How to Create a Landscape Design That Matches Your Personality

Like it or not, your landscape says something about you and your personality. Do you like what it is saying? If not, don’t let your landscape talk behind your backyard. Experts have tips for ways to create a landscape that matches your personality and tells the world, in green, who you are.

Aligning your landscape and your personality is as much psychology as it is planting.

“Creating a landscape that is both a reflection of its creator’s personality and pleasing to them is a relatively complicated process,” said Bryan Stoddard, director of Homewares Insider, a website for do-it-yourself homeowners.

Landscape architect Francesca Sideris of Langlea Garden Design & Construction in the city of Brighton and Hove, south of London, looks for clues to a client’s personality in everyday items.

“I take inspiration from the client’s home such as the type of artwork they have, their interior design style, ornaments or trinkets on display,” she says. “I notice the cups they drink from, the type of dog they have. The way they dress. The curtains!

“If I’m designing for a bolder personality, the garden design is often bold. I’m also interested in the type of activities they enjoy in their free time. If someone is very sociable they often require a large entertaining area, maybe a firepit or heaters to allow for sitting out late. If a client is very private or more introverted they may value lots of screening around the garden and a more relaxed ‘oasis’ feel.”

Assess Your Personality

Several experts suggest that the place to start is by asking yourself some questions to help you see what your personality truly is. After all, how can you expect your landscape design to mirror what you can’t see?

What turns you on most about being outdoors? Think back to your favorite memory of a yard. What stimulated you? The smell of fresh-cut grass? The sound of a brook? The laughter of a gathering of friends?

Your answers to these questions will guide you toward which features in your outdoor space you want to include in your new landscape design, whether it’s a lush yard, a water feature, swimming pool or an outdoor kitchen and entertainment area.

Big 5 Personality Traits

For a deeper dive into your personality type, patio designer and outdoor-living enthusiast Eric Clark suggests you grade yourself on the Big Five Personality Trait Spectrum, used in psychology to assess people on their fundamental traits. The five traits are:

  • Openness to experience. Are you inventive and curious? Or more consistent and cautious?
  • Conscientiousness. Are you efficient and organized? Or more on the easygoing and even sometimes careless side?
  • Extroversion. Would you say you are outgoing and energetic? Or more of a reserved loner type?
  • Agreeableness. Do people say you are friendly and compassionate? Or would challenging and detached come to mind?
  • Neuroticism. You’re secure and confident? Or would sensitive and nervous be how you roll?

Someone who scores highly on the openness to experience will “want to aim for an exciting, varied landscape with multiple different elements” Clark said. “Think nooks and crannies, spots in your yard or landscape that evoke different emotional states that you can nurture.” Those at the opposite end of the scale will “probably want to stick with a more uniform, slowly changing landscape. A large even yard space, a small variety of repeating plants, simple transitions, and uniformity in design and materials.”

Someone not very conscientious should stick with a low-maintenance, drought-tolerant landscape plan. At the other end of the scale, their more-organized and more-efficient opposite can opt for exotic, nonnative plants requiring more care. “You will need to bring these indoors when the winter sets in,” Clark said, “but of course, you’re conscientious enough to always remember to do that!”

And so on, he said. Extroverts should put the focus on their front yards, so they can impress and meet neighbors; introverts can feel more comfy behind privacy fences and hedges. The secure and confident can go for bold colors; the nervous can opt for orderly flower beds hemmed by retaining walls

Bring That Personality Outdoors

New patio overlooking the lake
This Ohio homeowner values entertainment and nature. Photo courtesy Ohio Valley Group.

The homeowner wanted to extend his outdoor living area. We installed a paver patio adjacent to the deck with a wonderful corner, gas fireplace to allow for evening entertainment.  We also installed walls along the patio to create a cozy feeling.

— Kathleen Dangelo, co-owner, Ohio Valley Group

Now that you know your personality, start to bring it outdoors and brainstorm landscaping ideas. Whether you hire a landscape designer or do it yourself, find a way to translate your personality into specific design ideas.

“The first step is finding general inspiration, or in other words, looking for already-done projects that resonate with your idea of beauty, good design and landscape architecture,” said Stoddard. “It’s important to nail a certain aesthetic that you agree you’ll follow later on, or you risk getting lost in the mass of ideas.”

The source of landscape design ideas can be as easy as finding photos of what you like. Walk around the neighborhood with a camera. Collect them via sites such as Pinterest or Houzz.

“Collect photos of landscaping that you feel reflects your personality,” said Central Texas artist and designer Pablo Solomon. “Analyze what elements of those landscapes are important.”


This homeowner's design is built for evening entertainment. An extrovert would be happy with this design.
This homeowner’s design is built for evening entertainment. An extrovert would be happy with this design. Photo courtesy Ohio Valley Group.

The homeowner wanted to extend his outdoor living area. We installed a paver patio adjacent to the deck with a wonderful corner, gas fireplace to allow for evening entertainment.  We also installed walls along the patio to create a cozy feeling.

— Kathleen Dangelo


Personality, Schmersonality: Be Practical, Plan and Budget

“Make a plan,” Solomon said. “The more detailed the plan, the more likely you are to complete your project in a sensible sequence, obtain materials and labor on sale, and stay on budget.”

Ohio Valley Group, longtime Northeast Ohio landscaping design and maintenance company, offers an online tool it calls the “Vision Planner.” The online form asks potential clients questions about their favorite outdoor activities, entertainment habits, desired features and more. (The company uses it to guide its clients, but anyone can look at it to organize their landscaping thoughts for free.)

“Having our clients complete the Vision Planner helps them to focus on what parts of their outdoor designs are most important to them,” said co-owner Kathleen Dangelo. It encourages a more interactive planning experience between the client and the designer and ensures the final product is not only beautiful but functional as well.”

Holding Down Your ‘Personality’ Landscape’s Cost

Cost is another practical consideration. If your personality says 1,000 lilies but your budget says a dozen daffodils, you’ll have to find compromises. Solomon also suggests these cost-saving steps:

  • Do as much work yourself as you can. “Labor is usually the major cost in landscaping,” Solomon said.
  • Be sure to address drainage so your landscape design doesn’t create costly water damage.
  • Place trees and shrubs for shade to save energy.

One more piece of advice from Solomon: You can take “personality” a step too far. Your idea of curb appeal may be an eyesore to your neighbors.

“Do not overdo the ‘self-expression,’ ” he said. “You can have a landscape that follows good design principles and that you love without making the entire neighborhood mad. Self-expression does not mean you need to stick out like a sore thumb.”

Whatever your style is, enjoy it.

“Time spent outside in nature, surrounded by plants, is one of the best anxiolytics available,” Clark said, “and you don’t need a prescription!”

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Weed Man adds mosquito control to offerings

Weed Man added mosquito control to its list of services.

With mosquito control service, Weed Man can better protect its customers, their pets and their lawns from the annoyance of mosquitos, which are known for carrying and transmitting diseases like Zika and the West Nile virus. The new offering allows Weed Man to better meet all its customers’ needs and provide them with a one-stop shop for world-class lawn care service, the company said.

“The Weed Man promise has always been to treat every lawn as if it were our own, so we have been working hard to roll out this new service to continuing being our customers’ first choice for a healthy, pest-free lawn worth enjoying,” said Weed Man COO Jennifer Lemcke. “Our franchisees have matched our enthusiasm and customers will soon start to see the offering available to them.”

Administered by properly trained service technicians, Weed Man’s mosquito service utilizes specialized equipment to strategically and safely target mosquitos where they are or could be living to reduce their populations. The new offering is service guaranteed to reduce mosquito populations, allowing customers to get back to enjoying their outdoor oasis as intended. The company is currently releasing marketing materials for this service, and select franchise locations will be implementing the mosquito control this season.

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Keep on trucking: Maintaining lawn care fleets

Lush lawn truck (Photo: Lush Lawn)

Inspect to protect It’s important to perform regular maintenance checks to keep trucks in tiptop shape. (Photo: Lush Lawn)

Trucks are a major expense for lawn care operators, and many begin each day ensuring their investments are well cared for.

Jason Zielesch, production manager for Lush Lawn in Grand Blanc, Mich., says before technicians leave the lot, the company requires they complete what it calls a “three-minute 360.”

The three-minute 360 is a full inspection of the truck to check fluids, tires and general maintenance items. Technicians handle any minor maintenance in the shop before they head off for the day. The inspection details are kept in an Excel checklist and reviewed regularly.

Lush Lawn is an $8 million company with five locations in southeast Michigan. It provides 70 percent lawn care and 30 percent tree care to a 90 percent residential customer base, and counts 40 trucks in service across all five branches — Ford, Chevy and GMC 3/4- and one-ton pickup trucks as well as RAM ProMaster 3500 vans.

Upfittings and equipment, including spray rigs, are checked and maintained just as often as the trucks, Zielesch says.

The crew checks all hoses and straps for fraying or breaks and the fluids and oils for any motors or pumps on the equipment. Spray tips are checked for clogs and proper flow.

Aside from the daily maintenance check, the company performs routine maintenance every 3,000 miles.

For Lush Lawn’s more extensive truck repairs, the company negotiated an agreement with a national auto shop chain, and all Lush Lawn branches receive the same pricing on repairs and maintenance at each auto shop location.

Even with regular maintenance, lawn care trucks have to be retired at some point. Erik Hutson, branch manager of Lush Lawn’s Grand Blanc location, says vehicles are often phased out around the 10-year mark. After a review of the truck’s maintenance logs, which include tracking the price of ongoing repairs, the company analyzes whether it makes more sense to purchase a new truck.

Protecting the inside and outside

Mark Utendorf, owner of Emerald Lawn Care, says his trucks undergo a biweekly inspection that includes a visual check of the tires, oil level, brake lights, turn signals, undercarriage, warning lights and hitch and rider racks.

Emerald Lawn Care is based in Rolling Meadows, Ill., and primarily provides lawn care services with some perimeter pest and tree and shrub care for a 99 percent residential clientele. The company has 13 employees and runs eight trucks — Chevy 2500s, Chevy 3500s and Ford 250s — which range in year from a 1999 model to a new 2018.

A little more than two years ago, Emerald Lawn Care moved next door to an auto shop, which it uses for all truck repairs the firm can’t handle in-house.

As for the exterior of the truck fleet, Emerald Lawn Care’s pickup trucks feature a spreader rack on the front, so technicians can easily move a push spreader on and off the vehicle without having to store them in the back of a truck and maneuver them around the Permagreen equipment. This setup does have some drawbacks, however.

With a spreader rack on the front, fertilizer prills may blow out of the hopper and end up wedged in the trucks’ radiators, he says. His crews back flush any fertilizer out of the radiators with a regular hose — not a power washer.

Loose fertilizer is not permitted anywhere in trucks, and if there is a fertilizer spill, the truck is emptied, blown off and washed immediately.

Emerald Lawn Care also applies Boeshield, a specialty lubricant created by aerospace builder The Boeing Co., to trucks to offer another layer of protection.

“We put it on all the body panels to offset any potential damage from fertilizer,” Utendorf says. “And if we think that it needs it, we’ll undercoat trucks.”

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Lawn mowing improves mental health, a bit

Mowing the lawn and raking leaves improve your mental health, but only by a bit, according to a massive study published in the British medical journal The Lancet.

Lawn mowing, raking and other common household chores increase mental health by about 12 percent, according to the study titled “Association Between Physical Exercise and Mental Health in 1.2 million Individuals in the USA Between 2011 and 2015: a Cross-Sectional Study.”

But for big leaps in mental health, the study suggests, stash the lawn mower and use your weekends on team sports. That’s because activities such as baseball, basketball, volleyball and badminton beat lawn mowing hands down, boosting people’s mental health about twice as much.

“It’s clear that exercise has a number of health benefits and it’s pretty clear exercise has benefits for mental health,” one of the study’s co-authors, Dr. Adam Chekroud of Yale University’s Department of Psychiatry, told Lancet editor Niall Boyce.

How the study was done

The study was a massive one, incorporating self-reported data of 1.2 million Americans. The raw data came from a trio of surveys conducted in 2011, 2013 and 2015. The surveys were conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and included separate questions about mental health and exercise.

Survey respondents told researchers whether they had ever been diagnosed for depression and whether they had suffered depression, stress or emotional problems in the past 30 days.

They also volunteered information about their exercise habits — what they did to get their hearts pumping, and how often.

The researchers from Yale and Oxford universities then compared the mental health of those who exercise against those who don’t.

Mental health, exercise linked

They found a large correspondence between good mental health and exercise.

“The results were pretty interesting,” Chekroud said. “The most heartwarming result was even walking was associated with a reduction in mental health burden.”

Different exercises offer different mental health boosts, the research found. Survey respondents named their favorite form of exercise. In all, they listed 75 different activities, highly strenuous to barely off the couch. The researchers consolidated the exercises into groups and measured the blues-fighting power of each.

At the top tier were popular sports, mostly team activities, but also including two-person sports such as tennis and handball. The popular sports participants saw their mental health boosted by 22.3 percent. Cycling was a close second, at 21.6 percent.

The bottom tier was the household activities category, which included lawn mowing, raking, gardening, carpentry, painting, child care, snow blowing vacuuming and dusting. The household activities boosted mental health by 11.8 percent.Lawn mowing improves mental health, a bit

More exercise does not mean better mental health

Among the study’s other findings:

  • It’s not true that the more exercise you get, the more mentally healthy you become. The best mental health outcome went to those who exercised three to five times a week for 45 minutes.
  • The benefits of exercise amount to 1.5 days fewer per month suffering from poor mental health.

Lawn mowing was already known to increase physical health. A study by Harvard University Medical School looked at the number of calories burned in common activities, including lawn mowing.

A 155-pound person pushing a motorless reel mower burns 223 calories an hour. That’s slightly more than an hour of disco dancing (205 calories), slightly less than race walking (242).

Now we can add mental health to lawn mowing’s benefits.

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How To Lay Down Grass Sod for a Yard: 6 Steps

Laying down grass sod to start or repair a lawn isn’t the hardest yard task, but it is labor intensive and requires knowing more than “green side up.”

But don’t be daunted. If you have a bare or barren patch of yard, sod is a moderately priced way to turn a brown or weedy patch into a green, lush lawn. Here’s how to lay sod, in six steps.

Step 1: Prepare your soil

If you want to lay down sod, you probably want to start by shopping for sod. Don’t. Push sod purchase down on your to-do list. The key to creating a successful lawn from sod is preparation. Soil preparation will likely take longer than laying the sod, so don’t buy sod well in advance. Get the prep work done first.

If the reason you are laying down new sod is that the old one died, full stop. You have an extra step ahead of you that others don’t: You must figure out what went wrong the last time so it won’t happen again.

“Before purchasing any new sod you’ll need to take a few critical steps,” said Dr. Becky Grubbs, turfgrass specialist for the Texas A&M Extension Service. “Start by putting on your detective’s cap. Let’s figure out what might have gone wrong before, so we can keep it from going wrong again.”

Common lawn failure reasons

Common reasons for lawn failure, Grubbs said, are:

  • Too much shade.
  • Too much or too little water.
  • Poor mowing practices, including mowing too low or too high, or using poor equipment, such as a mower with a dull or contaminated blade.
  • Soil compaction.
  • Poor turfgrass selection.

To solve these common problems:

Evaluate your lawn area and see how much light it receives. Will the common sod in your area be able to thrive on the amount of sun it will get?

Inspect your irrigation system. If it is an in-ground system, run it under close scrutiny. See “Keep Your Lawn Healthy With a Sprinkler Audit” for details.

Get one or more soil tests. It will tell you what your soil lacks so you can buy the right fertilizer and the right amendments. Soil test kits usually say to dig up and blend soil samples from all over your yard. But if you have had a lawn failure, consider multiple lawn tests because your front lawn may harbor different issues than the back lawn.

Once you get the results of the soil test or tests, follow the advice. Adjust the soil’s pH level and add nutrients as called for by the test results.

While you’re at it, use a soil probe or a trowel to dig down into your soil to see how many inches of loamy topsoil you have. If it’s just a thin layer, consider adding another inch or two of organic matter mixing topsoil and compost.

Step 2: Deal with old sod

If your old lawn just has a small, pitiful remnant, put it out of its misery and scrape it off. A flat shovel will do the trick

You can consider chemical means of removal but take care.

Products containing glyphosate, for example, are highly effective and relatively inexpensive. Sold for years under the name Roundup, this broad-spectrum herbicide is approved for use by regulatory bodies worldwide. Yet it’s become controversial due to concerns about its toxicity and potential links to cancer.  Since the controversy arose, manufacturers have produced glyphosate alternatives.

Alternately, you could rototill a remnant lawn into the dirt with a rototiller, taking care to first mark the locations of sprinkler heads.

But that’s not necessarily a good choice. You could spread a lot of weed seeds and still-living roots under your fresh lawn — competition your grass doesn’t need as it’s just getting established. And if you haven’t really killed the old grass, it could interfere with your new sod’s growth.

“What you should do, whether you should remove the material or not, is situation-specific,” Grubbs said. “It’s going to depend on the soil test as well as the amount of grass that’s left on the soil and your ability to adequately till it in.”

Should you decide to remove the sod on a large area, professional landscapers will have access to sod cutter machinery that makes the job less back-breaking.

Step 3: Till the soil

Whether you decide to remove the old lawn or leave it, tilling is the next step. Over years of use, grass becomes compacted, especially in areas where clay soils are common. Tilling breaks up the soil to let the new sod’s roots reach down deeply to establish the lawn.

A tiller is a necessary pre-sod step
Use a tiller to loosen your soil so the sod’s roots can reach deep.

You can fertilize the soil under the sod before it is laid down, or on top of the sod after it’s laid down.

See how much topsoil you have. While sod will grow on most soil types, you’ll give your sod the best chance of success with loamy soil, neither too clay-ey or too sandy.

Fertilize responsibly. The chemicals in fertilizers — especially the potent starter fertilizers used on new lawns— have contributed to water pollution. Sweep up the excess from paved areas and deposit it back on the ground. Don’t wash it into the drain.

In many states, you may not apply fertilizer containing phosphorus, except on new lawns. The water-pollution caused by this common fertilizer chemical has caused 25 states to impose restrictions on its use.

Don’t forget to level your soil. Leaving hills and valleys in your dirt will complicate your mowing later. Pay special attention to the areas adjacent to curbs and sidewalks. Use a rake or flat shovel to lower the soil level by an inch or two. Sod that rests too high next to concrete will dry out and die.

Step 4: Buy your sod

Sod has a short shelf life of only a few days after harvesting, depending on the grass type and the weather. When purchased in rolls, sod tries to keep growing after being rolled. The heat produced in the process can kill the roll from the center out.

Calculate your lawn’s size in square feet. Prices are generally quoted in price per square foot or price per pallet. A pallet generally covers 450 square feet.

Prices for grass sod in 2019 are running at about $0.30 to $0.80 per square foot, depending on the sod farm and the grass type. Sod installation prices run from $1.20 to $1.80 per square foot. A spot check of pallet prices around the country found a range of prices from $115 to $230 per pallet, with delivery charges extra.

At those prices, the cost of sodding a 1,000 square foot yard could run from as little as $300 for a do-it-yourselfer to $1,800 for a fully installed patch.

Sod costs considerably more expensive than grass seed, which can cost as little as $30 for a bag that will cover 1,000 square feet. Planting a grass lawn from seed is a much slower process, however.

Local garden centers are convenient and will usually carry the most-common varieties for your area, but purchasing directly from a sod farm may give you more choices and expertise on grass types.

Step 5: Lay down the sod

With the preparation done, you’re ready to lay sod.

The pros have a few tips, and they begin with one realization: You work hard in the yard laying sod. Even on a mild spring day, you’ll end up hot, sweaty and dirty.

  • Wear loose, comfortable clothes and resign yourself to getting dirty.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat.

Lay down your sod lawn in narrow strips, starting your first row with the longest continuous fixed, straight edge (whether that’s your house, the driveway or sidewalk). As you continue, lay in straight lines, but stagger the short ends in a brick-like pattern so you don’t have one long seam. It’s more pleasing aesthetically and having long seams encourages water to channel and makes seams come apart and become exposed.

As you lay sod on the entire area, butt in pieces tightly, leaving no gaps. Take a sharp knife to cut pieces of sod to fill in the gaps that will be left by your brick pattern. The knife will also cut around sprinkler heads and irregular shapes. Remove any air pockets. DG Turf Farm of Greenleaf, Idaho, recommends using a lawn roller one-third filled water. Or there’s a low-tech alternative: Carefully but methodically walk across the sod with your feet close together. You want to encourage the new to make good contact with the underlying topsoil.

If the lawn includes sloped areas, they need to be staked. Sod staples for this purpose are inexpensive and available at most garden centers.

Common mistakes in laying sod:

  • Buying sod too soon.
  • Overlapping sod.
  • Leaving gaps between the laid sod.
  • Not staking sod on slopes.
  • Allowing the soil to be too high next to sidewalks and driveways, exposing the edges there.
  • Watering too little or too much.

Step 6: Water and fertilize your sod

All this hard work will go for nothing if you do not keep a close eye on your new sod’s water needs.

According to Turfgrass Producers International, “It is essential to begin watering new turfgrass sod immediately upon establishment.” Expect to water lightly but frequently during the establishment period. Check to make sure that the water is through the sod pieces and an inch or two into the soil beneath the sod pieces to encourage a deeply rooted, lush lawn.

You neither want it to ever dry out or stay saturated. Remember, to establish a green lawn, dry is bad, mud is bad, moist is good.

Sod with roots
This is what you want to see after a few days of steady watering: roots emerging

During this time, check by lifting up corners of sod and resume watering when the sod is beginning to dry out. Soon, you should see roots breaking through the bottom of the sod pieces. Soon after that, the sod should start resisting your gentle tug at the corners. At that point, you can back off the watering and go to a schedule of watering occasionally, but deeply to a depth of about six inches of water, so the roots are encouraged to grow.

Water early in the day to avoid evaporation and disease.

Once the new lawn gets to 3-4 inches tall, you can mow the yard, but do so gently. Avoid ripping out those still-tender roots, so either you or your lawn care professional should make the mower turn on pavement rather than on the grass. Mow tall to encourage a solid and strong root system.

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Upgrade Your Landscape Maintenance with Fine Gardening

It’s not uncommon for homeowners to fall out of love with their landscaping. Often, life seems to get in the way and doing “yard work” falls by the wayside as other things capture our time and attention. At best, some homeowners fall back on what we call “landscape maintenance” – completing only the most basic tasks necessary to keep wild and untamed nature in check.


Achoo! It’s Grass Pollen Allergy Season

About 40 million Americans suffer from pollen allergies, and grass pollen allergies are among the leading causes of these seasonal sneezes.

Doctors call it seasonal allergic rhinitis, but its common name is hay fever.

Many types of irritants can trigger allergic reactions, including flecks of pet skin and dust mites. Hay fever is distinct from food allergies or indoor allergies, which can hit any time of the year. But pollen from trees, weeds and grass are a leading cause for seasonal allergies. Grass pollen season, which can begin in early to late spring, depending on where you live and how soon grass seeds begin to issue pollen. It lasts through early and late summer, and in warm climates sticks around to the fall.

Grass allergy symptoms

Symptoms of grass allergies include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Red, itchy watery eyes
  • Cough
  • Allergic shiners (swollen, blue-colored skin under the eyes).
  • Post-nasal drip
  • In more serious cases, some chest tightness may occur.
  • Occasionally symptoms also include hives or a rash, but that is rare, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

What is grass pollen?

Grass pollen is microscopic particles that are the male reproductive agent of grasses. The average grass pollen particle is 30-50 microns across. A micron is one-millionth of a meter. By comparison, a human hair is about 75 microns across.

Their tiny size and weight allow the grass pollen particles to be carried long distances in the air and cause allergies far from the parent plant.

Types of grass that disseminate a lot of pollen include bromegrass, Timothy, Kentucky bluegrass, Russian wildrye and Orchard grass. In the South, Bermuda grass puts out a lot of pollen from spring to early summer and into the fall.

How grass pollen allergies work

Pollen turns us into red-eyed drip machines through a three-step process.

According to the AAAAI it happens like this:

  1. You inhale. Pollen enters the eyes, nose and lungs. As it does, it sensitizes the immune system.
  2. Your immune system reacts by producing specific antibodies.
  3. Now your body is set to react. The next time that pollen enters the body,  the antibodies attach themselves to the pollen, causing histamine and other chemicals to be released. The allergic reaction can take several familiar, unpleasant forms.

Hay fever and allergies often run in families, one 2018 study found. Several rounds of research have found a genetic component to hay fever and other allergies, and the chance of inheriting allergy difficulties is higher if your mother has allergies.

Rarely fatal, but commonly miserable

About 40 million people a year suffer from hay fever in the United States, and 400 million worldwide. According to one study,  allergic rhinitis resulted in about 811,000 missed workdays, 824,000 missed school days and 4.2 million reduced activity days.

How to know your pollen count

Avoiding allergies starts with taking precautions when conditions are ripe for pollen.

The best source of information is the AAAAI’s National Allergy Bureau. The bureau’s 84 counting stations in the United States are staffed by trained allergists who use air sampling equipment to collect and examine pollen and spores.

If you don’t live near one of the bureau’s stations, getting accurate pollen counts is hit or miss. Some allergists post counts as a courtesy, and some are more rigorous than others.

“I would caution you that many of the sources of allergen data are inaccurate and are based upon historical or regional extrapolations,” says Dr. Dennis Ledford, a Tampa allergist.

How to cope with grass allergies

Face it, grass is tough to escape. Estimates vary, but if combined all the lawns in the United States into a single unit, you’d have a lawn about the size of Indiana.

You can’t really prevent grass pollen from being in the air, but if you’re allergic you can take steps to minimize your exposure and avoid pollen peak times.

  • If you’re allergic, avoid going out early in the morning (7-10 a.m.) or late afternoon (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.), as those are the hours when most grass varieties release their pollen. Hot windy days also have greater odds of pollen exposure. It’s better to go out after a rain when the rain has had a chance to knock the pollen out of the air.
  • Keep your grass mown. Tall grasses seed out and the seeds are what release the pollen into the air.
  • Wear a mask, goggles and gloves while mowing, or hire someone to do it.
  • Put a mat by every door during allergy season to have a place to scrape off shoes.
  • Take off shoes when you come in.
  • If you’ve been outside, change clothes when you come in.
  • Shower before going to bed so you wash off pollen that may linger on skin and hair.
  • During times when you are suffering, avoid other irritants such as smoke and chemical fumes to give already strained mucous membranes a break.
  • Change your home’s air filter regularly.
  • Dust and mop regularly indoors.
  • Get out of town. If your allergy has a peak season, and you can take a vacation away, do it.
  • Your pets can bring in pollens when they have been outside. Keep a brush by the door and brush them off.

Protect allergic pets, too

And speaking of pets, dogs and cats can have the same allergies as their masters, though the allergy symptoms may show differently. Dogs may have watery eyes and stuffy noses, but usually, those symptoms are mild. With dogs, grass allergies are more likely to exhibit as itchy skin which results in dermatitis. Dogs scratch to relieve the itch, and can scratch off patches of skin.

Treatments for pet allergies range from over-the-counter chewable herb sticks to pills that only veterinarians can dispense. The Internet also has an abundance of natural remedies for itchy dogs.

Treatment of seasonal allergies

If symptoms are severe and over-the-counter remedies are not working on your itchy eyes, a trip to the allergist is called for. Tests, sometimes involving pricking the skin with needles containing various allergens, will pinpoint the cause of the symptoms. Allergy shots are a common treatment, as are nasal sprays.

Following clinical studies the Food and Drug Administration in 2014 gave approval to two new prescription drugs that protect against grass pollens from several allergy-inducing grasses:

Grastek treats allergies due to Timothy grass.

Oralair treats allergies triggered by pollen from Sweet Vernal, Orchard, Perennial Rye, Timothy, and 7 Kentucky Blue Grass Mixed Pollens.

Both are potent sublingual pills that dissolve under the tongue and can have strong side effects.

An additional product, Ragwitek, was OK’d for use in treating ragweed allergy.

Main image CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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