Vegetable Gardening

Should You Garden Barefoot?

Five good objections against going into the garden barefoot to consider before your next harvest.

I’m a barefoot gardener, and until I posted a video online of my daughter and me in the garden picking veggies for dinner, I never considered any issues with that. I prefer to be barefoot when outside as much as possible, so what could be wrong with going into the garden barefoot?

A gardening-savvy friend of mine who I trust, spoke up when she saw the video and asked, “do you always garden barefoot?” She was concerned about what might be in the soil, mainly in the compost or manure. Frankly, I’d never thought about it, but I’ve since learned that there are several reasons to be wary about gardening barefoot.

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5 Darn good reasons not to garden barefoot

  1. Bugs that bite. A vegetable garden attracts all kinds of bugs we don’t see regularly, and depending on where you live, you can harbor pests that bite and bees that sting. The most common biting insect that is attracted to a garden is Thrips, long little bugs that love veggie gardens, though wearing sandals won’t help with those. Those don’t worry me, nor do fire ants, which are also a nuisance in some states. I read about a woman who refuses to garden barefoot anymore due to a spider that bit her and caused her to lose half of her calf. Not only does she not garden barefoot, but she also wears boots. I probably would too.
  2. Soil quality. As my friend mentioned, do you know what’s in your soil? Did you recently fertilize your plants? All the great nutrients we give to our plants through compost and manure, perhaps we don’t want to absorb into our own skin — we’re people, not plants!
  3. Prickly things. Depending on what’s growing in your garden, like prickly squash vines and nightshades, or thorny fruit bushes, gardening barefoot might be a terrible idea! It will probably only take you once or twice to figure this one out, though. I certainly wouldn’t be barefoot gardening if my garden was surrounded by blackberries and raspberries.
  4. Bacteria and parasites. Other than things like tetanus (when you step on something old and rusty in the garden), hookworm is probably the main concern about going barefoot basically anywhere—you can even get it at the beach. In terms of your garden, this is most likely to occur if you have dogs and cats pooping in your garden, because that’s where hookworm comes from. Also, if you have any cuts on your feet, you’re at risk of contracting several diseases, so if you do, or if you are Diabetic, shoes are a solid idea.
  5. Accidents. If you’re accident-prone like me, it might not be a good idea to use sharp tools in the garden while barefoot. You can be assured that when you’re down in the dirt kneeling, that when you get up, the sharpest tool in the shed will end up right under your foot. 

My feet are itching just thinking about this list! Whether you garden barefoot, in sandals, or in boots is totally up to you. I still do it here and there when I’m not in it for long, but I do make my two-year-old wear shoes now when she helps, for all of the reasons above. 

Do you garden barefoot? I’d love to hear your pros and cons on this in the comment section. 

Discover 10 top tips for growing, harvesting, and enjoying fruits, vegetables, herbs and more from your home garden—when you access the FREEBIE How to Grow a Vegetable Garden, right now!

By Amanda MacArthur

Amanda MacArthur is Senior Editor & Producer for Food Gardening Network and GreenPrints. She is responsible for generating all daily content and managing distribution across web, email, and social. In her producer role, she plans, edits, and deploys all video content for guides, magazine issues, and daily tips. As a best-selling cookbook author, Amanda cooks using ingredients from her outdoor gardens in the summer and from her indoor hydroponic garden in the winter.

One reply on “Should You Garden Barefoot?”

I love going barefoot! My favorite time in the garden is when my husband tills the soil after it gets warm and dry. He tills and I follow after raking out weeds or whatever needs to be removed. It’s so wonderful feeling the soft warm soil under my feet, wiggling my toes into it. If it’s cold or damp, forget it.

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