Using horticulture as a form of therapy is based on evidence that spending time outside may provide holistic health benefits.
Woman Holding a Houseplant at Home
Credit: Skynesher / Getty Images

There's a reason why a long walk outside on a lovely afternoon can really clear your head: Published research shows that simply being around nature, as well as exposure to mood-boosting sunlight, can rejuvenate your mental health over time. It's a principle of modern science that doctors in Manchester, England, are hoping can help patients who may be struggling with clinical forms of depression and severe anxiety. According to an Inc. report, professionals at the Cornbrook Medical Practice are among the first in the nation to prescribe common houseplants to patients; doctors are doing so in conjunction with a local nonprofit known as Sow the City, which works to foster community gardens in the Manchester area. 

The key to using horticulture as a form of therapy isn't just having patients getting their hands dirty in soil. The program also helps people build their own sense of community by asking them to grow plants and vegetables at these gardens alongside others, too. Patients are asked to watch after their own plants at home, but they're also asked to contribute to these local community gardens. "The idea is that patients get herbs, vegetables and [potted plants] to care for and they then bring it back… to transfer it to the communal garden," Augusta Ward, a medical secretary at Cornbrook Medical, told Metro U.K. "The new scheme—believed to be a first in the country—gives patients a chance to join in with further gardening and social activities. It's based on the idea that spending time in green spaces can help to lift your mood.

Professionals at Cornbrook Medical will also optimize the gardens for their particular clientele; sometimes, it's just an indoor space full of fresh florals and flowering plants designed for rest and relaxation. Other hospitals in the area, however, have had Sow the City create fully-fledged vegetable gardens. Sow the City has previously installed vegetable beds where long-term mental illness patients can enjoy sunlight, socialize, and watch their produce grow; at the end of the season, they also get to enjoy the fresh produce together

Another key aspect of this program is that healthcare providers have ensured that gardeners of any skill level (from beginners to those with an established green thumb) can participate. Professionals have already populated these gardens with hardy plants and near foolproof crops, and they take time to train patients on how they can properly care for them. If you're looking for ways to spend more time outside and in nature yourself, why not try starting a garden of your very own? Even if you don't have a full backyard, you can get started on planting seedlings with our complete guide to starting a vegetable garden.


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