When faced with a short growing season, you have two choices: bemoan your fate or suck it up and deal with it. I’ve discovered it’s much easier to deal with it if you’re wearing appropriate clothing–clothing you might not immediately think of as gardening duds.
In mid-November I had a bunch of shrubs I had gotten for 75% off and about 350 bulbs that somehow didn’t get planted in October. The very first week in November it had been shirt-sleeve warm, but the weather suddenly turned wintry and I was faced with 38°F (3°C) on my gardening day. With no precipitation predicted and no wind to speak of, that’s often as good as it gets in November. No waiting for better weather. Furthermore, the soil was damp and–most importantly–not frozen.
Kneeling in cold, damp soil is not something I look forward to, so the first thing I put on was my trusty snow pants, similar to the ones pictured at right. Snow or ski pants can be pretty darn expensive, so I bought mine at a post-holiday clearance sale at a price low enough I don’t cringe when I kneel in the mud. Before that, I had worn some lined jogging pants which were water-resistant and lined with cotton knit, similar to t-shirt material. They worked as long as I had long underwear underneath them.
For my upper body, the name of the game is layers, because if you’re digging holes you do warm yourself up after a while. My outer layer is a Polartec 200 fleece jacket that covers my butt and has a dual zipper, so after I zip it up, I can unzip about six inches from the bottom for more bending flexibility. It’s similar to the one pictured at right, but not exactly like it. I got mine at Lands End several years ago, and they don’t make it anymore. Since then I’ve lost weight, so it’s actually too big for me. That’s perfect for clothes designated for garden duty, especially if I want to fit several layers underneath. Polartec fleece is known for being breathable and durable, and they have another line that is wind-resistant as well–which would be even better for late-autumn gardening.
As for the other layers, I wore a camisole underneath a long-sleeved tee shirt. I could have bumped it up to a long-underwear top or a thin sweater over the tee, but I didn’t need to. In fact, I was unzipping my jacket before I was done.
One’s hands are a gardener’s most important tool. They need protection from the elements, especially at this time of year. Let’s face it, even if the rest of your body is warm, if your hands are cold, you’re miserable. I have Frances of Fairegarden to thank for making me aware of these gloves. They don’t have as much dexterity as the Atlas Nitrile Gloves I normally use, but they are sufficient for planting shrubs and bulbs and most other cold-weather tasks.
Don’t forget a hat! You lose a lot of body heat from your head. You’d be surprised at what a difference it makes. The hat I wear, similar to the one at right, doesn’t quite cover my ears as much as I’d like. Maybe one day I’ll get a fleece baseball cap with ear flaps, or this beanie with ear flaps. There’s always improvements to be made, and if you want to enjoy those last days of gardening before the soil either freezes over or gets buried in snow, you need to have “adequate clothing.”
About the title
“There is no bad weather–only inadequate clothing” is a Finnish proverb that I first came across in the Sydney Morning Herald, of all places. According to this map, parts of Finland get as cold as USDA hardiness zones 2b, so they should know.