How to - The Healthy Gardener

Combatting allergies in the garden

Keep those pollen-producing plants out of the garden

Grass is troublesome, particularly when pollen and mould are churned up by lawn mowers. Since pollen levels are higher between 3 a.m. and 9 a.m., mow in the afternoon and wear a mask, he says. Better yet, hire someone to mow and stay indoors.

Other surfaces matter, too. Gravel mulch is better for paths and patios since pollen sinks below the surface. Smooth concrete surfaces, on the other hand, enable pollen to sit on the surface and be blown about. Bark or organic mulches are not recommended because they trap mould spores.

If you have allergies, choosing the time of day when you work can help minimize problems. "The worst time to garden is when it's hot, dry and windy," says Ogren. "There's all manner of stuff moving around." Damp, still weather means less pollen will be airborne. "Don't bring flowers inside, and leave your pollen- covered gardening clothes outside," Huntington adds.

RATING PLANTS
The Ogren Plant Allergy Scale rates plants from 1 to 10, where one represents the best plants and 10 represents the worst.

BEST PLANTS (1-2)
- Red maple (Acer rubrum 'Autumn Glory')
- Allium
- Columbine (Aquilegia)
- Sea Pink, Thrift (Armeria spp.)
- Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)
- False indigo (Baptisia australis)
- Bellflower (Campanula spp.)
- Coleus (Solenostemon)
- Crocus
- Cyclamen
- Foxglove (Digitalis spp.)
- Coral bells (Heuchera spp.)
- Hosta
- Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica)
- Impatiens
- Lobelia
- Saucer magnolia (Magnolia soulangiana)
- Virginia bluebells (Mertensia spp.)
- Orchids
- Peony (Paeonia)
- Petunia (Petunia x hybrida)
- Solomon's seal (Polygonatum)
- Rhododendron
- Pearlwort (Sagina spp.)
- Hens and chicks (Sempervivum spp.)
- Periwinkle (Vinca spp.)
- Pansies, Violas, Violets (Viola spp.)

WORST PLANTS (7-10)
- Red maple (Acer rubrum 'Autumn Spire')
- Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)
- Artemisia 'Powis Castle'
- Silvermound (Artemisia schmidtiana)
- Painted daisy (Chrysanthemum carinatum)
- 'Golden Chalice' and 'Mary Stoker' chrysanthemums
- C. segetum, 'Wisley Bronze'
- Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica)
- Forsythia
- Hellebores (Helleborus spp.)
- Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum)
- Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum)
- Sycamore (Platanus spp.)
- Oak (Quercus spp.)
- Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
- Meadow rue (Thalictrum spp.)

DIOECIOUS PLANTS (males rate high, females low)
- Silver maple (Acer saccharinum)
- Pampus grass (Cortaderia selloana)
- Ash (Fraxinus spp.)
- Junipers (Juniperus spp.)
- Mulberry (Morus spp.)
- Willow (Salix spp.)

Read more in How to and The Healthy Gardener

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