We have already noticed what a barbeque summer 2017 in the UK is turning out to be, and the two heatwaves we experienced in recent weeks were unusual in their heat and duration. Today however, the whole country is due a hot and sunny experience. Gardeners are likely to take advantage of this break in the showery and windy conditions and get out, if not to garden, then to bathe in the summery warmth and enjoy the fruit of gardening labour.
Not having had much sun this year gardeners should beware.The risk of sunburn is high.The Watch Your Back campaign promoted by Alan Titchmarsh and Charlie Dimmock, aims to remind gardeners of the risks of melanoma.There is also an Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code promoted by the RHS reminding us that young gardeners too need to get into the habit of skin protection.The risk is higher for people who spend lots of time time outdoors during spring and summer, and particularly high in men over 50. For men melanoma tends to appear on the back, head and neck, and because these spots are out of sight the diagnosis is often later.
Sunburn doesn’t only happen when the sun is out. Skin is exposed to the effects of the sun even on cloudy days. Advice to manage the risks of melanoma are common sense: cover up; use sun screen; and stay out of direct sunlight between 11am and 3pm. Plan to do gardening jobs in the potting shed during the sunniest periods, use an umbrella or parasol or gazebo to create some shade in which to work, use the timer on your mobile phone to remind yourself when to reapply sunscreen.
The most important thing is to take the power of the sun seriously and ensure that the enjoyment of gardening is not spoilt by a reticence to take action that ensures a gardener's wellbeing.