Gardening In The Nude (or New Use For Rhubarb)



From Gene Logsdon

One of the greatest mysteries of life for me is society’s ambivalence about the naked human body. People line up by the hundreds every day to get a look at Michelangelo’s anatomically-correct statue of David. But if a real live David were to stand naked beside that statue, the sex police would haul him away, even in Italy where nude statues are as common as pizza.

I once did a lot of “research” into the subject of outdoor nudity. Research for a writer means I “asked around.” What gives here, anyway?

You’d be amazed. Actually most of you would not be amazed because what I found out was that most people, given their druthers, would not wear clothes in their back yards or even front yards, if they could get away with it, at least not when the weather is nice. People I asked drew the line only at going beyond the home environment unclothed or where the environment inclined excessively to poison ivy and mosquitoes. One person put it this way: “If everyone took their clothes off while they mowed the lawn, in twenty minutes no one would take a second look. If the nude person was as ugly as I am, no one would take a first look.”

I have a hunch that there are plenty of backyard swimming pools whose waters reflect bare backsides more than they do swimsuits. For sure what passes for a swimsuit in many of them would make a typical thong look kind of klutzy. But people also expressed a yen, if they trusted that I was not going to name names, for gardening in the nude. In fact the practice has been sanctified into folk tradition, at least in the Ozarks. According to folklorist Vance Randolph, writing in the 1930s and 40s, the spring planting ritual in the hills involved a sort of celebratory session of love making on the soft, loamy, newly-planted soil to insure a good crop. Some fifty years later, I asked an Ozarkian if people still did that. “Wellllll” (long pause). “Welllll” (another long pause). “Yes.” Did Ozarkians believe that such activity would enhance crop production? He smiled. “Oh, they just use that for an excuse.”

However, I don’t think that the yearning to go unclothed into the world, especially in the privacy of the garden, has much to do with sex. People just get tired of having their bodies bound and gagged by clothes all the time. My theory is that those lovely brick walls that enclose English gardens, especially those dating back to Victorian times, were built mainly to allow for nude gardening.

My favorite story on this subject comes from a Tennessee gardener when I asked him if he ever hoed in the nude. “Why do you think I live back a long lane, surrounded by 120 acres of my own property?” he replied. But even then it is risky, he acknowledged. “Once when I thought all the other members of the family were gone for the day, I decided to shed my clothes while I weeded the vegetables. All of a sudden here comes my wife down the lane with a carload of her friends. Oh boy. I thought about improvising a pair of shorts out of nearby rhubarb leaves but while I hid behind the plant, they left.”

My riddle for the day: can you really be 100% organic with clothes on?


I do agree garden in the nude is a wonderful experience and the enjoyment is the best experience in the life.

I garden in the nude all the time. We now live in Florida behind a 6 foot back yard privacy fence in a typical suburban neighborhood. For years in a condo, I gardened in T-shirts and shorts that got soaking wet with sweat and were very uncomfortable.
Now, I only wear sneakers to garden in the BACK yard. Even in the hot weather there is this wonderful breeze that feels so good on my skin. Clean up is extra easy under the hose. I get no complaints from the flowers, birds, or the neighborhood Red Shouldered hawks. The sense of freedom and comfort are a constant pleasure.
Happy in my natural “clothes.”

More ozone protection back then though. Just sayin’.

Looking over the previous comments, I would say it depends on how you define gardening.

Two comments: 1) I do not wear a bra either but–like my late Uncle Herman–may soon need a “bro.” 2) Folks from the Mid-East and some other parts of the world may have a different take on this topic. Maybe we could hear from them sometime? (For the record, I am contrary enough to favour nude gardening, too, except where stinging nettles abound.)

I once heard someone state that the reason it’s cold at the poles is that there’s a lot of ice there. I was skeptical, and that hypothesis may soon be put to to test as polar ice continues to melt. However, I think the actual case with nudity parallels that reasoning. People make a fuss over nudity for the simple reason that people wear clothes most of the time. At least in public. Were clothes to disappear, I’m sure we would quickly adapt, at least socially. Female breasts would quickly lose some of their fascination, becoming no more enchanting than, say, a shapely leg, or any other anatomical feature that is frequently in plain view. Parents would quickly cease to be outraged should their small children see a man’s penis, but would rather try to hush them when they insisted on laughing at the sight. However, I draw the line at naked gardening. I recently saw a video on Facebook of a young woman using a scythe to mow a field. She was barefoot. My first thought – and I have some experience with this implement – was that she should be wearing boots. Gardens are dangerous places. I live in a rural area on a dead-end road where I could garden in the nude without offending anyone, and while weeding on hot summer days I have surely been tempted to shed my garments, yet the proximity of my garden to my bee hives, the deer flies, and the ticks have kept my modesty intact.

Not so sure I could summon up courage to garden in the nude, but it probably wouldn’t bother any of my Latvian neighbours or at least in underwear, which some do. I’m a Brit and so far more prudish about that sort of thing than my Latvian neighbours, they have family saunas in the nude anyway at times, something I am not too sure about. I can however relate very much to Beth’s entirely practical aversion, especially as we have retreated for the evening to leave the space to the mosquitoes

The parents of all humanity got banned from the garden of Eden for recognizing their own nakedness. Perhaps, if we all started to ignore it again in our own gardens, we’d get invited back.

You gotta be kidding right? Too many things on the farm have to be done “right now” that would tear me up for me to wear anything less than boots,jeans or work pants.

Often ran into naked hikers in my youth (hippie days)–I envied them.

If I remember correctly Ruth Stout gardened in the nude up into her 80’s. Maybe she just decided the ground needed covered not her!! Didn’t you interview her for a story at some point?

It boils down to this. The people who should go nude wont! The ones who shouldnt want to!! I’m no longer in the shape i was when i was a model for one year. (Dont ask). Gruesome ! lol

Wow. Be careful with that hoe & shovel, boys! This was hilarious and I thank you for posting it, you made my day!! I would definitely have been worried about bug bites in odd places . . . =8-o

I’m not a fan of public nudity (don’t ask) but on a personal basis I never wear a bra unless I absolutely have to. This I do for health reasons more than anything. I just think they are restrictive and I feel like I can’t breathe with it on. I’m sure that when I have to wear one of those things my BP goes up. I wear a jacket or a sweater during the times of the year when it’s chilly/cold and no one knows the difference anyway. There are articles online about underwire bras being a contributor to breast cancer. I have no idea if it’s a fact or not but they remind me of an instrument of torture. You can tell bra’s were invented by men . . . (stop throwing tomatoes).

And a thong? What is the point of those things anyhow? I can’t imagine anything being more uncomfortable (remember digging your pants out of your butt crack as a kid and catching what-for?). And, IMPHO, they look so uncomfortable they certainly can’t seem very sexy, no?? There is so little left to the imagination that it seems a waste of money to buy them and a waste of time to bother to put them on. Ah, well my age is probably showing.

When I was back in my hometown for my 45th school reunion last year, I saw my “old” doctor (who was in his mid-80’s) and we were on the subject of clothes for some reason and he said he told all of his women patient’s not to wear colored underwear (like panties) because the dye can be problematic – infections, rashes, etc. Also he told them if they wear white underwear to always bleach it, but also to always run them through an extra rinse cycle or two in order to eliminate the bleach. I was one of the people he told not to wear underwear (I’m still a free-spirit in that regard 40 years later ;> ) and I have never had a UTI. That’s a true fact.

Even though I live at the end of a country road and have no near neighbors, I have an aversion to nude gardening which is purely practical. It’s the same reason why I don’t wear shorts and flipflops. I regularly have to climb through barbed wire fences, chase the cows that got out and came to supervise the weeding or the stray dogs that want to chase the sheep (just think about plopping your bare fanny down on a metal tractor seat or a 4-wheeler that’s been sitting in the sun on a 100-degree day!). The heavy-duty denim of Levis gives my lower legs protection from star thistles, blackberry vines, poison oak and the odd rattlesnake. Not to mention the mosquitoes and biting flies. Yes, I make my own bug repellent but the major ingredient is peppermint essential oil — if I were running around in the altogether, I’d have to anoint sensitive nether parts that might not take kindly to peppermint’s “astringent” effects…

I live at the end of one of those Tennessee lanes, but once a year the volunteer fire department opens the gate and comes on down seeking donations–their timing is impeccable!

I hiked nude in the high rockies but those were the days when I worked as a nude artist model . My grandfather always sunbathed nude by his tool shed hew had a couple of walls on either side so traffic couldn’t see him We knew not to go back there He was german with bright red hair and freckles and very blue eyes. Its amazing he did not get skin cancer…. no sun block in those days.

The first Saturday in May is designated as World Gardening Day. As my sister in law said “it gives new meaning to ‘planting your seed’ ” . 🙂 As for me (and my age and physical limitations) it would be a federal felony for” endangering the health and welfare of the citizens” if I were caught. So I guess I will just have to pass on celebrating that holiday.
Gene I recall in one of your tomes you theorized that was why the formal English gardens had walls around them – the supposed prudes of the Elizabethan era were actually Libertines!

That is fascinating about the Ozark fertility rite! (Having farmed in the Ozarks, the soil needs every bit of help it can get.). Robert Graves and The Golden Bough notwithstanding, living close to the land encourages a natural approach. Life, death and sex are all around you and our civilized rules for clothing look silly. My mother would work in the garden topless when we kids were small, and I would disc the back 40 sans-clothing as a teenager until I got sunburned once. 🙂

Marsha aka Homegrown secure in SE Ohio May 25, 2016 at 9:52 am

Hear! Hear! Well said.

Interesting! Then I suppose one may expect the number of people who walk around naked in their homes must be even higher. I had read many years ago about a trend in Germany (and Switzerland, I think) of hiking naked. I understand the appeal, and I am grateful I have never come across a naked hiker!

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