Spring is in the air — which can mean misery for those living with allergies. But for those who want to see flowers bloom in their backyards, it’s possible to have your garden and enjoy your sanity too. By paying attention to the climate and remaining mindful of the times when you tend personal crops, you can breathe easy while indulging in this outdoor hobby.
Here’s some expert tips to help you out:
- Plant the right seeds: Not all plants produce the same amount of allergen, so keep in mind the pollen production of the crops you choose. Gardening Know How notes many low-pollen plants still look beautiful in bloom, in part because they rely on carriers like bees and butterflies to pollinate instead of waiting for the wind. Roses, petunias, daylilies and sunflowers all can grow in allergy-friendly landscapes. The Ogren Plant Allergy Scale System actually grades the allergy potential of plants, whether you plant shrubs, trees, flowers or just grass in your yard.
- Watch the weather: Low wind and rain means less pollen in the air. That’s why the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends picking the best weather conditions for gardening whenever possible. You can even subscribe to the National Allergy Bureau’s email alerts to learn when centers in your region detect high levels of pollen or mold in the air. Whenever possible, contain gardening to windless and cloudy days.
- Take your meds: It’s always a good idea to keep up with any recommended allergy medication prescribed to you by a medical professional. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends if you aren’t on regular medication to start taking anti-allergy medicine a couple weeks before pollen season begins.
- Bring the PPE: While gardening to some degree always involves getting your hands dirty, it’s wise to equip yourself to make sure as little grime sticks to you— or enters your airways. Wear a NIOSH-approved mask whenever you go out in the dirt, along with protective glasses or goggles. Bring gloves and wear a long-sleeve shirt, especially if you have allergic reactions on your skin.
- Maintain your lawn: Remember your garden is just a small part of the environment where you will work. To keep allergens under control, the AAFA recommends keeping the grass cut to two inches or less. That way, pollens won’t climb the blades of grass and reach to high into the wind. The same goes for bushes, where keeping branches short means less space for dust and mold to collect. Make sure to clip those hedges. You could also consider asking a family member or friend or even hiring a lawn company to keep the lawn and hedges in shape to avoid the grass pollens.
- Leave the pollen outside: The AAFA says its best to keep all your home’s windows and doors shut whenever you garden or tend your lawn. That way, disrupted allergens won’t carry through the wind and into your home. For similar reason, as soon as you come into your home, shower and change clothes, leaving the allergens on the outdoor wear and gear away from the places in your home where you like to relax.
- Ditch the mulch: Composts and biodegradable mulch provide breeding grounds for molds. If you are concerned about having a reaction, Gardening Know How recommends just avoiding mulch altogether. You can choose to fill in your garden with pebble, gravel or shells. If you really want the feel of a compost, buy it pre-finished rather than making your own.