As the temperatures begin to warm up some, and it gets closer to gardening time; it is a good time for a few vegetable gardening safety tips. Although vegetable gardening is a wonderful hobby, past-time and lifestyle, it can also be very dangerous if safety precautions are not taken. Gardening accidents have sent hundreds of people to the emergency room or worse.

Vegetable gardeners sometimes use very sharp tools which can lead to very deep lacerations or even amputating a digit. Power tools such as rototillers or trimmers can be very dangerous if not careful, and can even be deadly.

Let's take a few minutes and talk about some vegetable gardening safety tips.

Dress To Protect

Gear up to protect yourself from lawn and garden equipment, insects, and the sun.
    • Wear safety googles, sturdy shoes, and long pants when using lawn mowers and other machinery.
    • Protect your hearing when using machinery. If you have to raise your voice to talk to someone who is an arm's length away, the noise can be potentially harmful to your hearing.
    • Wear garden gloves to lower the risk for skin irritations, cuts, and certain contaminants.


    • Protect yourself from diseases caused by mosquitoes and ticks. Avoid insect repellent containing DEET. Wear clothing treated with permethrin, long-sleeved shirts, and pants tucked in your socks. You may also want to wear high rubber boots since ticks are usually located close to the ground.
    • Lower your risk for sunburn and skin cancer. Wear long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats, sun shades, and sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.

Put Safety First

    • Limit distractions, use tools and equipment properly, and be aware of hazards to lower your risk for injury.
    • Follow instructions and warning labels on lawn and garden equipment.
    • Make sure equipment is working properly.
    • Sharpen tools carefully.
    • Keep harmful solvents, tools, and equipment out of children's reach.

Watch Out For Heat-Related Illness

Even being out in short periods of high temperatures can cause serious health problems. Monitor your activities and time in the sun to lower your risk for heat-related illness.
    • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to replace lost fluids. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink.
    • Avoid drinking liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar, especially in the heat. These actually cause you to lose more body fluid.
    • Take breaks often. Try to rest in shady areas so that your body's thermostat will have a chance to recover. Stop working if you experience breathlessness or muscle soreness.

    • Pay attention to signs of heat-related illness, including extremely high body temperature, headache, rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea, confusion, or unconsciousness.
    • Watch people who are at higher risk for heat-related illness, including infants and children up to four years of age; people 65 years of age or older; people who are overweight; people who push themselves too hard during work or exercise; and people who are physically ill or who take certain medications (i.e. for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation).
    • Eat healthy foods to help keep you energized.

Know Your Limits

Talk to your health care provider if you have physical, mental, or environmental concerns that may impair your ability to work in the garden safely.
    • If you have arthritis, use tools that are easy to grasp and that fit your ability. Research shows that moderate physical activity three or more days a week can give you more energy and can help relieve arthritis pain and stiffness.
    • If you are taking medications that may make you drowsy or impair your judgment or reaction time, don't operate machinery, climb ladders, or do activities that may increase your risk for injury.
    • Listen to your body. Monitor your level of fatigue, heart rate, and physical discomfort. If a body part becomes sore or painful, it is giving you a warning sign; listen to it it. Stop and take a short break.
    • Call 911 if you experience warning signs of a heart attack (excessive sweating, chest and arm pain, dizziness, and/or hotheadedness) or heat-related illness.
    • Use a cart or wheelbarrow when trying to move heavy items. Back pulls and strain are one of the biggest gardening injuries. Remember to use your legs, not your back, when lifting.

Enjoy The Benefits Of Physical Activity

Vegetable gardening is an excellent way to get physical activity. Active people are less likely than inactive people to be obese or have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, coronary artery disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and premature death.
    • Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. You can burn 150 calories by gardening (standing) for approximately 30-45 minutes. Kids should get 60 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days.

    • If you have been inactive, start out with just a few minutes of physical activity each day. Gradually build up time and intensity.
    • Vary your gardening activities to keep your interest and to broaden the range of benefits.
    • Remember to always do some stretching before working in the garden. Stretching helps to loosen up muscles and will help prevent any strains or pulls during your gardening activities.

Get Vaccinated

Vaccinations can prevent many diseases and save lives. All adults should get a tetanus vaccination every 10 years. Tetanus lives in the soil and enters the body through breaks in the skin. Because gardeners use sharp tools, dig in the dirt, and handle plants with sharp points, they are particularly prone to tetanus infections.
    • Before you start gardening this season, make sure your tetanus/diphtheria (Td) vaccination is up to date.
    • Ask your health care provider if you need any other vaccinations.

Common Sense Is A Good Tool

Also something I use in the garden is the 10-second Stop Rule. The 10-second Stop Rule is very simple; it just means to stop and look at what you are about to do and examine the process for 10 seconds. Think about how you are going to perform the task, what the dangers could be while performing the task, or look around you to make sure there isn't something you could trip or fall over.

Following these guidelines and just using good common sense will help provide you and your family a healthy, safe gardening time.

What are some vegetable gardening safety tips you may use in your garden? Please share!