Asthma Friendly Gardens Written by Thomas Leo Ogren
Asthma Friendly Gardens
Tom Ogren Recent studies have shown that babies born to mothers who were exposed to high levels of pollen in their last trimester of pregnancy have a much greater chance of developing asthma. One of main keys with asthma prevention is avoidance. When you have asthma typical garden is not a very friendly place at all. There are mold spores to contend with and worst of all is pollen. Typical gardens have pollen producing male trees and male shrubs and other plants that can provoke asthma attacks. Almost anyone with asthma will tell you that their asthma can be triggered by a good number of things, but pollen is often number one for causing an attack. Garden allergies are common, but they need not be. Allergies from gardening could be largely a thing of past… if we’re willing to make some simple changes. In fall of 1999 in Richmond, Virginia American Lung Association of Virginia (ALAV) built a new Breathe EasyŌ office and headquarters. They had this entire large building constructed with latest innovations in green construction and sustainable design. No construction materials were used that would off gas any harmful or toxic chemicals, no materials were used that would trigger asthma or allergies. Every attempt was made to build something that would be pleasant and healthy to work in. The people who work in this office now will tell you too, that they all notice what a great improvement it is. Their office is a healthy building. The ALA decided it would make perfect sense to landscape their new healthy building (in some states these are now called Health Houses) with an allergy free landscape. OPALSŌ (the plant/allergy 1-10 numerical ranking system) was used to select only those plant materials that were either very low pollen, low allergy, or that were totally pollen free, allergy free. In effect they created first true asthma friendly garden in US. Health Houses in other states are now also adding pollen free landscapes to their green construction, green buildings. A new Health House is about to be built in Pennsylvania, and PA Association of Landscapers and Nurserymen are helping to surround it with an asthma friendly landscape. Schools too are getting into clean air act, and in city of Visalia, California, Tulare County Asthma Coalition recently directed asthma friendly landscaping of a newly built elementary school. Twelve keys to building your own asthma friendly garden: 1.Plant lots of female trees and female shrubs. Not only will these not shed any pollen, they will also trap a good deal of pollen that may stay in from somewhere else. Think of these female plants as nature’s air cleaners. 2.Use only low pollen or no pollen lawns. There are types of lawns now that are pretty well pollen free and these are a big improvement over some of older lawn varieties. In southern states, if you have a common Bermuda grass lawn, consider replacing it with a newer, more asthma friendly hybrid Bermuda grass. ‘Princess 77’ is a new Bermuda grass hybrid that can be planted from seed. It is next to pollen free, grows very low and tight, and is especially good looking. 3.With OPALSŌ 1 is best, 10 is worst. Use only plants with rankings of 1-5. The more plants in your gardens that have rankings ranging from 1-3, friendlier your place will be for anyone with allergies or asthma. 4.Remove any trees or shrubs with rankings over OPALSŌ #7. The woody landscape plants with rankings of 8-10 are all sure-fire allergy triggering plants and you can live without them. 5.Replace any removed high pollen, asthma triggering plants with their opposite, female trees or female shrubs. Also good as replacements are perfect flowered plants that are known to be very low pollen producers. These will all have good (low) OPALSŌ rankings. 6.Use only plants that are well adapted to your own area. If you can find natives that have low allergy rankings, consider using them. Look around your own neighborhood, and see for yourself, which kinds of plants seem to be flourishing there already. For almost every kind of plant used in landscaping, there is now a no or low pollen version of it, if you know what to look for. 7.Use a wide variety of plant materials; diversity is good. Biodiversity always makes sense. The more diverse our gardens are fewer problems we’ll have with insects and molds. 8.Avoid plants with strong fragrances or odors, as they can cause asthma. Don’t plant jasmines or similar vines next to entrances or exits and certainly don’t use them underneath bedroom windows. 9.For mulch, use rock or gravel instead of bark to cut down on toxic mold spores in garden. Flat stones or pavers also make good, mold free mulching materials. 10.To further eliminate mold spores, encourage wild birds in your garden. Virtually all wild birds eat insects, and insect damage triggers outbreaks of mold. Even tiny hummingbirds actually eat a large number of insects. Put up a hummingbird feeder! 11.Keep your plants healthy. This too will cut down on both pollen and mold. When it is hot and windy, do some irrigating. Fertilize everything in garden spring and fall. If plants are crowding each other too much, thin them out. If tree branches overhead are putting your whole yard in deep shade, consider having tree thinned to let in more light. Fresh air and light are enemies of molds. 12.If a tree, shrub, vine or any other plant always looks sickly, looks dirty, or always attracts bugs, then shovel prune it. Dig it up and get rid of it. Replace it with something easier to grow. Don’t get caught up in having to spray insecticides all time, as they too can easily cause asthma and allergies.
A Dozen Tips for Producing Low Allergy GardensWritten by Thomas Ogren
A Dozen Tips for Producing Low-Allergy Gardens
Ó Thomas Leo Ogren
What we plant often has a direct effect on our own health and health of those near us. A pollen-producing male tree in our own yard will easily expose us to ten times more pollen than would a similar tree growing just down block. This can be compared to second-hand smoke. It is possible to inhale some smoke from a person smoking a block or two away from you, but it is hardly same as someone smoking right next to you. It is same with plants. If your own yard is full of allergenic plants, then you will be exposed most. Elementary school landscapes are frequently highly allergenic because all too often they have been landscaped with trees and shrubs that will not produce any seeds, seedpods or fruit—which children might want to toss at each other. What is over-looked is that these tidy choices are usually male cultivars (clones) and although they are “litter-free,” they are prodigious producers of allergenic pollen. I am now involved with a pollen-free landscape planting at a new elementary school in Tulare County, California. This work is being sponsored by their local asthma coalition and it is very encouraging to see preventative measures like this being taken. Children suffer greatly from allergies and asthma, and asthma is now most common chronic childhood disease in US. Another fine example of low-pollen landscaping surrounds new American Lung Association Regional Headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. With “green” construction principles a new ‘Breathe Easy’ allergy-free office was constructed. The allergy-friendly landscape plant materials are predominantly female, and compliment clean air building. Other Breathe EasyŌ offices are also now using pollen free landscapes, as are numerous Heath Houses. Twelve tips: Remember, greater exposure to pollen, greater incidence of pollen-triggered allergy and asthma.
1.Don’t plant any male trees or shrubs. These are often sold as "seedless" or "fruitless" varieties but they’re males and they all produce large amounts of allergenic pollen. 2.Do plant female trees and shrubs. Even though these may be messier than males, they produce no pollen, and they actually trap and remove pollen from air. There is also some very good all-female sod to use for pollen-free lawns. As an added bonus, these female lawns stay low and require less frequent mowing. 3.Plant disease-resistant varieties: mildew, rust, black spot and other plant diseases all reproduce by spores and these spores cause allergies. Disease resistant plants won’t get infected as much and air around them will be healthier. 4.Use only trees and shrubs well adapted for your own climate zone. Plants grown in wrong zone will often fail to thrive. Because they are not healthy, they will be magnets for insects. Insect residue, "honeydew," is a prime host for molds and molds produce allergenic mold spores. Often native plants will be healthiest choices. 5.Be careful with use of all insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides. Accidental exposure to all of these chemical pesticides has been shown to cause breakdowns in immune system. Sometimes one single heavy exposure to a pesticide will result in sudden hypersensitivity to pollen, spores, and to other allergens. This is as true for pets as it is for their owners. Go organic as much as possible. Make and use compost!