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Allergy-Free Gardening

Thought people on this list would be interested in this item I snipped
from the Toronto Community Garden Network's email newsletter ....

Subject:           NETWORK E-NEWS MONDAY SEPTEMBER 25, 2000
    Date:           Mon, 25 Sep 2000 00:08:27 -0400
   From:           Toronto Community Garden Network <cgnetwork@foodshare.net>
      To:         1TCGN E-K <cgnetwork@foodshare.net>

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>ALLERGY FREE GARDENING>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

by Thomas L. Ogren (tloallergyfree@earthlink.net)

Allergy problems are worse today than ever before in our lives. Deaths from
asthma continue to climb each year at an alarming epidemic rate.

In our urban landscapes we now have the most manipulated kind of city forest
ever seen. In the past twenty years landscapers have grown inordinately fond
of using male trees. In dioecious species (separate-sexed) there are
separate male trees and separate female ones.

Female trees and shrubs do not produce any pollen, ever, but they do produce
messy seeds, fruits, old flowers, and seedpods. Landscapers and city
arborists consider this female byproduct to be "litter," and they don1t like
to see it lying on our sidewalks.

As a result we now have huge tracts of these litter-free or "seedless"
landscapes in our cities. What these actually are, of course, are male
clones. As males their job is to produce pollen, and that they do! Even
though in many cities we have less total vegetation than we used to, we have
more pollen in our air now than ever before.

In nature separate-sexed plants are usually about 50/50. Half of them are
male and half are female. The female plants catch pollen from the air,remove
it from circulation, and turn it into seed. Female trees are nature1s pollen
traps, natural air-scrubbers.

In our modern cities though, female trees and shrubs are rarely used any
longer. Of the five most available street trees for sale now, four of the
top five are male clones.

Because no one bothered to consider the effect of the pollen from these male
trees, we now have many elementary schools, ringed with male shade trees,
and full of asthmatic children. Pollen counts exceeding sixty thousand
grains of tree pollen per cubic yard of airspace have been found in
elementary school yards. What does this mean? Simply, it means that on these
playgrounds, every child there is inhaling several thousand grains of
allergenic pollen with each breath of air they take! And people are
surprised that childhood asthma is so common now?

In the past "experts" have criticized the concepts of allergy-free
landscaping by saying that, "It doesn't matter what you plant in your own
yard. Pollen will just blow in from somewhere else."

What these so-called experts failed to mention is that the closer you
are to
the source of the pollen, the more you get. In some ways it is quite similar
to second-hand smoke: If someone is smoking a block away from you, yes, some
of that smoke might reach you. However, simple common sense tells us that
this isn1t at all the same as having someone smoking right next to you. A
large male tree in your own yard will expose you to more than ten times the
amount of pollen as would a similar tree just down the block.

So what are we to do? In my book, Allergy-Free Gardening, July 2000, Ten
Speed Press, I strongly suggest we embrace the politics of pollen. At least
five cities in the US now have some form of pollen control ordinance:
Tucson, Phoenix, Las Vegas, El Paso, and Albuquerque. We need to do several
things and we need to do them quickly.

1. We need city-by-city local ordinances that forbid the further sale and
planting of wind-pollinated male clones of trees and shrubs. Enough already!

2. We need to train people in tree grafting so that they can get started
changing the multitude of male trees into female trees. Yes, we can give
these trees much-needed sex changes and we ought to get with it. This is
surprisingly effective and quite easy to do.

3. All landscape plants for sale in nurseries should be required to have a
numerical allergy rating on each container. OPALS already exists and needs
to be used. With this system: 1 = least allergenic, and 10 = most

4. We need to ask ourselves and our elected representatives these two
questions: How much more allergy is acceptable? How many more children need
to die from asthma each year before we decide to put an end to these
destructive landscape practices?

5. I think the answer is obvious. We need to get started now

Thomas Leo Ogren, is the author of Allergy-Free Gardening, July 2000, Ten
Speed Press.


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The Toronto Community Garden Network is working to encourage a healthy
Community Gardening movement in the City of Toronto, linking and supporting
Community Gardeners.

for information, contact:
Laura Berman
Chair, Toronto Community Garden Network
238 Queen St. West
Toronto, Ontario M5V 1Z7
Phone: (416) 392-1668
Fax: (416) 392-6650
Email:  cgnetwork@foodshare.net
Web: www.foodshare.net/grow.htm
butterflies, there is probably little risk to them around corn fields, based
on the latest research, the study said.

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