Choosing the Right Gardening Gloves

In the past few years, I’ve blasted through too many pairs of gloves. I use them for a combination of building (holding splintery wood) and gardening (digging, weeding), and I’ve come to really value a good glove. That said, some projects are fine for cheapos.

You can pick up gloves every where from dollar stores to Etsy. Most of mine have come in the form of gifts or last-minute purchases at a home improvement store. I actually hate buying gloves because so many pairs have let me down.

Sometimes gloves can feel like a waste of money, but if you do any kind of work with wood, stone, concrete, dirt, or plants, you really need to protect your hands. Gloves don’t just keep your nails clean; they’ll shield you from splinters, spiders, and other nasties hiding in your project. And if your yard is like mine, they’ll also protect you from a seemingly endless supply of broken glass in the ground (it’s like my yard used to be a dumping ground for old windows. Sheesh!).

Below are the gloves I have in my current rotation, cheapest to most expensive. After that, I’ll go over the things to look for in a good gardening gloves.

The Cheap Glove

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If I’m totally honest, I don’t remember how much I paid for these gloves because don’t remember where I bought them (possibly Big Lots?). They’re thin leather, which is pretty good for durability. However, despite some use, they’re pretty stiff and not at all tailored to my hands. The bulky/stuff fingers make fine work difficult.

They aren’t padded enough to be good for rub prevention (like in using a shovel). I mostly use these for light-duty work where I just need so type of barrier between my hands and the object – carrying a few concrete blocks, dragging downed tree limbs, etc. As these were cheap (or maybe free), they are also my go-to gloves for messy work, like mucking out the chicken coop.

The Mid-Grade Workhorse

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After my last everyday pair of gloves suffered blowouts in the fingertips, I sprung for a slightly more expensive pair at Lowes. You can find them here.

These actually fit me and the fingers have a lot of flex, so I use them for the majority of my work in the garden. The leather on the palms and fingers adds some durability and a little bit of padding, so they’re also what I use when handling tools and rough material that requires dexterity.

The Specialized Glove

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I received these last year for Christmas. They have the totally awesome name of “gauntlet gloves,” so I feel a bit like a knight when wearing them. They’re made of “supple goat leather,” so they were super soft and flexible right out of the bag. These gloves are so nice that I was reluctant to use them for a long time (though you can see I’ve clearly gotten over that).

The main downside to these is they still turn my hands and lower arms kiiiinda orange. Also, I can’t really use these during the summer because that leather just traps the heat in my arms. However, they are really nice for clearing out dense patches of weeds or dealing with bushes – anything that might otherwise scratch up my arms. Truth to told, I wouldn’t have bought these for myself, but I’m glad to have them.

What to Look for in a Glove

Of course, different tasks have different requirements, but in the list below, I’m thinking about one glove that would suit a multitude of applications.

Leather

It’s what all three pairs of my gloves share. I’ve had many, many gloves, and I don’t toss things until they’re destroyed. My canvas gloves and nitrile-dipped gloves have all experienced blowouts in the fingers. Leather is the reason the gloves in my list above have stuck around. At a minimum, you’ll want your palms, fingers, and fingertips covered. I haven’t tested any faux leather gloves, so I’m not sure how those hold up.

Breath-ability

My all-leather gloves tend to make my hands sweaty. Although leather breathes, it doesn’t do so as well as other materials. That’s why I like the cotton backs of my workhorse gloves. One downside of those, though, is the thinner material is a weak point and also an area where wetness can get into the glove. Breath-ability in a glove is important not just for comfort, but also to prevent bacteria growth and to keep your hand from slipping around.

Fit

Again, fit is where having those partially cotton gloves comes in handy. I find that it’s more difficult to get a close fit on all-leather gloves because the material is thicker. However, a more expensive pair of all-leather gloves made of more supple leather might be able to achieve the same result. Also look for some elastic or a strap around the wrist area so the gloves don’t fly off when you’re shooing chickens out of the garden.

Padding

If this is a glove you’re using for both building and gardening, you’ll want at least a little bit of padding to prevent blisters. At a minimum, look for padding along the base of your fingers and thumb. If you don’t need much, a double-layer of leather might do the job. If you’re planning on using these gloves for a lot of digging, tilling, etc., look for ones designed specifically with padded areas.

What I Won’t Buy

(for my own regular use, anyway)

Canvas

Canvas is attractive because it’s inexpensive, free of animal products, and seems sturdy. However, I’ve quickly ripped through almost any canvas glove I’ve ever bought. They get wet and slightly used, and suddenly they’re tearing like tissue paper.

Touchscreen Pads

Since the fingertips can be a weak point anyway, I want something super tough covering my fingers. That usually means they’ll be unwieldy to use in screen navigation. Besides, if I’m covered in dirt, I don’t really want to pull out my phone anyway. Touchscreen fingertip pads, in my opinion, are an unnecessary feature of a gardening glove.

Nitrile

Nitrile-dipped gloves grabbed my attention at first because, like canvas, they’re on the cheaper side and seem durable. However, I’ve found that they just don’t hold up for long. After a season coated in garden mud, my fingers poked through the nitrile. They also don’t hold up around sharp objects – nails, etc. – in construction. These are probably find for folks doing light gardening, but I need something tougher for a multi-use glove.

The Bottom Line:

A bad glove is at the very least a hassle and may give you blisters. However, choosing a poor glove may also result in more serious injury if the material isn’t enough to protect your hands from shards, splinters, and other hazards present in your yard or workspace.

I’ve found that good gloves start at around $20. As of this posting, my Mid-Grade Workhorse pair run $21.98. I’ve been using them all year and they’ll probably carry me through the winter, depending on what projects are in my future. For my next pair, I plan to shop around and spend up to $40. Hopefully I can find a pair locally!

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Building on a Budget

Since the last post was on tightening up my finances, let’s continue down that path and explore how to keep that wallet fat with a building hobby.

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Spoiler alert: it might be physically intensive. Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

It should be noted that “building hobby” refers to personal projects – cabinets, potting benches, weird little tables, etc. Do not skimp on materials for projects where doing so would risk safety or where the materials need to withstand significant weight or weather conditions. You don’t want to use old, termite-chewed posts for the new pergola beside your house because when that thing falls, it’ll take out your gutters and a chunk of roof.

Projects begin with a plan.

The plan is the step where you have the most control over your project’s expenses. Say you want to make a basic storage bench to keep by your front door for shoes. You have some scrap wood, but some of the lengths are a bit short. Also, some of the pieces are stained or blemished.

Rather than set your heart on a polished wood throne of a bench, maybe your storage bench will be low to the ground with small cubbies. Cover it with some old paint and add height on top of the bench with some cushions from a thrift store.

I look for inspiration on pinterest, as well as higher end stores like Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn. Once I have some ideas in mind, I’ll search for build plans that others have made, such as those over at Ana White. While I’ll ultimately draw my own plans, it’s good to check over the plans of others to make sure I’m not forgetting a step.

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One of the first things I built when I moved into my house was a storage unit for my entryway. Six years later, it’s still as solid as the day I built it.

Get your supplies second-hand.

Like the cushions in the bench example above, second-hand supplies are a great way to drastically cut down on expenses for the stuff you do actually have to buy. This isn’t exactly a new concept, and most frugalistas will tell you to a) determine whether or not you really need the thing, and b) if you do need the thing, buy it used. Getting supplies second-hand, whether you find stuff on the curb (make sure it’s marked for take-away!) or buy from a re-store, also saves the environment some grief.

Check around for stores that sell reclaimed building supplies. One of my favorite places in New Orleans is The Green Project. I build this entry table with a cabinet door and wood I found there:

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The other materials were paint (of course), modeling clay for the fish, clear floral gems for the “bubbles,” and resin to seal everything in.

While The Green Project is a place local to my area, there are several options where you might find free or cheap building supplies:

In terms of paint, you can usually find discounted buckets by the paint desk at Lowes or Home Depot. That probably won’t be the cheapest option; however, it might be better quality than something that’s been sitting in someone’s garage for who knows how long. If your project involves wood that needs to stand up to prolonged exposure, old or poor quality paint might lead to cracking and rot.

Or recycle an old project.

This option is more feasible if you’re years into building stuff and don’t have anyone around to complain when you start tearing apart bookcases.

My master bedroom has an old little alcove. One year, I decided to turn it into a reading nook, complete with a padded storage bench and bookcase. However, it was dark and tight. I ended up just reading on my bed most of the time.

Eventually, I needed to build a hide-away cabinet for a massive new litter box that now resides in the living room. Out comes the reading nook. Supports for a bench became supports for what my friend called “The Shit Shack.” Plywood and fiber board transferred over too, and the only thing I had to buy for the project was a bit of contact paper that looked like marble to class up the inside (oh – and to make cleaning easier). A new kitty W.C. for less than the cost of a bag of litter!

A note on tools —

Many of the places where you can find reclaimed building supplies also have secondhand power tools. Be careful, though, as these are often sold “as-is” and might not be returnable if they don’t work. I got lucky and inherited my first tools from my granny. Over the years, my parents have also gifted me with more tools for Christmas and my birthday.

If you have time to wait, try to purchase your tools around Father’s Day, when home improvement stores have sales.

If buying isn’t option, your area might have a tool “lending library.” These are community, co-op-type spaces where you can find low- or no-cost tools to borrow. Many also hold free or inexpensive workshops or offer volunteer opportunities where you can learn or hone your skills.

An even cheaper option? Make friends with your neighbors and borrow their tools. Return them cleaned and in excellent condition, ideally accompanied by a six-pack or a tray of cookies.

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Covering Up!

Where we last left off, the skeleton of the shed extension was more or less entirely in place, from floor to roof. So let’s jump right in:

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I ordered the siding in a big bulk purchase with the longer (i.e. 12-ft) lengths of lumber, the roofing, etc – all the stuff that was too large or unwieldy for my car. Therefore, I picked the siding out from descriptions on the website. I thought I was buying textured plywood that matched the existing structure. I did not read closely enough. What I actually bought was a “Brown Engineered Siding Panel.” (no wonder it was surprisingly cheap…)

These engineered panels seem pretty tough and they have good reviews. However, I was really worried when I first touched them – they almost feel like tough cardboard or fiber board. I’ve witnessed the latter practically dissolve when hit by water.

Although it’s normally a good idea to seal wood projects soon, I was careful to immediately work on these panels to protect them. First, I caulked all the seams and nail holes/heads.

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Then everything got a nice coat of Kilz, inside and out (since I didn’t have the roof on yet). I’m happy to say that the panels seem to be holding up really well so far.

This stage is finally when everything started moving a little bit more quickly, not in the least because I was excited about the polycarbonate panels.

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I chose these specialized panels (ordered from Greenhouse Megastore) because they advertise “high impact resistance, excellent heat retention and 80% light transmission.” My other option was the standard polycarbonate ridged panel found at most big box stores. I opted against those, however, because the ones I’ve used on chicken coops tend to get brittle after a year or two under the subtropical sun. I’m hoping these hold up better.

As you can see in the photo above, installing them is more complicated than nailing siding to studs, but not by that much. Seal the top edge with foil tape (the silver roll) and the bottom edge with dust tape (the white roll) to keep out dirt and insects. Then plastic caps go on the top and bottom – but before the bottom cap goes on, drill a few tiny holes in it for condensation to drip out.

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Panels like these will tell you which side needs to face out (otherwise the protective qualities won’t work) – they’ll have different colored film on either side. On these, the blue side faces the outside world.

Finally, secure the panels in place with roofing panel screws that have self-sealing neoprene washers to keep the water out of the screw holes. If you’re lazy like me, you might not always stop to pre-drill holes, but it’s especially important to do so here. If you don’t pre-drill, you risk cracking your fancy new panel – ditto if you over-tighten the screw.

Place your screws wisely – the more holes you add, the less insulation your panels provide. These panels seem pretty tough, but they aren’t provided structural support. Therefore, the screws are mostly there to make sure the panels don’t rattle or fly off in high winds.

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Bonus chicken butt fluff

Unless you’ve designed your structure to match the panel dimension exactly, you’ll need to cut them at some point. Fortunately, there are blades designed for this delicate task. You’ll want a fine-tooth blade designed for plastics, plexiglass, etc. to reduce the risk of cracking. This one worked fine for me.

Now onto the roof! (shrieking, gnashing of teeth, general terror)

I read up a ton on whether or not it was okay to install metal roofing over shingles. The most frequent opinion I saw was, “Technically it’s fine, but ideally, remove the original roofing.” I tried ripping off the old shingles, but those suckers held on tight. Meanwhile, the sun beat down on my poor little back and sweat made tools slip right out of my hands. If I wanted to finish the project, I needed to give up on removing the shingles and focus on the new install. (I justified this laziness because it’s an outbuilding. I like to think I would’ve completely removed the shingles on a residential roof.)

Step one of covering up my past is a nice layer of tar paper, tacked down with roofing nails.

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Although the above photo makes the roof look tiny (instead of stretching back 12 feet), it does a good job showing how awkward it was to maneuver around. My ladder’s sticking up through the rafters. I have the chicken coop on one side, the resin shed around back, and a fence on the third side. Above, a live oak tree was always trying to smack me in the face with branches. For normal shed usage, it’s plenty of space, but for roof work and ladders, it’s irritatingly tight.

On top of the tar paper went metal roofing panels, secured by the same neoprene washer-screws as the polycarbonate panels. I needed about three little plastic boxes of screws for this whole project, and I chose the 2-inch ones to make sure they plunged all the way through the shingles and plywood.

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I chose metal roofing panels over more shingles for a few reasons. First, they’re lightweight and easy to manage. Second, I’ve toyed with the idea of adding some gutters onto the shed and collecting water in a rain barrel to use on the garden. I wouldn’t feel as comfortable doing that if shingle dirt was in the water.

Due to the combination of tight spaces, squishy ground underneath ladder legs, and a fear of heights, the most worrisome part of this whole project was adding the roof ridge. I used the same galvanized metal ridge for the whole shed, including over the greenhouse portion.

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The roofing panels extend at least a few inches beyond the edge of the shed on all sides. I also replaced some of the drip edge under the new metal roofing. I didn’t install drip edge under the polycarbonate panels because there isn’t a plywood substrate to worry about. I have some extra, though, if water dripping inside becomes an issue (we’ve had several summer storms, though, and the inside of the shed remains dry).

One of the most recent steps involved repainting the whole shed from tan to light green. The color is “Ballroom Dancing” by Valspar, and I love how refreshing and natural it looks, especially with the white trim and the “frosted” effect of the greenhouse panels.

So am I done?

…er, well, mostly. I’d argue that construction/projects and writing share something in common: they’re only ever done when you decide to stop working on them. I’m frequently going back and tweaking existing projects, just as a writer will return to revise a piece over and over.

In terms of this project, there are a few smaller things that need finishing. If you look carefully, you may notice missing fascia (the horizontal facing board) underneath the greenhouse roofing. I’ll need to add that at some point to keep out critters and to help insulate the shed/greenhouse a bit better.

I also need to go back and seal up the areas between polycarbonate panels, the meeting point between the metal and polycarbonate panels, and the gaps between the roof ridge and the panels. For larger spaces, I have sealing spray foam – that stuff is messy, but I love how easily and quickly it fills gaps. Then, for the smaller spaces and perhaps over top of the spray foam, I’ll use clear silicone caulk. Manufacturers of polycarbonate panels will specify which sealants can or cannot be used with their products – make sure you check before buying!

As far as the inside, I’m working on that as I go. The first thing I knew I wanted and needed were some nice shelves for potting and storage. Fortunately, I overbought plywood, so those were relatively easy to whip up and put in place. I also had spare shelf brackets from an earlier house project, which certainly helped.

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It’s not perfect, but it’s functional and I love it.

Future ideas for the inside include building more shelves (whoo, storage) and maybe a flip-down workbench in the “shed” part of the shed. I’m also considering adding some plastic sheeting to separate the shed from the greenhouse and concentrate the heat and humidity in the latter portion. However, as it’s still summer and highs are around 90F, I have some time to get there.

Overall, this shed extension/greenhouse addition was a monster of a project. Summer was not the time for this kind of build in south Louisiana, but I’m glad it’s (mostly) done. My “new” shed is extremely spacious. I no longer have to worry about balancing trays of seedlings on scanty window sills inside my house, where one of my cats could easily take a wrong step and flip potting soil onto the floor. I’d say that alone is a win.

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< Step 3: Working on a Roof When You’re Afraid of Heights

Working on a Roof When You’re Afraid of Heights

I was never a big fan of heights. Growing up, my brother was the one who climbed up on the roof to clean leaves out of gutters. High ropes courses left me jelly-legged and lightheaded (that’s assuming someone was able to persuade me to even scramble up the ladder).

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HAHAHA, NOPE. Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

Then in my late teens, I found myself working in a clothing store with one pregnant co-worker and another stricken with vertigo. There was no else to climb up to the tippy top of the ladder and change the light bulbs – except me. I learned to tolerate heights, but I’m still not a great fan. I can climb up on my roof a) if it’s the flat part and b) if I stay at least four feet away from the edge.

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As a homeowner working on a budget, sometimes you just have to face your fears and patch roof leaks on your own.

So you can imagine how much I looked forward to installing the roof on the shed extension.

As with the rest of the framing, I wanted to mimic the rafters of the original shed. It was a basic design – a 2×4 on each side with a trapezoid of plywood nailed to the front and the back, stabilizing the whole structure. Then the rafters are then toenailed into the header (the board laid horizontally across the tops of the studs). And if I’m particularly good, they’ll be further secured with hurricane ties to help them stay in place during high wind or pressure changes (thanks, hurricane season in the Gulf!).

I could’ve done a bunch of math and measured angles to determine the cuts, but truth be told, I have a history of messing that kind of thing up. The faster and more accurate route that works for me is to trace the original and make a pattern.

In the above photos, you can see how I made a paper pattern of half of the original trapezoid (it was easier to do half) and then turned that into a full plywood pattern, which I used to draw the rest of the pieces (6 total).

The surface where the 2x4s met was a similar process, although I actually tried to measure to angles and had to make a few practice cuts to get it right. Honestly, guys, geometry was one of my worst subjects in high school, which makes building things really challenging sometimes.

The angles were the hardest part of the rafters. It was easiest to start the toenails with the rafters on the floor of the shed, so that when I lifted them to the headers, I could support the rafter with one hand and hammer with the other.

In the “shed” portion of the, er, shed, the plywood roofing is nailed into the rafters, securing the structure to itself. But for the greenhouse portion (the front 4 feet of the shed), the polycarbonate panels were a bit different. Most sources I found on the internet advised installing boards to stretch between the rafters for the panels to “rest” on. Since I’m a one-woman shop, nailing those boards onto the rafters while they were still on the floor – or even while they were in place – wasn’t going to happen. Fortunately, there’s hardware for that!

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I chose supports for fence beams so that I could easily slide the boards right on in. Supportive hardware makes things soooo much easier when you’re working by yourself.

After that, I popped the boards in.

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The directions on the polycarbonate panels stated that underlying wood needs to be painted white. Well, they just so happens to jibe with my aesthetic anyway. Truth be told, my white paint is just a few layers of Kilz primer. When I’ve needed to slap some white paint on something outside, I often just end up using Kilz and it tends to hold up pretty well.

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I think we’ll call it quits for now. The next post will be dedicated to covering all of the – well – coverings!

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< Step 2: And the Walls Rise

Step 4: Covering Up! >

And the Walls Rise

As quick as things might seem in these blog posts, this project stretched out over weeks. Late summer is the rainy season in south Louisiana, so between that and the overbearing heat and humidity, working in long stretches just wasn’t do-able. Additionally, I work full-time during the week, so I just had the evenings and some weekends for the project. I’ve seen videos where a pair of fellows assemble a shed in a day – and good on them! But I just couldn’t manage it. It’s totally fine for a huge project to take a while, especially if you’re working alone.

One more thing before we get farther:  shout out to my dad for gifting me a nice pair of sawhorses. During my visit in May, we searched the web together for good quality sawhorses to replace the rickety folding table I’d been using for sawing stuff (horribly unsafe). These Dewalt ones have folding legs and are lightweight. They’ve been excellent for this project.

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Onto the shed!

The existing structure’s frame was built out of 2×3 studs, so I did the same. It is absolutely crucial to lay out your frame before assembly. I did so and realized that two of my measurements were off. If I’d assembled it like that, it would’ve been a mess and taken me twice as long to take everything apart and reassemble.

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A lot of shed builds will go ahead and nail on the paneling here. It’s easy because everything’s laying down. But since the majority of my wall was going to be polycarbonate panels (and I wasn’t yet sure about how to join/overlap the polycarbonate and the composite sheets that would form the other part of the wall), I left it as just the frame. Another benefit of doing this is, if you’re working alone, a frame is lighter to lift than a frame and a bunch of heavy plywood.

I used a few quick screws to secure each of the frames to the floor before going back and adding half a dozen decking nails. I also used screws to connect the frames to each other and to the original shed’s frame.

The original doors were on the front of the shed. However, with the greenhouse, that wasn’t going to work. Therefore, the doors rotated around to the side. It’s a liiiittle tight with the chicken coop, but it works fine.

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Measure like 400 times before committing to a door frame.

Once this side frame was secure, I went back and cut out the piece that stretches across the bottom of the doorway to create a smooth threshold. That’ll prevent me from tripping all over the place, but more importantly, taking wheeled things like my mower will be easier to take in and out of the shed over a smooth threshold.

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Happy little handsaw at work!

Alright, folks, that’s it for now. Next time, we’re gonna raise the roof! (and the crowd goes wild)

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< Step 1: The Shed: from the Bottom Up