Grab a Shovel & Ditch Your Clothes on World Naked Gardening Day
Yes, this is a real holiday.
Gardening isn’t a pastime just for old people and plant geeks. In fact, it’s one of the most accessible and satisfying hobbies you can pursue. Whether you’ve got a green thumb that can tease a bloom out of a ghost orchid or if you require a more forgiving plant like a cactus that only needs to be watered monthly, there’s a technique for everyone.
And there’s no shortage of reasons to start digging: gardening can reduce stress, encourage you to eat healthier, teach you valuable skills about responsibility and persistence, and strengthen your bond with nature. It can also be quite fun — especially if you do it in the buff.
Also known as naked gardening, planting bare-root shrubs while baring your own bare root shrub is the ultimate way to pay homage to Mother Earth and up your Vitamin D consumption at the same time. In fact, there’s even an official holiday for it and it’s this Saturday, May 4.
Founded in Seattle during the fall of 2005 by Mark Storey, a consulting editor for Nude & Natural magazine, and Jacob Gabriel, a permaculturalist, World Naked Gardening Day celebrates both nudism and digging in the Earth. As the holiday’s official website cheerfully proclaims, “Gardening naked is not only a simple joy, it reminds us — even if only for those few sunkissed minutes — that we can be honest with who we are as humans and as part of this planet.”
While you can technically garden naked whenever (but not wherever) you want, the official holiday is every first Saturday in May. Given that it was 37 degrees this morning in Kentucky, that may be a little brisk for some. But the significance of holding the annual holiday in May, one of the busiest months for horticulture, makes sense since it’s important to start gardening at the very beginning of spring. Unless, of course, you’re in the Southern hemisphere. If that’s the case, the New Zealand Naturist Federation has elected to celebrate World Naked Gardening Day during the last weekend in October.
When it comes to participating in World Naked Gardening Day, anyone can do it. Meaning, you don’t need to have a sprawling backyard or front lawn to get down and dirty sans clothes. People who live in apartments can stuff window boxes with colorful flowers in the nude. Depending on how brave you are, you can also go naked hiking — preferably in a low-traffic place — and help remove overgrown weeds and grasses from trails.
Naked though you may be, the holiday is touted as being not only family-friendly, but empowering, as well. It’s a chance for people of all ages, shapes, and sizes to embrace their given form and also forget about it for a few hours as they toil away in the garden. If you’re planting in a public area or with other people, you’re probably going to see quite a bit of flesh on World Naked Gardening Day, but don’t let that turn you off — or on. The holiday is about communing with nature first and foremost, not getting frisky.
“There’s always a lot of snickering around it, but naked doesn’t mean sexual,” Michael Perry, who goes by “Mr. Plant Geek,” told OK Whatever. “Hopefully we are helping people relax about their bodies a bit.”
Perry, who hosts the QVC UK program Michael Perry’s Garden World, also had a few words of advice to impart for anyone interested in partaking in World Naked Gardening Day. Top on his list is to remember to put on sunscreen and make sure your garden is out of sight — especially if you’ll be bending over.
He also encourages participants to be mindful of the kinds of gardening they’ll be doing, advising that one should “perhaps save the day for light deadheading and tending to your borders rather than a hardcore garden makeover.” In other words, put the hedge clippers away until you’re wearing pants.
For the past several years, Perry and some of his fellow naked horticulturalists (who collectively call themselves, the “Grubby Gardeners”) have used the annual holiday to raise money for Perennial, a U.K.-based charity dedicated to agriculturists who have fallen on hard times. Each year, the Grubby Gardeners coordinate a photo shoot and pose in the buff with meticulously placed greenery covering their juicy bits. They then turn the photos into a cheeky calendar and sell them online. To date, they’ve raised more than $32,000.
In addition to the appropriate types of gardening (remember: no pruning), there are plants that are ideal and not so ideal to be dealing with when hanging out in your birthday suit. Matt Candeias from the podcast In Defense Of Plants was more than happy to advise.
“I would say that some of the worst to tend nude would be those that invest heavily in physical defenses like spines, prickles, and thorns,” he warned. “Imagine stumbling in a patch of Rubus or Berberis with your skin exposed. You would definitely lose some blood in the process.” Candeias also cautioned against working with grasses like ripgut, which have hard-to-see but easy-to-feel hooks and spines that all but guarantee “you will come out bloody in the end.”
Physical defenses aren’t the only risk when it comes to handling plants in the buff. Stinging nettles are not only pokey, but they also release chemicals that “burn like crazy,” not unlike the potential consequences of other activities you can do naked. Probably the most famous chemical defense are found in members of the cashew family: poison ivy, oak, and sumac.
Members of the carrot family — such as wild carrots and wild parsnips — should also be avoided on World Naked Gardening Day, especially by those who don’t like pain. In the wild, the leaves of these guys can release chemicals. If they get on your skin and are exposed to sunlight, they can cause serious chemical burns called phytophotodermatitis that look a lot like welts or shingles. Candeias warned that “the resulting blisters are nothing to joke about.” Fortunately, he also explained that you would have to damage the plant tissue for this to happen.
In addition to “bad touch” plants, there are also “good touch” ones. Candeias’ personal favorites are “those covered in soft trichomes” such as lamb’s ears. He also considers succulents of the Kalanchoe species “a joy to touch.” Not that softness is the only delightful feature available. Plants like rattlesnake plantain orchids have interesting textures due to tiny bumps that cover their leaves, creating “a unique feeling that’s hard to describe.” The genus Begonia also offers “a wide variety of leaf textures that can be enjoyable.” While some can be “glossy,” others can be “hairy” or “slightly warty,” so be prepared for surprises if you choose to work with begonias on World Naked Gardening Day.
Fun though they may be to touch, remember not to get too caught up in groping your plants, no matter how interesting they may feel. You’re here to garden, not fondle the flora. “Touching is fine provided you do so with a light hand,” Candeias cautioned. “Too much touching can stunt growth and damage the plant.”
If you’re looking for a way to connect with nature, develop some self-love, and leave your comfort zone, consider heading outside this Saturday sans garb. Life’s too short to stay clothed 100-percent of the time.