Small Measures: Garden Hand Salve


No doubt about it, I like digging in the dirt. Now that spring is officially upon us, and the weather is behaving accordingly, I’ve been working with all manner of soil and compost and manure and more. Seeds have been planted, weeds have been cleared, and mulch has been spread. All of which has taken a toll on my hands. Even when I’m wearing gloves, my hands still come out calloused and worn. Which is why I turn to my homemade garden salve.


You can whip up this salve with just a few simple ingredients and about 10 minutes time in the kitchen. This all-natural salve can soon be moisturizing your own hands, or those of a dirt-digging friend or loved one, as it makes a great gift (Mother’s and Father’s Day are coming!). Not only is it deeply emollient, the lavender, rosemary, and tea tree oils used in it all contain antibacterial properties, great for putting the kibosh on any organisms encountered while toiling the soil. Lather up before you put your gloves on, and then again later, after you’ve worked the dirt and washed up. Dig in the dirt, and then dig this salve! -Ashley English

This recipe makes about 3/4 cup of salve, so you can go with either an 8-ounce container for a large amount of salve, or spread it out over several smaller containers, such as 1 and 2-ounce sizes. The salve works best within 6 months of making it, and will keep for up to one year. For the beeswax, you can use either small pastille (pellets) like those pictured here, or grated beeswax from a solid block.

Garden Hand Salve
Makes: 3/4 cup

The Goods:
-10 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1/4 cup beeswax (pastilles or grated wax)*
-3 Tablespoons virgin coconut oil
-8 drops lavender essential oil
-8 drops tea tree oil
-8 drops rosemary essential oil
-1/2 teaspoon Vitamin E oil

*I sourced my beeswax pastilles from Mountain Rose Herbs.

The Deal:
1) Place about 2-inches of water in the bottom of a small pan.
2) Put a pourable heatproof glass or metal container in the middle of the pan (I used a Pyrex measuring cup).
3) Add the olive oil, beeswax, and coconut oil to the container.
4) Bring the water to a boil, and stir with a wooden utensil until everything has melted (I used a wooden chopstick to stir).
5) Once everything has liquified, remove the pan from the heat. Add the lavender, rosemary, tea tree, and Vitamin E oils. Stir to fully disperse.
6) Carefully pour the oil into the container(s).
7) Once the oil has cooled and solidified, label and date. Store in a cool place out of direct sunlight.

What about you? How do you care for your hands when it comes to outdoor work? I’d love to know. Happy growing!

*Images and styling by Jen Altman.

  1. Laura says:

    I love this idea and these are ingredients that I generally always have on hand. And forget the store bought hand sanitizer after making this. The tea tree oil is such a great idea (and smells so good). I use tea tree oil with lavender and water to spray on my yoga mat to mildly disinfect as well.

  2. Emily says:

    What a simple and soothing recipe for these poor ol’ dry and dirty hands. Thanks so much Ashley :)

  3. Paula says:

    You think this stuff is amazing, you should try Olive Authentique’s hand balm! Its amazing!

  4. Judi says:

    LOVE this – Thank you for posting! I shall be scouring for the ingredients and pots this weekend and can’t wait to get making!

    Do you think there is an expiration date … like, use within 3 months or one year … ?

    BTW: Laura – love the idea of the yoga mat spray. I’ll be whipping up a batch of that, too!

  5. Sarah says:

    What could you substitute the coconut oil with? (I’m allergic to it.) Thanks!

  6. Laura says:

    Sarah- I think you could sub almost any skin oil (almond, apricot, etc). You just may need to up the beeswax a bit to get the right consistency as the coconut oil is firmer at room temp than other oils.

  7. marie says:

    If you use tea tree oil, I recommend only making enough that you’ll use within a few months or make sure to keep it in the fridge. I’ve found that salves with tea tree oil tend to go funky a lot faster than those without – especially if they’re exposed to heat. They get sticky and the tea tree oil reacts with metal.

  8. Great post! And the lavender in the salve will also work as a mild mosquito repellent too!

  9. cdpquilter says:

    This recipe looks easy. Isn’t olive oil a little acidic. Would it be okay to eliminate it?

  10. cdpquilter says:

    This recipe looks easy and I could only imagine how wonderful it smells. Would it be okay to eliminate the olive oil?

  11. BeaHalliwell says:

    Olive oil is slightly acidic, but so is the mantle (outermost bit) of your skin. Soaps and detergents are rather alkaline, and strip away the acid mantle when you use them (to wash your hands.) It takes about two hours to restore that acid pH to the mantle after you wash your hands, so the olive oil is actually a protectant in terms of pH, in addition to being an emollient.

  12. Dana says:

    Can I make it without the lavender, rosemary, and tea tree oils? I don’t have them on hand and cannot purchase such a small amount in bulk! Thanks

  13. Elizabeth Burlingame says:

    Yes this will be effective w/o any EO’s. You can use whatever is on hand –>herb infused oils instead of EO’s, this will add natural color , scent and potential properties. Additionally remember the herbs, scents and color are mostly aesthetics compared to the issue which is hydration and the satisfaction of saving a dime and making a useful product.

  14. Although I loves natural healing I have never tries garden hand salve.. Looks pretty :)

  15. Laura says:

    Love this! So simple and so helpful, especially in the winter.

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