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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Mar 30

Spring Has Sprung

Posted on March 30, 2018 at 10:07 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

 pollen
 Pollen drifting from a tree branch
Gazing out the window here in Lassen this morning, I noted the mountain chickadees and titmice flitting from the juniper trees to the feeders filled with their favorite sunflower seeds, while the ever-present finches converged on their sacks of niger seed. The sun had just crested the rim of the hilltop to the east of the property. The rays of the early sunrise accented the wild grasses still covered with sparkling heavy dew as they poked through the ground saturated from the past winter storm. 

And then something else caught my eye. As a gentle breeze blew through the branches, and as the birds flew to and from their favorite breakfast sites, a puff of what appeared to be smoke drifted from the trees. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was not smoke but pollen—a dreaded harbinger for those suffering from allergies. Spring was literally in the air!

Despite the itchy, teary, sneezy reaction of those with allergies to this “dust,” pollens are necessary to our gardens for continued reproduction of seeds, flowers, fruits and vegetables. I won’t take the time to go into the “birds and bees” story here, but instead explore the question of what a gardener with pollen allergies can do—besides lock themselves up in the house for a few months.

After seeing the pollens blowing off the trees, I walked out to feed the horses this morning and noted the yellow residue from the trees resting on the hood of the pickup truck. The gentle breeze had carried that fine pollen some distance. I wondered how much pollen attached to my clothes and hair, and how much was I breathing in? Luckily I do not have allergies, but since my mind was on this blog, it stirred up my curiosity.

Through my investigations I learned that most flowers have heavy pollens that just fall to the ground, whereas grasses, trees and weeds generally produce light pollens carried by the wind. Thus, if you are prone to allergies, when designing your landscape you may want to avoid planting grasses. If you can’t live without a bit of lawn, mow it frequently before the seed heads form and release the pollen. Choose low-pollen plants such as roses, iris, daisies and geraniums. It is my understanding that magnolias, though most certainly a tree, also produce a low amount of pollen.

Those suffering from allergies should also wear a mask when working outside; wash up immediately, including clothing; and leave tools and shoes or other apparel outdoors so as not to introduce the pollens into your home. 

Lastly, don’t hesitate to call a gardening friend to help tend your garden during those months of torture. It is always fun to work in another’s garden just to see something new or something different. Gardening is a never-ending learning experience. That’s what I love most about it.

 Have a great weekend and a very Happy Easter!

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