Gardening tips for allergies

Ways to keep your allergies in check.
There are some things you can do to help minimize your exposure to the pollen, mold and mildew commonly found in gardens that can aggravate allergies:

Think large
Plants with large, colorful flowers are pollinated by bees and butterflies. These plants are your friends. Have as many of these as you want in your garden (unless their fragrance bothers you). Plants with small flowers that don't have much smell are usually pollinated by the wind. Bad, bad, bad for allergies. If you have some of these in your garden, you have choices:

  1. Remove the offending plants

  2. Keep the plants trimmed low so they don't flower

  3. Move these plants away from the house (especially windows) and any walkways or patios that you frequently use
Keep sex in mind
Now, now, it's not what you think. Many trees are either male or female. The male trees have the pollen. The female trees have no pollen--and if you're lucky, you'll get wonderful fruit. Many gardeners steer away from the female trees because they don't want the mess of the fruit and seeds. Ya' gotta' choose. Pollen or fruit.

Cut it out
Large expanses of grass can wreak havoc on gardeners with allergies--especially if you're the one who has to do the mowing. Again, you have a few options here:

  1. Cut back on the grass--put in low-maintenance native plants or groundcovers recommended by your favorite garden center or landscaper as good low-allergy choices.

  2. Cut back on the mowing--put someone else in charge (check out these lawn maintenance companies) and keep your windows closed while your lawn is being mowed.
Schedule wisely
Okay, you may have heard that popular recommendation that those with allergies should limit their gardening to cold, rainy days. Yeah, right. That sounds like fun. No, you don't have to garden with an umbrella, but it is a smart idea to find out when pollen counts are highest in your area and try to avoid those times of day and days that are windy. After a rain is usually a good time because pollen counts are lowest--and the soil in your garden is nice and workable.

Be prepared
Dress--and undress--the smart way when you garden:

  1. Wear gloves, goggles and a respiratory mask when you garden and see if that helps your symptoms.

  2. After gardening, take off your gardening clothes immediately--the laundry room is a good place--and take a shower as soon as possible, being sure to wash your hair well. No sense bringing all that pollen into your house or sleeping all night with it in your hair.
Keep it clean
Standing water in buckets or puddles? Leaky spigots or broken gutters? Piles of leaves or other garden debris? You're just asking for mold and mildew. Grass too tall? Weeds taking over the garden beds? Trouble, trouble, and more trouble for those with allergies. Keep your home repairs up to date and your garden neat and trimmed--or hire someone to do it.

Get help
You don't have to go it alone. See an allergist and ask about medications or other treatment options that might help get you back in the garden.

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