, especially over summer. It’s not news that New Zealand has the highest rate of melanoma (skin cancer) in the world, thanks to lying right under a massive hole in the protective ozone layer of the atmosphere. This unfortunate positioning means that, especially between the hours of 10am and 4pm, from September to April, we really do take our life in our hands when we’re working or relaxing in the big outdoors – and that includes in the garden.

So, what’s a gardener to do? As it happens – there are quite a few options that allow gardeners to keep up with their favourite pastime, while still keeping safe from the sun. Sun smart clothing is one of them, and it starts with hats.

Research tells us that wearing a hat with a brim of at least 7 centimetres will give maximum protection to the face, scalp, neck and shoulders. And, ladies, if you’re sighing, you only have to look at some of the gorgeous sun hats out there to realise they can be as stylish as any others! These days, the fabrics used in sun-protective clothing are often UV protective, so check the label when looking for a purchase, and choose a hat with a rating of over UPF50+. If you already have a suitable style of gardening hat, and it’s not made from UV protective material, check out its protective qualities by holding it up to the light. Tightly woven fabric (which lets very little light through) is best. Open-weave fabric won’t cut the mustard.

Although it can seem counter-intuitive to cover up your body on a hot day, this practise will not only help keep the sun off your skin, it will also keep you cooler! That’s because loose, cotton clothing traps a layer of air against your skin, buffering it from the sun’s rays. If the clothing has a UPF50+ rating, it will also protect you skin from harmful UV light (did you know that more women than men have melanoma on their legs!). Check out Solbari for a great range of sun smart clothing.

A gardener’s eyes always require protection from the likes of sharp twigs, flying insects, and loose soil, but few take this seriously. With summer sun as part of the equation (the eye region accounts for 5% to 10% of all skin cancers), there’s now more reason than ever to invest in a pair of UV protective sun glasses with enclosed sides. The good news, is that some seriously cheap sunnies can offer as much UV protection as those from the top shelf. Check out the research and advice here.

But clothing and glasses aside, one of the simplest ways to protect your skin this summer, is to garden in the open only before 10am and after 4pm. If that sounds restrictive, it needn’t be. Most gardens offer shade, so the skill is to keep within it during the 10am-4pm slot. As the sun moves, follow the shade around your garden, and you’ll not only be caring for your skin, you’ll also be educating yourself about what areas receive the least and the most light – something that is so useful for when it comes to choosing new plants!

If your garden doesn’t offer a great deal of shade, there are always indoor jobs to be going on with, so save the likes of seed-sowing, pricking out, potting up, and mixing growing mediums for the hottest pats of the day. And, as any keen edible gardener knows, preparing and preserving the harvest is a time consuming task – so save this for the middle of the day, too.

Finally, there are useful apps and sites that can help you check out the danger of UV in various parts of the country on a day to day basis. Well armed, you’re set for a summer safe and happy gardening. Enjoy!