Pollen problems can be a thing of the past. There is no reason to stay stuck indoors when you want to go out in warm weather due to your, or your loved one’s, allergies.
By carefully planning what you plant and following some simple safeguards you, your children and your pets can enjoy allergy free fun right in your own yard.
Four factors will determine whether you will have an allergy free foundation for your landscape and garden. We outline them for you here, but please remember that this information should not be considered a substitute for seeking the opinion of your professional healthcare team.
The first and largest category of allergy free landscaping and gardening is plants. They are the major contributors to allergens in your landscape. A few do’s and don’ts will go a long way to avoiding the sneezes, sniffles and scratchiness when doing outdoor chores.
Don’t buy male varieties of your favorite landscape plants. Male plants are often labled “seedless,” but produce a lot of allergy inducing pollen. Instead you should look for female trees and shrubs. You may have to clean up after a female plant more often, but they do not produce any pollen.
Remove your old turf grass and replace it with all-female sod for any lawn area that you want to keep. Allergy free mowing will be the major benefit, but an all-female turf grass will also require less mowing, since it does not grow as high, saving you both time and money.
Plant only native shrubs and trees. Why? Because they are the best adapted species for your region and climate. They will stay healthier and a healthy plant is disease resistant, producing more oxygen and sending fewer molds into your environment. Healthy trees and shrubs discourage insects and their residue (honeydew), which also is a host for mold.
Since wood chips or bark mulch can retain moisture and encourage molds to grow, use decorative gravel (not marble), oyster shells as a mulch instead, or cover up open areas with special plant groundcovers.
Avoid planting too many of the same trees and shrubs in your yard. A variety of plants offers diversity and beauty as well as limiting your exposure to any one kind of allergen produced by a particular plant.
When it comes to flowers for your garden, pick pollen free varieties. These are often double flowered with no male parts. You can check with a certified nurseryman or your local cooperative extension agent for recommendations.
Strong smelling plants can trigger an allergic attack. Fragrant oils from shrubs and trees can cause allergies in in people who are sensitive to perfumes.
Watch the weather. Hot, windy days are pollen problems. A nice rain will wash pollen out of the air, but when you have more than a few days of rain in a week, you will have more mold, especially when it’s warm outside, so plan accordingly.
You will breathe easier if you limit your gardening to the later afternoon or evening when pollen concentrations in the air are at their lowest. Cool and cloudy days are ideal for your landscaping and gardening chores, since the hot sunny days are ones when more pollen is released.
It is necessary to be extremely cautious with all herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Although they may rid your property of certain allergy producing insects or plants, exposure to these chemicals can be worse. Studies have shown that chemical pesticides can harm the immune system. Allergies and a hypersensitivity to mold and pollen can actually be caused by one heavy exposure to pesticides. Find organic alternatives. Use bio-intensive integrated pest management. Use compost that you can make yourself out of kitchen and garden scraps.
Dress for allergy free gardening success.
Be sure to cover up. Wearing gloves, a long sleeved shirt, a hat, sunglasses or goggles and an approved pollen mask will keep the allergens off your skin. After working in the garden take take a shower and wash your hair. Change into some clean clothes and stick your gardening duds right in the washing machine so you don’t have to touch them again before the allergens are gone.
For further authoritative information we highly recommend Allergy-Free Gardening, by Thomas Leo Ogren. Mr. Ogren rates plants on trademarked scale, ‘OPALS,’ which stands for Ogren Plant Allergy Scale. This unique method rates all garden and landscape plants on a one to ten basis. If a plant rates a one, it has low allergen qualities. Any plant with a ten represents the worst and severe allergy potential
For fun you may want to take the US EPA Mold Mini Quiz http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldcourse/pretest.html
Gardening with Allergies
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)
Allergies Getting Worse?
US Environmental Protection Agency
Thomas Leo Ongren Allergy Free Gardening