In honor of the National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month that occurs in May, the Society for Allergy Friendly Environmental (SAFE) Gardening invites you to join us in making schoolyards a healthier place for our children by replacing highly allergenic producing trees and plants that incite allergies and asthma with allergy-friendly selections.
Please see the following information prepared by Peter Prakke, a member of our Board of Directors, on how to build an asthma friendly schoolyard garden.
When you have asthma, the typical schoolyard is not a friendly place at all. Most schoolyard gardens have pollen producing male clonal shrubs/trees and many other plants that can provoke asthma attacks. Asthma sufferers will tell you that their asthma can be activated by many allergens, called ‘triggers’. Pollen is the number one trigger for causing an attack.
Outdoor allergies are common, but they need not be. If we make some simple changes in our schoolyards, allergies caused by gardening, can be greatly reduced by building an ‘Asthma-Friendly Schoolyard Garden’.
1. Plant lots of female plants and trees. These will not shed any pollen, but will trap pollen and clean the air. Think about these female plants as nature’s air cleaners.
2. Use the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale (OPALS?). The allergy scale runs 1-10. 1 = allergy-free and asthma-friendly; 10 = highly allergenic (worst).
3. If possible, remove any shrub or tree with a ranking over OPALS? # 4. Shrubs or trees above this number are the asthma triggers.
4. Use only plants that are well-adapted to your own area or zone. If you can find native plants that have low allergy rankings, consider using them.
5. Use a wide variety of plants if possible. Biodiversity always makes sense. The more diverse the schoolyard, the fewer problems you will have with insects and molds.
6. Avoid plants or vines with strong fragrances or odors; they can trigger asthma.
7. When using garden mulch, use sparely because of toxic mold spores.
8. To eliminate mold spores in the schoolyard, encourage wild birds. Hummingbirds actually eat a large number of insects. Put up hummingbird and suet feeders which attract insect-eating birds.
9. Keep your drought tolerant annuals/ perennials healthy. Water according to the climatic conditions in your area and use organic fertilizer.
10. The Allergy-Friendly Schoolyard should have a nutritious vegetable garden. Children who work in vegetable gardens may learn to love gardening.
11. If a shrub, tree or vine or any other plants looks sickly/dirty or always attract bugs, remove it from the garden. Replace with something easier to grow and more disease resistant.
12. A ‘Pollinator Garden’ in your schoolyard garden with allergy friendly and native plants is of great importance. Read about this subject, and implement.
13. Make your schoolyard garden a fun and stress free, great outdoor experience.
For more information, visit the following websites: