Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
August, 2011
Regional Report

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The author tries on protective shades to wear in the garden.

Protect Your Eyes

I have worked outdoors in the sun (and rain) for almost my entire working life and wear alligator skin to prove it. Call me leather woman if you like, the effects of many years of harmful UV rays are certainly evident on my scaly hide.

I began working as a professional gardener long before sunscreen was invented. Its benefits didn't begin to be known until sometime in the mid 1980's. Even after it became popular, it was difficult to find one that didn't burn my eyes or feel greasy or tacky after application. I turned instead to large hats to shade my face and neck and long sleeved shirts to protect my arms. I still balk at wearing sun screen, although I know I'm playing a game of Russian Roulette. Every doctor and dermatologist says the same thing; "WEAR SUNSCREEN!"

The Eyes
Sun doesn't damage just skin, it also takes a toll on unprotected eyeballs. Unless you protect your eyes when you are outdoors, you may be in danger of damaging, or even losing, your precious vision.
According to a 2011 national survey conducted by N3L Optics, only 66 percent of adults wear sunglasses consistently when they are outdoors, and only half of those age 18-24 do so. "Your eyes are a critical component of your well-being and need to be protected with the same level of vigilance as your skin," said Kendra Reichenau, senior vice president of N3L Optics.

The survey also found that one in five American adults has experienced an eye injury while participating in outdoor sports and activities. Think about it -- a lawn mower or weed eater can easily throw a stone your way. The eye injury rate is higher for men (1 in 3) and those age 25-34 (1 in 4).

Eighty percent of people surveyed reported worrying about their eye health, but nearly one in four do not know that sun exposure can cause eye damage. The sun's harmful UV radiation can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, and some cancers, nearly all of which are preventable with proper use of sunglasses. According to the American Optometric Association, UV radiation is a risk, even on overcast days.

"Many people who are active choose to not wear sunglasses because they think it inhibits their ability to perform at their highest level," said Reichenau."That isn't true if you have the right sunglasses for your outdoor activity or sport."

Selecting the Right Pair of Shades
Choosing the right pair of sunglasses for gardening is easy. N3L Optics offers the following tips for selecting a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes and enhance your gardening experience:

*Lightweight frame and lens materials together with ergonomic frame design can enhance comfort during extended wear.
* Rubberized grip points keep the eye wear in place and prevent them from slipping down your nose, even on the hottest day.
*Polarized lenses are helpful for activities that require glare reduction.
*Hydrophobic coating creates an invisible barrier that prevents fogging and easily sheds sweat, rain, sunscreen, skin oils, dirt and dust.
*Gardeners can benefit from lenses with amber, brown, or rose tint. These tints enhance depth perception and help in low or medium light conditions such as moving from sun to shade.
*Select glasses or goggles with polycarbonate lenses. While no lens is completely shatterproof or unbreakable, these lenses are impact-resistant, shatter-resistant, and filter out 100 percent of UV light.
*More lens curvature maximizes side protection against sun, wind, and impact. Larger lenses may be more effective because they cover more of the eye. And in addition, they look cool!

We couldn't live without the sun, but we can live better if we learn how to protect ourselves from its damaging rays. Smart gardeners garden longer!

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