Gardening and fingernails, a terrible combo

YogiTom

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My job has me outside doing a lot of horticultural work, and my hands invariably show it. And now that I’ve been trying to grow out my nails for fingerpicking, and it is driving me slightly insane.

Dirt gets in under the nails constantly (ew), and even worse I’ve bent my index finger nail backwards several times when pulling weeds.

It feels like fingerpicking ukulele and gardening are incongruous, but I can’t stop doing either...what’s a dirt thumbed strummer to do??
 

captain-janeway

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My job has me outside doing a lot of horticultural work, and my hands invariably show it. And now that I’ve been trying to grow out my nails for fingerpicking, and it is driving me slightly insane.

Dirt gets in under the nails constantly (ew), and even worse I’ve bent my index finger nail backwards several times when pulling weeds.

It feels like fingerpicking ukulele and gardening are incongruous, but I can’t stop doing either...what’s a dirt thumbed strummer to do??

So is engine rebuilding and finger picking. I just use the orange pumice liquid soap to get the grease off, and since it has the grit in it, can scrap it under the nails too. Follow up is just doing a scrap around with a metal nail file (the one with the pointed tip).

Other thing is to stick fingernail into a bar of soap and rotate a little. That takes it out too. grease it harder to deal with than grease and it works pretty well. And yeah, the worse part is breaking those nails off.
 

YogiTom

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When working around the yard now, I always try to wear gloves, as one small motion can set a nail back weeks. When it's my favorite, the pointer nail, it's back to lower volume and lighter strums for a while.

I’m (almost) always wearing gloves when working in soil; you never know when the neighborhood cat or other rodents/critters may have used your garden as a convenient place to relieve themselves. :p

Still, my nail has bent back even with gloves, and that is an awful surprise!

I’ll give that orange pumice stuff a try for the dirt and grime I can’t get out with just normal soap/fingernail scraper, captain-janeway. Thanks for the recommendation!
 

YogiTom

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I’ll have to look into that Alaska Pik.

I spent most of today potting plants, with gloves on, and couldn’t bear the level of grime anymore. Cleaned and cut my nails short again as soon as I got home.

Thanks again to all for the input and recommendations!
 

bunnyf

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+1 on Alaska picks, but you do have to have some nail tip to use them. They stabilize by having the front edge tucked UNDER your existing nail tip. It doesn’t need a large amount of white tip but it does need a mm or two or it will flop around (enough that dirt would still be an issue). I like them though, since my natural nail is super soft and even a little bit of strumming would wear my nail down to the quick. Aaron Keim discusses them in a fingerpicking Youtube vid.
 

Rllink

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So are metal detecting and working on vintage motorcycles. Nothing like jamming a thorn or a wire into a fretting finger and having it be sore for a week. Before I started playing ukulele it was just part of the territory. Now it screws up my whole life for a week.
 

YogiTom

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Just a quick shout out to captain-janeway for the recommendation to use orange pumice soap; it gets dirt and grime out from under my nails like nothing else!

Still need to try the Alaska Piks, as well as the horse hoof strengthener.

All that said, I still haven’t been able to live with longer nails for more than a couple days before I trim them short again...even the “1mm beyond the tip” is far too long for my comfort or taste.
 

Milton

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Since I was little, I have liked gardening, especially without gloves, for maximum mobility and flexibility. But when I noticed how my nails went crazy and broke, I tried to use sterile rubber or garden gloves every time, in situations like planting flowers, cleaning them of drought, and changing the soil in pots. Small works can indeed be done by myself, but when I want a unique and sophisticated landscape design, I always ask for the help of specialists.
 
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Peter Frary

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I garden daily and keep my right-hand nails intact and usually perfect. However, I'm careful and normally grab most things with my left-hand. If I need the right-hand for serious work, I wear gloves.
 

clear

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I’ll have to look into that Alaska Pik.

I spent most of today potting plants, with gloves on, and couldn’t bear the level of grime anymore. Cleaned and cut my nails short again as soon as I got home.

Thanks again to all for the input and recommendations!

When I used to work on my bikes a lot, I put on latex gloves under my work/mechanics gloves. It keeps my hands super clean.

For nails bending backwards, I think you just have to be careful about it. You can try a clear nail polish to harden the nails more.
 

man0a

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I agree about wearing gloves to protect the fingertips and fingernails.
 

taknitaka

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Hi! I used to try to do my garden on my own and I also constantly had dirt under my nails because of this. Try to scratch a bar of solid soap with your nails before you start working. Then the dirt will not get under the nails and the soap will wash off with the water. Now the landscape gardeners team is working on my garden and I am waiting for them to finish the work on creating my ideal garden. I could not achieve the desired result on my own and turned to professionals. But when they do everything as I dream, I will return to gardening again.
 
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Nickie

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I will never dig in the dirt with my bare hands again. The other day, I shoved some item way up under my fingernail and I cannot get it out. It has ruined my flamenco strum for the time being. I'm watching it close in case of infection.
 

clear

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I will never dig in the dirt with my bare hands again. The other day, I shoved some item way up under my fingernail and I cannot get it out. It has ruined my flamenco strum for the time being. I'm watching it close in case of infection.
Try flushing it out with water.