Gardening with Allergies

If you’re gardening with allergies, there some measures you can take for relief. The problem is pollen, which is produced by the male reproductive part of a plant. It needs to reach the female part of the flower for fertilization to occur.

Pollen is transferred to female plants by the wind or by insects. Windborne pollen is responsible for most allergy problems.

gardening with allergies: pollen

Windborne pollen (left) aggravates allergy sufferers. Plants that are insect pollinated tend not to cause as many problems

Gardening with allergies: the solution is avoidance

Basically, there are four ways for dealing with allergies.

  • Medication for symptoms
  • Immunotherapy (allergy shots)
  • Avoidance – staying indoors
  • Choosing plants based on their allergy profile.

It is healthier for the body to prevent the allergic reaction from occurring instead of allowing it to take place and using drugs to suppress the symptoms.

If you can avoid exposure, your need for medication or allergy shots goes down, which can spare you misery and save you time and money.

Gardening with allergies – choose plants carefully

Pollen levels vary greatly based on the plants you choose for your yard. Many landscape plants – especially those that do not set seed – are male clones.

In his book Allergy-Free Gardening: The Revolutionary Guide to Healthy Landscaping Thomas Leo Ogren explains that most allergy problems are the result of modern landscaping plant choices. We tend to prefer tidy low-maintenance plants (males that produce pollen) over seed-producing plants (female that don’t produce pollen). He rates popular garden and landscape plants and gives them an allergy ranking, so you can learn which plants to avoid.

Here are more tips for controlling pollen in your yard:

  • Avoid planting allergy-provoking plants. Ogren’s book includes helpful and informative plant lists.
  • Carefully plan what you plant. Many people are sensitive to the pollen from just a few types of plants. Aim for variety and don’t plant too many of the same plant.
  • Weed regularly and never let weeds go to flower.
  • If you are particularly sensitive to one type of plant, but really want it in your garden, plant it away from your house and well away from windows that you open.
  • Plant groundcovers or use gravel to keep dirt and other allergens to a minimum.

Gardening with allergies – pollen counts

When gardening with allergies, choose to spend time in your garden during low pollen counts. Know what it is that you are allergic to and find out when these plants are dispersing pollen.

You can check the pollen count here: pollen index for the USA, or the Weather Network’s pollen counter in Canada.

More tips:

  • If you must garden during high pollen counts, wear a mask.You can buy them affordably at most hardware stores. They may not make a fashion statement, but they can be very helpful.
  • Change your clothes after gardening so you don’t track pollen into your home.
  • Shower and wash your hair after outdoor activities during times of high pollen counts. Airborne pollen can collect in your hair be transferred to your pillow.

Article contributed by Don Johnson of, a guide to natural allergy prevention without drugs.

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