Having read a thread here on DG about a fellow gardener who lost her thumb due an infection caused by a cut on her thumb that did not heal properly. I wanted to do some research and this is what I found and want to share with all of you.
Do use common sense and wear good quality gardening gloves when you are pruning, cleaning up and doing general gardening work. I invested in my own protection by purchasing several pair, in just a bright screaming colors as I could find, since I am forever forgetting where I left them. And of course I'm always losing at least one somewhere. I've often wondered if there's a relationship there when losing socks? Also a long sleeved shirt is a must. I found a great bargain on men's long sleeved summer shirts at the local Good Will store and those are specifically for me to wear out in the garden. They are baggy and allow good air flow in the humid heat here in VA. Just throw them in the washer when I'm done.
According to the Sphagnum Peat Moss Association, there is a serious misunderstanding regarding what product can harbor this fungus. Here are illustrations of what each moss looks like.
Sphagnum moss is the culprit. It is a living moss that grows on top of a sphagnum bog. The fungus sporotrichum schenckii is know to live in the growing moss. This "living" moss is normally used in the floral industry to make baskets and wreaths. Workers handling the product are advised to wear heavy clothing and gloves to protect themselves from cuts and scrapes. Gardeners wishing to use sphagnum moss to create their own baskets or for other uses should simply follow the same advice: and where gloves and long sleeves to avoid contact with the moss. This horticultural peat moss is harvested off the the top few inches of the live sphagnum mosses.
Sphagnum peat moss
Sphagnum peat moss, however, has been confused with being the source of this problem. That is not the case. Sphagnum peat moss is a safe organic method to help improve your soil. This moss is used by gardeners all over the world as a relatively inexpensive way to amend soil of all types. Peat having a rather unique cell structure that enables it to aerate plant roots by loosening heavy clay soils; add boy to sand soil; and save water by absorbing and holding moisture.
This moss is deadmaterial that accumulates as new live material grows on top and exerts press on the peat moss below.
Evidently the similarity in the names has caused some confusion about which produce should be used with special care. As always, do wear the correct clothing and gloves while gardening. Good sanitation by throughly washing one's hands in hot soapy water is always a good idea. But if any cuts or scrapes do not heal properly, please see your doctor immediately.
Information is from the Virginia Cooperative Extension and pictures are from public domain sites.
About Catherine Smith
Hubby and I have been doing Organic Gardening off and on for over 25 years. Just finishing the Virginia Master Gardening classes at the end of Nov 07. I love talking and teaching gardening to anybody that will listen.