The author of the following article is Max Wiseberg, who has suffered badly from hayfever since childhood, and as a consequence created Haymax, an organic, drug-free barrier balm for allergy sufferers. Here he provides some timely tips for any other gardeners dreading the coming hayfever months.
Surprisingly, there are many ways to considerably reduce your hayfever in your own garden. There are a few simple rules to follow, and there are an increasingly large number of books and articles on the subject of creating a low allergy garden. One of the first rules to note is that female plant varieties are best. Male species are usually the pollen creators, so don’t plant them. Just plant the females which not only don’t produce the pollen, but might even mop up some of the pollen produced elsewhere in your garden. Of course, you don’t usually find the plants in your garden centre marked male or female, so how do you work out which is which? Well, very often the seedless or fruitless items in your garden centre will be the males, which will happily produce loads of pollen, so avoiding seedless or fruitless varieties is probably a good start. You can even get female grass now, which produces less pollen and also doesn’t need mowing as often.
Planting fruiting shrubs and trees can also have the added benefit of attracting birds into your garden. Although they will often eat the fruit before you get to it, they will also eat insects around your garden. This helps because insect dander is also bad for allergies.
Another good move is to go for double flowers, although there is a trade-off as this will be bad for bees and other pollinators as pollen often becomes inaccessible in such varieties. Such varieties often have petals instead of pollen parts. Double-headed chrysanthemums are good, and there are many others. You can now get lots of pollen free varieties, and clearly, planting these in your garden will be a good thing for people prone to hayfever, but do remember the trade-off at a time when pollinators really do need our help..
Next on your list should be disease resistance. Along with diseases come all sorts of spores and allergens which will make the allergic’s life a misery. So getting disease-resistant varieties should further reduce the amount of allergens flying around your garden.
Keep out the uninvited too! Gate-crashing weeds will often turn into great pollen producers, so keeping the weeds down should keep the sneezing down, too.
Some people say to grow plants and trees which are used to your climate. The principle here is that if they aren’t growing well, they are likely to get somewhat diseased, produce mildews and moulds and attract insects. More spores and insect dander mean more hay fever, so if a plant’s not looking healthy, it’s best to remove it.
It is almost certainly better to avoid using chemicals and pesticides too, as it has been claimed that exposure to these can often trigger allergic reactions in people who previously had no allergies.
Pollen is out in force in the mornings and the evenings, so it’s best not to do your gardening at these times. Also, if you are going to grow plants that produce lots of pollen, keep them away from the house, or at least away from windows that get opened, doorways, or ‘high traffic’ parts of your garden.
To summarise, favour female varieties, dig in double flowers (but remembering the trade-off for pollinators) and disease-resistant varieties. Keep out the chemicals, weeds and non-native too, and hopefully you’ll sneeze a bit less and be able to see your garden because your eyes won’t be quite so sore.
And finally, before you go out into the garden, put on some HayMax allergen barrier balm to trap the pollen before it gets in to your body – less pollen means less sneezing.
Max Wiseberg is a keen gardener and an expert on airborne allergies. He regularly writes in the press for publications including The Sunday Mirror, Running Fitness, Health Food Business, The Practicing Midwife, Pharmacy magazines, Natural Lifestyle, Your Healthy Living and has appeared on BBC radio, many local radio stations, as well as Fitness TV and the Holiday & Cruise channel.