April 25, 2019

Gardening with Allergies

For some, yard work is but a chore on a long list of to-do’s.

For some, yard work is but a chore on a long list of to-do’s. But for others, tending a garden brings great peace and joy. Whether you love it or loathe it, gardening with allergies in mind makes good sense. Thinking ahead can drastically change the experience for allergy sufferers. Keep an eye on the forecast for cloudy, windless days. Less pollen flies through the air when the wind stays calm. Early morning and late evening usually have the highest pollen counts, so plan your day accordingly.

Before setting foot outside, consider your allergy medicine regimen and how you can best prepare to spend time in the garden. Staying on your daily allergy medicine during the season(s) you are susceptible (even if symptoms clear up) can make a big difference in your body’s response to allergens. Make sure to have allergy eye drops at the ready if you suffer from eye allergies. Those with asthma need to check their rescue inhaler and make sure it’s good to go.

There’s no need to buy special clothing to get out and play in the dirt, but you should wear long pants, long sleeves, sunglasses, a hat, and gloves to protect yourself from airborne allergens that could send you into a sneezing, sniffling fit. Some people also don a mask to prevent them from inhaling allergens. Once you finish your yard work, it’s best to leave gardening tools and shoes outside, toss your clothes in the washing machine, and shower immediately. These simple steps will really help keep the allergens away.

Most people are surprised to hear that beautiful, showy flowers are rarely the ones causing a symphony of sneezes. The pollen from these flowers is heavy, sticky, and does not remain airborne for long. Pollination mostly occurs thanks to bees and other insects instead of the wind. Let the bees, wasps, and butterflies guide you to allergy-friendly plants! A few exceptions to the bright flower rule are chrysanthemums, daisies, and sunflowers. These are more allergenic and should be used sparingly in the allergy-sufferer’s garden. You can find hypo-allergenic sunflower seeds, so look for those if you simply must have those big, beautiful yellow blooms in your garden.

Trees, grasses, and weeds typically have lightweight pollen that floats through the air longer. These wind-pollinated plants make lots of pollen that is easily inhaled. A good rule of thumb is to buy trees and shrubs that have berries or fruit because these female plants will not produce tons of pollen like the male versions. Avoid seedless or fruitless male trees and shrubs.

Use your nose to avoid super fragrant plants that can trigger allergic symptoms or asthma attacks. Also be strategic when deciding which plants go where. If you have wind-pollinated plants you love, place them in the back of the garden and away from doors and windows.

Some low-pollen flowers that will beautify your yard without causing an allergy attack include:

  • Begonia
  • Cactus
  • Daffodil
  • Geranium
  • Hydrangea
  • Lily
  • Rose
  • Snapdragon
  • Tulip

Allergy-friendly trees are:

  • Apple tree
  • California fan palm
  • California juniper
  • Cherry tree
  • Dogwood
  • Magnolia
  • Pear tree
  • Plum tree

Who doesn’t love the look of a thriving green lawn?

Unfortunately, grass is a huge allergy culprit. Not only does it have its own pollen to spread, but it also provides a comfortable hiding spot for dust, mold, and other pollen. Fescue grass is low maintenance even through droughts and is extremely popular in southern California. Bonus: It does not release pollen until it is a foot tall or higher, so keep it short, and your allergies will thank you. St. Augustine grass also does well here and produces less pollen than Bermuda grass, another popular choice.

Now that you’re armed with tools for gardening success, go forth and spruce up that yard! Consult with a trusted local garden center on allergy-friendly plants that thrive in your specific area. Don’t let allergies keep you from cultivating a garden that will bring you year-round happiness.