Today, being a gardener means so much more than planting and tending. Once a gardener always a gardener, I say. A simple morning cup of coffee can turn into a casual stroll through my rose garden only to find an unpleasant weed taking root. Barely awake with only a sip or two of coffee in me and wearing a bathrobe, there I am squatting in my slippers to remove this unwanted greenery. My morning coffee ritual has now become a mission to find weeds leaving my coffee cold and my feet covered in dirt. My neighbors will tell you that they are often entertained by the many impractical and inappropriate gardening getups I’m often found wearing. I still can hear my Grandmother’s voice, “change your clothes, Mar”, before she would allow me in the garden.

That said, what is appropriate or inappropriate to wear in the garden? What not to wear is just as important as what to wear. Although I’ve shared my impromptu garden attire, I also have an appropriate look when I know I’ll be working in the garden. So let’s get to it.

Just like you I’ve ruined many jeans, t-shirts and sneakers while tending to my garden. I’ve worked hard at recycling old clothing to do this, but let’s face it, if it’s not great to wear in public you’re not going to feel any better while working in the garden. Truth be told, why ruin something nice that someone else could use. Gardening clothes should be both practical and fashionable while accessible, comfortable and cleanable.

Here’s what you need:

A great hat. This depends on when you will be in the garden. Two of my favorites are a simple baseball cap or a straw hat. I prefer a straw hat for hot steamy summer days and a light color baseball cap for cooler weather. The idea is to keep your head covered and protected from the harsh sun’s rays. I love ladies in a fabulous oversized hat for a glamorous touch. Who said you can’t have glamour in the garden? Not me. This is both practical and stylish, and I love that!

Even though you have something to cover your head, I always recommend a good spray-on sunscreen. Because I’m so fair and can burn easily I always use a minimum of SPF 30 for the best skin protection. Gardening is not the time to focus on a tan nor should you try to do both at the same time. The results will always be a bad neck, and arm burn as most of your time is spent bent over on your knees cultivating. Go for the highest SPF coverage you can find that is fragrance free to avoid attracting bees of or any other bugs.

A simple cotton t-shirt. Always wear one that is 100 percent cotton. Never go with a 50/50 blend as you want it to breath. Often available as a promotional gift or through discount stores, you won’t ever run out or worry if you eventually turn it into a house rag.

A denim apron with pockets. Years ago, my good friend and neighbor Barbara gave me an apron for my birthday. I loved it from the moment I opened the box. And today it is the staple of my garden attire. Having it monogrammed “Mar” made it the perfect gift. I use this apron each and every time I’m in the garden to protect my shirt, carry my water bottle, tools and gloves. Because of the pockets I can also add my cell phone or house phone along with any other items I may need that can maximize my time outside. Ok, a light snack is always good too. Regardless, once done in the garden it is easy enough to wash. And because it is made of denim it is very durable and washable. A little grass stain is good and reminds me that it is only to be used while in the garden.

When the temperature changes I enjoy wearing shorts around town but it’s never a practical choice when working in the garden. Some of the worst scratches I ever got came from working in the garden while wearing shorts. I also discovered a good use for all my old skating workout pants. They’re perfect for the garden and easy to clean. If they get wet from my watering can, I’m still good to go, mostly because they are made from nylon with an elastic draw-string waist. Good looking, comfortable and wipe-able. A winner for gardening.

Gloves. To wear them or not to wear them? That is the question. My answer is “always, depending upon what I am doing in the garden”. If I’m trimming my roses YES, and I wear leather for the best protection. Mulching NO, weeding YES and I wear the disposable non-latex kind. Painting and or moving things around, a big MAYBE. Because I love to “play in the dirt” I sometimes need to feel the soil in my hands to feel the closest to Mother Nature. I’ll let you decide what works best for you. Manicure not included!

Finally. The right shoes will finish any outfit including this one. I have always loved shoes for as long as I can remember. When I was in my teenage years I would shop using my mothers signed checks. I would be told “buy your shoes and come back with my checkbook with the amount”. Well, I could never resist the temptation to buy one or two more. Today, Aurora (my Mom) would never stand for such foolishness, but back then, she could not say no. In my book, Life On Mar’s, A Four Season Garden you can see my on-going love for shoes and how I so enjoy seeing ladies wearing their high-heels while in my garden. Truth be told, when it comes to working in the garden there’s only one type of shoe to wear, HUNTER BOOTS! Made in Scotland and world renowned for their durability, fit and comfort, I cannot garden without them nor should you. I love the look. I love the comfort. And I love the protection they give me as they cover my legs all the way to my knees. Treat yourself to a pair. “To me, from me, love me,” I always say.

So now you have all the information you need to have the right outfit while working in the garden. Let’s not forget that there will always be a time to just “get in and get out” and for that you will not need a wardrobe change. But for those of us who love to garden and spend hours pruning, planting, watering, moving, building and transplanting, you understand everything about “playing in the dirt”. Now hopefully you’ll have the right outfit.

And there you have it.