You might have seen the headlines warning about the 3-hour gardening rule and wondered if it can really be that dangerous to get green fingered between the hours of 11 am and 2 pm. Forcing you to consider parking all your backyard ideas for the foreseeable future.
As an unprecedented heatwave sweeps across much of America and Europe, and we experience some very real repercussions of global warming, it is essential that we recognize the health implications of this weather.
The 3-hour gardening rule may sound like another arbitrary restriction that is nothing but a hindrance, but our experts explain why you should probably abide by the rulebook on this one.
What is the 3 hour gardening rule?
I think we all know that UV levels are strongest between the hours of 11 am to 2 pm. Thus we should avoid extended periods in the heat during these peak times, especially as temperatures creep above 100°F.
‘The 3-hour gardening rule refers to avoiding gardening during the hours of 11 am to 2 pm,’ says gardening expert and co-founder of Garden Savvy, John Ehrling. ‘During this time, the sun is at its highest point in the sky, resulting in intense heat and potentially harmful direct sunlight. By refraining from gardening during these hours, you can mitigate the risk of dehydration, heat-related illnesses, and sunburn.’
‘It’s a sensible guideline,’ says professional gardener Tony O’Neill, ‘that suggests limiting our gardening activities to the early morning or late evening during the summer months. These periods are typically cooler and less intense.’
By following this rule you are protecting your health, as well as preventing some ill-informed gardening decisions made in the heat of the moment.
We know that summer is when you want your backyard to look its best. A time when you might want to try out new garden trends and revive your outdoor kitchen. But your health is far more important than a beautifully manicured garden. If you can’t resist getting out in the yard check out these tips on how to stay safe whilst gardening this summer.
1. Start early and finish early
Yes this is basically the 3-hour gardening rule but we really want to hammer home the importance of staying out of the sun in the hottest part of the day. Luckily this schedule also works for out plants as early is the best time to water pots.
‘Prioritize your gardening tasks and schedule them during cooler parts of the day, such as the early morning or late afternoon. This allows you to avoid the peak heat hours when the sun is strongest,’ advises Zahid Adnan from The Plant Bible.
Try to pick one area to focus on, such as addressing the neglected container garden, and give yourself a strict window to do it in. You’ll find you are far more productive than you’d expect in a limited period. Then you can put your feet up and relax for the rest of the day, knowing your tasks have been ticked off.
2. Stay hydrated
Another obvious one but stay hydrated, it is easy to get carried away in the yard and forget to drink enough water. When you are doing manual work it is even more important to replace the water your are loosing.
‘Even before you feel thirsty, ensure you drink plenty of water to replenish fluids lost through sweat,’ says Tony. Try to keep a bottle of water handy or take regular breaks to rehydrate. Technology in insulating bottles have come so far, your drink will stay ice cold for hours once your invest in one. Just one of the many heatwave essentials your should be ordering to survive the heat.
Hydro flask water bottle
Size: 18 oz
3. Dress appropriately
When venturing into the heat it is important to wear clothes that prioritise coolness. Think loose fitting linen and natural fibres. This might not be your most fashionable outfit but you’ll be thankful for the breathing room in the long run.
‘Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing to allow for better air circulation,’ says Zahid, ‘and opt for a wide-brimmed hat and use sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.’
SPF is just as important as protective clothing to reduce skin damage. Although it is especially important in summer when UV exposure is at its highest, sunscreen should be applied year-round. Even on a cloudy day, UV rays penetrate your skin, so ensure you continue to apply it long past the end of summer.
4. Listen to your body
‘It’s crucial to prioritize health while enjoying our gardening passion,’ says Tony. And whilst we are all eager to try out the social front yard trend, it simply isn’t the time to spend hour upon hours in the heat.
‘If you feel dizzy, nauseated, or tired, stop immediately and cool down,’ he says. Hot temperatures are unforgiving, make sure you are paying attention to the signs of heatstroke and heat exhaustion when you are out. No backyard is worth a trip to the ER.