Gardening is Gross. And Scary. And Dangerous.


Guest Rant by Veratrine of Dark of Night.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my
garden. But seriously, gardening is gross, scary, and dangerous compared with
most other hobbies. You know: Baking. Sewing. Skydiving. Ordinary safe stuff
like that.

Case in point: last weekend:

Saturday, I put my ungloved finger
into a black widow lair, complete with black widow. Now, you’re thinking this
person must be blind AND a doofus, but knowing that all small spaces in my yard
are potential homes for those toxic ladies, I DO look before inserting fingers.
In this case, the space was inside a roll of green plastic tape used for tying
up tomatoes, and the black widow had somehow cleverly concealed herself when I
inspected the roll prior to picking it up. Fortunately, I withdrew my finger in
time, and no major damage was suffered. But the potential was emphatically
there, so that gives you the scary/dangerous factor.

GrossstuffSalvia Greggii

Sunday, while tying up the late
tomatoes with the aforementioned green plastic tape (now that the black widow
had vacated her premises) I put my once-more-ungloved finger on a caterpillar
(admittedly an extremely small one). I screamed and jumped hastily away.
Sherlock Holmes-like, you might correctly infer that I am not one of those
gardeners who cheerfully hand-pick and squish pests. In fact, the rumors that
some people DO hand-pick and squish snails and other critters seem to me to
suggest that some gardeners positively revel in the more disgusting aspects of

Then there’s the salvia greggii,
infested with scale (gross). And the definitely gross things I sometimes have to
clean up in the garden…the remains of the local cats’ birds. The possum poop.
The remains of the possum that expired inconveniently behind the dietes
bicolora. (Generally, I avert my eyes, suppress the gag reflex, and make with a
shovel, but in the case of the dead possum, I chickened out after tracking it
down by smell and made my husband deal with it.)

And to get back to scary, there are
the various slithery scaly things that scuttle hastily through the foliage when
I water (although I would like to appreciate them, I find them scary and also
gross). Finally, due to a phobia acquired when I was about 8, I am appalled by
the presence of worms in the dirt I have to dig in. The guilty party in said
phobia has apologized for the worm incident, but the phobia

Basically, my average weekend in
the garden involves a series of subdued shrieks which bring my husband to the
window to make sure I’m okay:

“Just another


“Okay, fine. Have fun.”

So, am I a total wuss, or is
gardening a pastime for the masochistic and those who are into extreme
full-contact hobbies?

And, yeah, maybe I should wear
gloves more.

Photo of “gross stuff on Salvia Greggii’ by Veratrine.


  1. Veratrine it sounds to me like you need to be dipped in a vat of dry oatmeal mixed with live cockroaches or maybe a combo of jello with earthworms for a quick dose of aversion therapy. Or you could just keep gardening. You’ll be hand squishing bugs in no time.

  2. 30 plus years ago, that’s how I gardened – I was digging onions this year with the help of a couple of lady friends and I turned up a worm snake – a foot long is an old wise adult worm snake. My friends were shrieking and knowing I was the experienced gardener – I picked up the snake from the garden, walked across the grass and tossed him off into the near horizon.

    Am I always this brave – not always when completely surprised but I’ve pet more snakes this year than usual due to some anamoly of having about 12 visit the gardens this year – large black rat snakes or smaller striped garter snakes and there’s always bugs. My husband catches, I pet, we put them into containers, he drives, the container is between my legs in the front seat and we release down the road.

    Shoot, we’ve added bees – pollinating machines and the first one greeted me on my hand looking over the purple hair rubber band for nectar – I watched her inspect my hand telling me hello.

    Yesterday I caught 3 wasps in a jelly jar glass – it’s trickier to catch them all in one – you tend to anger them. They fell asleep for the night and I let them go this morning.

    Dog and cat poop and dead animals are gross – but gardening isn’t and last spring my husband watched as I hand tossed my bunnies poo with the potting soil – saying how gross others might find that and it never crossed my mind. Bunny poo and worms – that’s not gross – that beautiful blooms and luscious fruit. Keep those coming.

  3. I agree, gardening (and a good set of gardening gloves) might be the best cure. Thanks to climate change, though, black widows are moving into our neighbourhood. I might not be so flippant if I’d had such a close call. Brrrrr.

  4. I’m a shrieker.

    I have recently mustered up the strength to squish slugs. Not hand-pick, mind you, but knock off with a trowel & squish with a trowel.

    I agree, gardening gloves give me lots of courage. One day I’ll be a more tough gardener. But for now, I’ll rejoice in the baby steps I’ve made.

  5. We’re a black widow haven, too, and this year saw the top end of their population cycle. You should wear gloves! When I’m caught doing anything like sticking my hand into things or under things or behind things, and I’m not wearing my gloves, my husband lectures me! Really, you should wear gloves. As for the slugs, caterpillars, et al — I feed the ‘pillars to the hens, but I “free” the slugs into the front yard or under the rhodies.

  6. My mother-in-law lost a dear friend to a pathogen that entered a cut on her ungloved hand while she gardened. Neither of us gardens without gloves anymore, & I’m prone to fuss at folks in my neighborhood if I see them doing the same. Please wear your gloves !

  7. Me too. Me too. We’ve got Black Widows as well but I have no beef with them. However, I’ve got a serious phobia of most insects (molluscs? fine. arachnids? fine. reptiles? fine. ladybugs? help!) My husband has to come to my rescue if a moth flies into the house, but I surprised him last summer by getting into the roses and handpicking Japanese devilbeetles. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let my fear cost me the roses. It definitely gets better with time. Gardening *is* immersion therapy.

  8. And then there’s Lyme disease…sadly, I’ve learned more about this awful tick-borne (and other biting insect-borne) debilitating disease than I ever wanted to know.

    No, I don’t have it. But my gardenin’ crazy mom contracted it. And that’s after years of farming in areas infested with black widows, rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, poison oak & ivy, wasps and all sorts of other lurking garden wildlife creatures.

    Be careful out there people. As with LauraBee’s pathogen story, I concur that what you can’t see may be the most dangerous garden obstacle of all.

    (Oh, and not to dilute the Lyme issue, but when doing volunteer work in public parks, beware really scary human deposits like dirty syringes!)

  9. when i worked on a farm (a little different than gardening, i guess) we never wore gloves. i think there were fewer small places for things to hide, because we were in big fields. but when we were harvesting cukes i was essentially sticking my face in swarms of bees. i was never afraid though… for some reason i never got stung!
    gardening is “gross”, and i think that’s something people forget. whenever you’re dealing with something natural, it will be “gross”, and for me that’s part of why i like it so much. it’s so real!
    but i’m also kind of a freak because i am fascinated by tomato hornworms… and i’m not afraid to touch them.
    black widows are a different story, though!!! yikes!!!

  10. For the record, getting bitten by a black widow isn’t all that bad. I wouldn’t recommend it for the young, elderly, or sickly, but as a healthy adult, you’re probably fine. You get flu-like symptoms for a few days, and might talk crazy for a bit, but then it’s all over and you have a great story.

  11. After almost pruning a finger, I promised myself to wear gloves religiously while gardening. Good thing. The other day while mucking around in some mulch I grabbed a weed and unknowingly, a very large bumblebee. For just a few seconds my fingers buzzed with the most incredible energy.

  12. I used to be scared of everything – bees, wasps, frogs, lizards, snakes, spiders. (Why did I ever start gardening – I don’t really know) Now I just watch as the snakes slither away or the bees fly around me as I prune “their” bush or the lizards run away. Sometimes I still get startled and let out a yelp, but my hubby ignores me and the neighbors are too far away to hear. The worse experience I have had in the garden didn’t even involve critters – my roses attacked me:) About a year and a half ago I was pruning the roses – no gloves, no gauntlets, no long sleeves. I got several deep gouges but I had never had any problems with them before so I just ignored them. The sores got worse and worse, until they were opens ulcers, some bigger than a quarter. I took antibiotics by mouth and used a cream – no help. I used this and that and the other – no help. Then I read an article about “rose bites” that wouldn’t heal. After some research, I discovered that rose thorns can inject a fungus into your body. The fungus – sporotrichosis – won’t heal until you take antifungal medicines for months and months. I have been on the medicine for almost 5 months and still have sores and sometimes new ones will pop up (It spreads along your bloodstream). I seem to have reached a plateau where the sores aren’t getting any better so my family doctor is sending me to a dermatologist. My doctor had heard of it but had never seen it. My grandson’s doctor said the same thing. So now I wear leather gloves, leather gauntlets, and long pants (I have 3 sores on my leg because I was wearing shorts). The bad thing is I didn’t even want the roses – my hubby did.

  13. Oh, thank GOODNESS another gardener has fessed up to a worm phobia. I’m super squeamish about them, and I don’t even have a childhood trauma to blame! When I confessed on FG’s blog, people were horrified.
    I think that you have to build up a resistance to creepy gross things in the garden. One summer, working at an organic herb farm in Nantucket, I got so fed up with the grubs I’d dig up that by the end of the summer I was able to pick them up and pop them between my fingers. Alas, it was fleeting. I could never do that now!

  14. I’ve mostly just been getting cut up by rose and blackberry thorns. I need to wear my heavy rose gloves! And my husband just rolls his eyes at my shrieks in the gardden. I’m not frightened. Truly. Just startled by snakes, frogs and birds.

  15. Love your post! I also avoid critters when possible. I don’t squish worms or much anything else by hand. That’s what shoes are for, right? After reading some of the other comments, I will continue to wear my gloves! Yikes!

  16. glad I don’t have black widow spiders or snakes here in Surrey Uk. I always manage to put my fingers through slugs when my gloves are off, and have been know to shriek at toads jumping out on me, -and did come face to face with a rat last week (thankfully the other side of the glass in a shed) and my arms often bear scars from pruning roses and pyracantha, – so yes, gross, scary and dangerous, even here.

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