As the days get lighter, longer, and warmer, many of us are crossing our fingers hoping for enough sunshine over the spring and summer to warrant spending hours and hours out in the garden. Relaxing outside on the grass with a cold bottle of beer, maybe with a BBQ sizzling away — a blissful afternoon by anyone’s standards!
But if you suffer from allergies, particularly pollen allergies like hay fever, then the idea of relaxing out in the garden over summer could seem like an unachievable dream. In dry or windy conditions, pollen spores spread quickly and aggravate hay fever symptoms. What seems like a great idea on paper quickly turns into a sunny afternoon of sneezing and coughing.
With 44 per cent of British adults suffering from one allergy or more, adapting your garden to a more allergy-free variety could be a huge benefit to your friends and guests this summer. Don’t let hay fever restrict your outdoor fun this summer. With this guide, your garden can be a place to enjoy once again. Join compost supplier, Compost Direct, as we look at allergy-free gardens.
What is pollen?
Pollen is a microscopic grain substance that transports male plant DNA to the female part of the flower. There are many different types of pollen, each with its own characteristics such as size, shape, and surface texture.
Do some plants emit less pollen?
Although most pollen species can cause an allergic reaction, some pollen species are more problematic than other. For example, many hay fever sufferers are allergic to grass pollen. This is because non-flowering plants, such as grass, have to dispel a large amount of pollen in order to pollenate other plants. On the other hand, flowering plants do not need to emit as much pollen as insects will be attracted to the flower and carry the pollen to another plant.
What allergy-free choices are there?
Let’s take a look now at which garden picks produce little-to-no pollen.
The more petals, the better
As a basic rule, if a plant has been grown to be a double-petal or super-double-petal, it will have lost a few male stamens on the way. Essentially, gaining more petals gives the plant less pollen, so if possible, opt for those double-petal varieties.
Tackle the lawn
Grass is a problem for nearly all hay fever sufferers. 95 per cent of hay fever sufferers have their allergies triggered by grass pollen. The best way to deal with it is to simply remove it — you could either have an artificial lawn, or replace your lawn with decking, for example.
Another trick is to ensure you plant a lot of female plants in your garden. Female plants don’t produce pollen, they capture it. Plants with berries or fruits are not completely male, so be sure to opt for these types of plants.
Plus, if you have a male tree in the garden, placing female varieties of that tree nearby will help catch the pollen it emits.
You’ll want to lean towards insect-pollinated plants rather than wind-pollinated plants. Insect-pollinated plants don’t release pollen into the air, so you’re less likely to come into contact with it. Some examples of insect-pollinated plants are:
- Apple tree
Hedges to filter
Bordering your garden with female varieties of hedges essentially builds a filter all around your home that will capture pollen drifting towards your residence on the wind.
Timing is everything:
You can minimise your exposure to pollen even further by considering the hours you’re spending outdoors. Stay indoors early morning (5am–10am) when plants are releasing pollen. Again, head indoors for the evening as pollen in the air begins to drift towards the ground again at this time.
The Royal College of Pathologists, (2016). The Low Allergy Garden.