Anti-allergy Strategies

Pollen is the big culprit behind seasonal allergies. Pollen is a joy spring through fall…trees generally releasing pollen early in the spring, pollinating grasses are active late spring and early summer, and weeds are most often behind late summer and fall hay fever.

Pollinating seasons vary from region to region as well. The National Allergy Bureau has helpful seasonal allergy maps.

Home gardeners may be plagued by molds and fungus as well, which are problematic during late summer and fall.

Most plants release pollen in the early morning, so if you know you’re allergic to pollens, that may not be the best time to be out gardening. The weather can also play a role. The worst conditions for allergy sufferers are sunny, dry and windy days. Cool or cloudy days are better for gardening. When it’s wet, damp or humid, pollen is less likely to be floating in the air.

So when we finally get a chance to go out and work in the garden, there are things we can do to reduce the impact of allergens–common sense things mostly. For example, what you wear may help.

Wear gloves, long sleeves, glasses (goggles, even) and a hat. Reserve one pair of shoes and perhaps one outfit exclusively for gardening. Leave these shoes outside, along with all gardening tools.

When you have to include mowing the lawn on your list of chores, disposable paper dust masks may look a little goofy, but they will reduce exposure to pollens that are kicked up by the mower.

Also, as you plan your garden, be selective about what you plant. Native plants are suited to their regions , they are easier to care for and because they are better adapted they often need less fertilizers or pesticides. Flowers with strong fragrances should probably be avoided. They can trigger asthma and allergy-like symptoms.

Composting is the secret weapon of home gardeners, but it’s not without its risks…If you are prone to mold allergies, you probably shouldn’t turn your compost or work with it too closely. Or at least use another one of those fashionable dust masks to avoid breathing in the mold. Also steer clear of working with wet mulch or straw, raking leaves, using power blowers and if possible, mowing your grass.

A lot of those same rules apply to indoor gardening, like avoiding flowers with strong fragrances. Be careful not to over-water your indoor plants. Soggy soil or water sitting in a drainage tray creates ideal conditions for mold growth.

Happy gardening!