Over the last 10 years at the hospital, I have worked with many different populations within the hospital. One of the main populations I work with is the Day Patient Mental Health and Inpatient Mental Health. We get together once a week year-round to do a variety of Horticultural therapy (HT) projects. HT in this setting is a passive therapy, the therapy is in the setting and/or the participation.
Right now, it’s our short but beautiful growing season and the patients come outdoors to plant their raised vegetable beds. The vegetable gardens are a wonderful example of the miracle of nature that the patients can experience and participate in. First the patients start with gloves and tools to weed and till the soil in preparation for planting seeds. I show the patients how to follow the seed package directions for the most success. Seeds are then planted and watered in by the patients. We plant in May and watch the progress of growth over the summer. By the end of August into September the patients start the harvest of tomatoes, green beans, carrots, beets, and broccoli. Now for more fun, we make delicious dishes out of their harvest, like salsa, carrot loaf, beet muffins and taste testing their raw harvest too.
Over the years of working with Mental Health patients I have observed the magic of nature and its therapeutic outcomes through planting, growing, and harvesting. The positive effect on hospital patients is an understatement. Patients thrive and grow in the presence of nature, outdoors, and hands on planting. They learn patience, tenderness, nurturing, caretaking for something outside of themselves. This is our natural world working its healing magic on our most vulnerable populations our children. It’s a pleasure and an honour to teach and guide them on this journey and open up the possibilities for a nature connection for the rest of their lives.