Inside your home isn’t the only place where you can take steps to reduce your exposure to allergens. While it’s impossible to eliminate absolutely all allergens in your garden, you can take some precautions when designing and working in your garden in order to keep your symptoms at bay. Pollen, scents, the sap or spores from plants can all trigger allergies. If you already know you are allergic to certain plants, they should be removed from the garden by people who are not allergic to them.
There are a number of important decisions you can make when designing your garden to help ensure your well-being.
In addition to tree pollen, grass and weed pollens can often trigger typical hay fever symptoms. If you absolutely must have a lawn, keep it a short as possible and find someone without allergies to mow it. Try to prevent weeds such as stinging nettle, mugwort, ragweed, plantain and sorrel from spreading. Evergreen ground-cover plants will prevent them from taking root. Pebbled areas can be attractive in a garden, but weeds can also flourish in these barren surroundings.
The allergenic potential of a plant depends on how it propagates. Insect-pollinated plants usually produce less pollen. Additionally, there are shrubs such as snapdragon and rock garden plants that are quite suitable.
DAAB (German Allergy and Asthma Association) has compiled a list of plants that rarely cause allergies.
Whether you have an allotment garden or a garden at your home, you usually don’t have much say in which plants your neighbours choose. Hedges can serve as an air trap and filter for allergens from around the neighbourhood. In the early morning hours, these plants are often still covered in dew, which binds pollen to their leaves. This also occurs after a rain shower. You should also take the differences between urban and rural areas into consideration when spending time outdoors.
The spread of invasive plants such as ragweed, which is highly allergenic, presents new challenges even to home gardeners. The plants were inadvertently introduced to Germany and have been displacing native plant species. Their seeds stay in the ground and remain germinable for up to 40 years. Take special precautions when removing ragweed plants. Wear a protective mask while pulling them out and keep all areas of your skin covered. Since these annual plants spread via their seeds, don’t put them in the organic waste container – instead, dispose of them in the household waste for incineration. You can also look for these plants in your surroundings and in public spaces and inform garden owners and local green infrastructure planners of their presence.
Our gardening tips
- Protect your skin from allergens or poisonous plant juices by wearing work gloves and clothing
- Mow the lawn regularly and keep it short
- Apply water to hedges and shrubs before cutting them
- Keep your compost away from windows and seating areas; use a closed compost bin
- Avoid gardening during periods of very short rain showers, light drizzle and storms. The allergen load on the ground is very high at these times
- Check the current pollen count forecast and schedule your garden work accordingly
- When removing highly allergenic plants (such as ragweed), wear a mask and wear protective clothing that covers your entire skin surface
- After gardening: Do not leave your work clothes in your living space; wash them immediately. Take a shower to remove pollen from your hair and body