Allergy & Air on July 17, 2014 1 Comment Spring and early summer usher in both gardening and allergy seasons. But avid gardeners don’t have to choose between their hobby and allergy relief. Understanding a bit about how plants contribute to allergy symptoms can help gardeners develop a strategy for having a well-tended garden while minimizing allergy symptoms. 1. Timing is Everything Pollen counts vary based on weather and time of day. Pollen counts tend to rise throughout the morning and then dissipate in the evening. Allergy sufferers will fare best by gardening early in the morning or in the evening. Pollen is typically higher on windier and warmer days and lowest on cool, damp days. Rain will generally wash pollen off plants and dampen pollen so that it is less likely to be carried by the wind. While prolonged and gentle rain lowers pollen counts, brief thunderstorms may increase pollen levels by disrupting pollen and dispersing it into the air. You should also consider planning gardening activities for those times when pollen counts will be the lowest. There are many websites that allow you to monitor the pollen count in your area. You may also be able to find out the pollen count during your local newscast. 2. Choose Plants Carefully Many people assume flowering plants are responsible for seasonal allergies. However, it’s rare for flower pollen to cause significant seasonal allergy symptoms. Flower pollens typically are heavy and fall to the ground rather than floating in the air. Most allergy symptoms are caused by pollens from trees, grasses and weeds, which tend to be light and airborne for a longer time. Allergy sufferers may want to minimize the number of trees, shrubs and other plants that don’t produce seeds or flowers. Those are more likely to trigger the sneezing, running nose, congestion and itchy eyes associated with seasonal allergies. Most flowering bushes and trees don’t release much pollen. However, sunflowers, daisies and chrysanthemums are all related to ragweed and, therefore, are more likely to trigger allergy symptoms. If you love sunflowers, look for hypoallergenic seeds which will give you the beauty of sunflowers without pollen. Mums and daisies don’t come in hypoallergenic versions, so people with allergies may want to skip those, or at least keep them to a minimum in the garden. And while green, healthy lawns look nice, they can be a pollen trap. Bermuda, Johnson, June, orchard, perennial rye, redtop, salt grass, sweet vernal, Timothy and fescue grasses are particularly heavy pollen producers. Allergy sufferers will do better with Buffalo and St. Augustine grasses, which produce less pollen. High pollen trees and shrubs include cypress, juniper, alder, ash, aspen, beech, birch, box elder, cedar, cottonwood, elm, hickory, maple, mulberry, oak, olive, palm, pecan, pine, poplar, sycamore, walnut and willow. Allergy friendly trees, shrubs and plants include begonia, cactus, chenille, clematis, columbine, crocus, daffodil, geranium, hosta, impatiens, iris, lily, pansy, periwinkle, petunia, phlox, fose, salvia, snapdragon, tulip, zinnia, azalea, boxwood, English yew, hibiscus, hydrangea, apple, cherry, fern pine, dogwood, English holly, magnolia, pear, plum and red maple. 3. Consider Where You Place Plants Even allergy friendly plants can trigger allergy symptoms with too much exposure. Allergy sufferers should consider placing plants in locations where they can enjoy their beauty, but where they won’t be constantly bombarded by any pollen from the plants. Minimize placement of plants outside windows and doors. Consider buying cut flowers from a local florist since most flowers coming from florists are cultivated to be pollen free. When garden flowers are brought inside, pollen production often ramps up in warm, dry spaces. The branches of hedges often collect pollen, mold and dust. If you have hedges, prune and trim them to minimize exposure to allergens. 4. Take Proper Precautions When working outside, wear protective clothing: a face mask, hat, glasses, gloves and a long-sleeve shirt to reduce pollen exposure. Avoid touching your face and eyes while working outdoors. And, be sure to remove clothes and shower or bathe immediately upon entering your home to prevent any outside allergens from being spread throughout your home. Keep grass cut low and trim shrubs and hedges to reduce the amount of pollen that is released into the air. Avoid traditional mulch and wood-chip ground covers as they often retain moisture and promote the growth of molds. Instead, use oyster shell, gravel or plant ground covers (such as vinca or pashysandra), which are less likely to retain excess moisture. There’s no way to completely eliminate allergens in the garden. But with planning, allergy sufferers can enjoy their garden with minimal allergy symptoms.