Protect Yourself in the Rose Garden

By Kitty Belendez, Master Rosarian

Taking the time to smell the roses also means taking the time to protect ourselves from the dangers lurking in the garden. Whether you plan to spray chemicals, or simply want to run barefoot in the rose petals, an ounce of prevention is worth a healthy life.

Gloves — The very first thing you need to do before you even touch a bottle of chemicals is to put on a pair of gloves. The best gloves to wear for spraying chemicals are the inexpensive latex surgical type, and the nitrile gloves are even better. You can get a box of 50 pair of latex gloves for around $10.00, but the nitrile type will cost a bit more. They are also great for preventing stinky hands when mixing fish emulsion, or avoiding blue-stained hands when mixing a soluble fertilizer such as Grow-More or Miracle-Gro.

For pruning, or simply working in the soil, invest in a good pair of leather gloves. Organic fertilizers can harbor diseases, and scratches from thorns can provide their perfect entry into our bodies. So, get used to wearing your gloves every time you work in the rose garden. They’re a great investment.

Spray Suit — Next comes your spray suit. I like the Tyvek-coated polyethylene overalls which are available from for about $10.00 per pair. also has the lightweight white coveralls. You should wear a long-sleeved cotton T-shirt and pants under the overalls to keep you cool.

Eye Protection — You would be amazed at the amount of fine chemical mist that can get into your eyes. Especially if you use a fine mist sprayer, glasses are an absolute must to protect your eyes. Goggles are best, but they can be a little troublesome because they tend to fog over.

Spray Mask — You need to wear a proper respiratory mask with filters rated for pesticide use. It will cost around $35.00. They can be obtained from the hardware stores, nurseries, via the Internet, or mail order supply catalogs. For best protection, the filters need to be changed frequently. Those cheap, little paper masks do not provide you with sufficient protection from pesticides.

Protect Your Feet — Heavy-duty PVC boots keep chemical spills off your feet. They also keep rose thorns from penetrating the tender soles of your feet. Sure, I love to go barefoot, but I’m always sorry I do when I have to pluck out those sharp little thorns.

Hair Cover — Your hair must also be covered when spraying. I use the inexpensive and disposable, clear shower caps which you can get at any drug store or supermarket. They cost around 25 cents each.

Sun Protection — Sometimes we forget about the potentially harmful rays of the damaging sun. A widebrimmed hat is a must for working in the garden. A good sunscreen lotion should be applied before beginning to work in your rose garden.

Read the Labels — The label on each container must be read and re-read very carefully. Make sure that you are mixing the chemicals in the correct proportions to water. And make sure you have selected the proper chemical for each particular job.

Spray in Early Morning — That’s because the air is usually still in the morning. Don’t spray when it’s windy, because you will get more chemicals on you than on the roses. Also, if you spray during the heat of the day, the chemicals are more likely to damage the foliage by causing leaf burn.

Properly Store Chemicals — When you are finished spraying, make sure you tightly close all the chemical containers, and store them up high, out of reach of children. If you have small children around, it may even be best to purchase a locking chemical cabinet. It’s best to store chemicals in the garage or shed instead of inside the house where they could be accidentally used for the wrong reason.

Wash Your Clothes — Hang up your spray suit in the garage, and wash your cotton clothes separately in the washer. You should never wear the same spray clothing week after week, without washing them thoroughly.

Shower — As soon as you are all done spraying, take a shower. Even if you think you were extremely careful and did not get any chemicals on you, it pays to be extra careful, because you need to make sure you don’t have any chemical residue on your skin.

Tetanus Shot — One of the most valuable protections you can get is a Tetanus shot. If you haven’t had one in a long while, you should call your local doctor to see if you need a booster shot.

© Copyright Kitty Belendez. All rights reserved.

Photos © Copyright by Kitty Belendez

For questions about Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society, contact:
Kitty Belendez


Updated January 4, 2016

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