Gardening Health and Safety

Gardening Health and Safety


By Evelyn Cunico, M.A., M.S.
Posted March 29, 2015


Gardening Health and Safety

Historically, gardening has offered many educational, physical, social, spiritual, and, sometimes, economic benefits.

Today, in order to enjoy gardening throughout a long and healthy life, you also need to know how to garden with health and safety as your first priorities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a website, called, “Gardening Health and Safety Tips.”

A related CDC website, called, “Measuring Physical Activity Intensity,” measures gardening as a “moderate intensity” activity.

Active people are less likely than inactive people to have colon cancer, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, or to be obese, according to the CDC

However, if you have been inactive, the CDC advises to start out physical activity with just a few minutes each day. Gradually build up time and intensity to the CDC recommended two and one-half hours per day. Vary your gardening activities, to keep up your interest and to broaden the range of benefits.

Safety First Tips

  • Dress to protect yourself from gardening tools and equipment. For example, wear sturdy shoes and long pants to prevent injury when using power tools.
  • Protect your hearing when using machinery. The CDC cautions that if you have to raise your voice to talk with someone who is an arm’s length away, the noise can be harmful to your hearing.
  • Limit your time in the heat. Schedule your gardening before 10:00 a.m. or after 2:00 p.m., when the sun’s heat is less intense.
  • Lower your risk for sunburn and skin cancer. Wear long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats, sun shades, and sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
  • Drink lots of fluids. Avoid drinking alcoholic or high-sugar-content liquids.
  • Take breaks often. Rest in shaded areas, so that your body’s thermostat has a chance to recover.
  • Read medication labels. If you take medications that make you drowsy, don’t climb ladders or do activities that may increase you risk for injury.
  • Be aware of children’s need for protection. Keep harmful chemicals, tools, and equipment out of children’s reach.

Cooperative Extension Services

Each state maintains Agricultural Research Services called, “Cooperative Extension Services,” within the State and National Cooperative Extension System (CES). Services are usually located in the College of Agriculture at State land-grant universities.

Some Cooperative Extension offices provide soil testing services for a fee. Extension offices are staffed by experts who can provide reliable information on gardening and nutrition, plants, insect and disease control, and health and safety, specific to your community and growing conditions.

To find background information about Extension, go to the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

To find an interactive map, where you can find Extension information for your state, go to the Cooperative Extension System (CES) State and National Partners Map.

 For example, the University of Missouri Extension maintains a website called, “AgrAbility,” which offers “Health and Safety Tips for Gardeners with Disabilities.”

  • Respect pain. Pain is the body’s warning sign that something isn’t right. When a garden activity you are doing causes pain, STOP. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help.
  • If possible, use supports and assisting devices, but ONLY after consulting with your physician or therapist.
  • Go easy on repetitive tasks that can lead to injury. Trying to hoe just one more row or trying to pull just a few more weeds can cause joint inflammation, tenderness, and pain.
  • Switch often from pruning to less hand-intensive work. Grip-and-release movements, such as those used with pruning shears, lad to hand and wrist discomfort.
  • Add comfortable, non-slip padding to handles and carrying straps, so that they are thick enough to provide you with a comfortable grip. Carrying heavy objects like watering containers can cause hand and wrist injury, especially if handles cut off circulation.
  • Protect elbows and shoulders from excessive twisting and reaching. For example, if you garden from a sitting position, make sure your work surface is low enough that you won’t have to raise your hands above your shoulders.

Community Extension Master Gardeners

Master Gardeners are community volunteers who are trained by the Cooperative Extension System, to help Americans to plant, grow, and harvest fresh fruits and vegetables from gardens. Master Gardeners also answer wide-ranging questions about specific food and ornamental plants, and about gardening health and safety issues.

In addition to gardening information, the Extension Master Gardener website includes an A to Z clickable list, so that you may find a Master Gardener Program in your state.

Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog should not replace the medical advice of your doctor. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your medical doctor or other healthcare provider.


 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Gardening Health and Safety Tips.”
(Accessed 20 March 2015)

 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Keep Your Cool in Hot Weather.”
(Accessed 23 March 2015)

 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Measuring Physical Activity Intensity.”
(Accessed 27 March 2015)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Water: Meeting Your Daily Fluid Needs.”
(Accessed 28 March 2015)

Cooperative Extension System. “State and National Partners Map.”
(Accessed 28 March 2015)

 Extension.  “Master Gardener.”
(Accessed 28 March 2015)

 New World Encyclopedia. “Gardening.”
(Accessed 25 March 2015)

 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). “Community Garden Checklist | Let’s Move!”
(Accessed 27 March 2015)

 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). National Institute of Food and Agriculture. “Extension.”
(Accessed 18 March 2015)

 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). “People’s Garden Initiative.”
(Accessed 27 March 2015)

 University of Missouri Extension. Agricultural Engineering Extension. “Health and Safety Tips for Gardeners with Disabilities.”
(Accessed 23 March 2015)