Asthma Friendly Gardens
by Thomas Leo 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 the main keys with asthma prevention is
When you have asthma the typical garden is not a very
friendly place at all. There are mold spores to contend
with and worst of all is the 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 the past
if were willing
to make some simple changes.
In fall of 1999 in Richmond, Virginia the American Lung
Association of Virginia (ALAV) built a new Breathe EasyÔ
office and headquarters. They had this entire large building
constructed with the 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
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.
OPALSÔ (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 the first true asthma friendly garden in the 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 the PA Association of Landscapers and Nurserymen are
helping to surround it with an asthma friendly landscape.
Schools too are getting into the clean air act, and in
the city of Visalia, California, the Tulare County Asthma
Coalition recently directed the 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 natures 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 the 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 OPALSÔ 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, the friendlier your
place will be for anyone with allergies or asthma.
4.Remove any trees or shrubs with rankings over OPALSÔ
#7. The woody landscape plants with rankings of 8-10 are
all sure-fire allergy triggering plants and you can live
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) OPALSÔ 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 the fewer problems well have with
insects and molds.
8.Avoid plants with strong fragrances or odors, as they
can cause asthma. Dont plant jasmines or similar
vines next to entrances or exits and certainly dont
use them underneath bedroom windows.
9.For mulch, use rock or gravel instead of bark to cut
down on toxic mold spores in the 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 the
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 the 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 the tree thinned
to let in more light. Fresh air and light are the enemies
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. Dont get caught up in
having to spray insecticides all the time, as they too
can easily cause asthma and allergies.
Make your garden a fun, stress free zone. Be sure to have
a few comfortable garden chairs to sit in, and a little
table of some sort is always good too. Wind chimes, bird
feeders, and birdbaths can add greatly to your enjoyment
and cost little. A beautiful, pollen free, allergy free,
asthma friendly garden can be just the place for healthy
children, and a great place for anyone to relax and enjoy
the great outdoors. For more advice on low allergen gardening,
look up allergy free gardening on the Internet, or go
to your local library and read some books on this new
Tom Ogren is the author of five published books, including:
Allergy-free Gardening, Safe Sex in the Garden (Ten Speed
Press), and What the Experts May NOT Tell You About: Growing
the Perfect Lawn (AOL Time Warner Books). Tom has an MS
degree in Agriculture-Horticulture, taught landscape gardening
for twenty years, owned and operated two wholesale-retail
nurseries, and in northern Minnesota was host of the popular
Public Radio call-in gardening show, Tom Ogrens
Wild World of Plants!
Tom (Thomas Leo Ogren) has published hundreds of articles
on health and gardening. His work has appeared in diverse
publications such as South Africas Veldt and Field,
in Womens Day, Alternative Medicine, the Burpee
Seed Catalog, Sunset Magazine, Landscape Architecture,
Der Spiegel, The London Times, The Seattle Times, The
Washington Post, and even the Jerusalem Post. He has also
made numerous appearances on HGTV and his work was the
focus of two made for TV documentaries, one by the Canadian
Tom has been interviewed on National Public Radios
Weekend Edition and his groundbreaking research was featured
on The CBS Evening News. He is a frequent lecturer for
garden clubs, arboretums, civic groups, hospitals, medical
groups, Master Gardeners, and professional associations
of landscapers, landscape designers, writers, nursery
people, arborists, and urban foresters. He has become
well known for his fun, high energy, highly informative,
unusual and provocative talks. Tom is a member of the
Professional Landscape Designers Association, and the
GWA, the Garden Writers of America. Unlike many well-published
authors, he still tries to answer all of his own email.
You can contact Tom through his website, at: www.allergyfree-gardening.com
Notice of Copyright: Copyright Thomas Leo OgrenÓ
About the Author
Thomas Ogren is the author of Allergy-Free Gardening,
Ten Speed Press. Tom does consulting work on for the USDA,
county asthma coalitions, and the American Lung Associations.
He has appeared on CBS, HGTV and The Discovery Channel.
His book, Safe Sex in the Garden, was published 2003.
In 2004 Time Warner Books published his latest: What the
Experts May NOT Tell You About: Growing the Perfect Lawn.
His website: www.allergyfree-gardening.com
How To Use Hedges In
by Paul Curran
A hedge that is well kept and attractive can do much for
your grounds. Used in the front of the house and on the
sides of your lot, hedges are a barrier against traffic,
noise and all things unsightly; at the same time they
enhance the proportions and general appearance of your
house and lawns. And within the boundaries of your property,
hedges define paths and walks, demarcate various areas,
and help to screen service areas and vegetable gardens.