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Asthma Friendly Gardens
Asthma Friendly Gardens
By Tom Ogren
Tom Ogren is the author of five published books, including: Allergy-free Gardening, Safe Sex in the Garden, and What the Experts May NOT Tell You About… Growing the Perfect Lawn. Tom has an M.S. 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 Ogren’s Wild World of Plants!”
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 major keys to asthma prevention is avoidance.
When you have asthma, the typical garden is not a very friendly place at all. There are mold spores to contend with, and there’s also all that pollen. Typically, gardens have pollen-producing male trees and shrubs and other plants that can provoke asthma attacks. Almost anyone with asthma will tell you that their asthma can be activated by many allergens, or triggers, but pollen is often the number one trigger for causing an attack. Garden allergies are common, but they need not be. If we’re willing to make some simple changes in our environment, allergies caused by gardening can be largely a thing of the past.
In fall of 1999 in Richmond, Virginia, the American Lung Association of Virginia (ALAV) built a new Breathe Easy™ office and headquarters. They had the 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 an environment that would be pleasant and healthy to work in. The people who work in this office now will tell you that it’s a healthy building.
The ALAV decided it would also make perfect sense to landscape their new healthy building (in some states such buildings are now called Health Houses) with an allergy-free landscape. A plant/allergy numerical ranking system called OPALS™ was used to select only plant materials that were either very low in pollen and other allergens or totally pollen and allergen free. In effect they created the first true asthma friendly garden in the U.S.
Health Houses in other states are now also creating pollen free landscapes around their green buildings. A new Health House is about to be built in Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Association of Landscapers and Nurserymen is helping to surround it with an asthma-friendly landscape. Schools, too, are getting into the clean air act. In 2004 in the city of Visalia, California, the Tulare County Asthma Coalition directed the asthma-friendly landscaping of a newly built elementary school.
Here are twelve keys to building your own asthma-friendly garden:
Make your garden a fun, stress free zone. Be sure to have a few comfortable garden chairs to sit in, and a little table is always good, too. Wind chimes, bird feeders, and birdbaths can add greatly to your enjoyment. A beautiful, pollen-free, allergy-free, asthma friendly garden can be just the place for healthy children to play and a healthy 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 and important subject.
Tom Ogren is the author of five published books, including: Allergy-free Gardening, Safe Sex in the Garden, and What the Experts May NOT Tell You About… Growing the Perfect Lawn. Tom has an M.S. 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 Ogren’s Wild World of Plants!” 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.
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