THERAPEUTIC GARDENING AND SELF SUFFICIENCY
The psychological benefits of gardening were highlighted by Kaplan (1972) and many since. The Horticultural Therapy Association of Victoria (HTAV) defines horticultural therapy “as a process of using plants and garden related activities to promote well-being of mind, body and spirit.”
Therapeutic gardens can and do exist in a variety of settings, including women’s refuges (Perkin & Lyn 2000), prisons (Pudup, 2007) refugee detention centres (Christensen, 2004), schools (Hoffman, Knight & Wallach, 2007, Ozen, 2007, Bowker & Tearle, 2006, Dyment & Reid, 2005), and a range of hospitals, including psychological and rehabilitative (Sempik & Aldridge, 2006).
The self sufficiency garden experience could be considered to be empowering by both the act of gardening and its resultant produce. It could be seen as providing some of the security in community food security. Some respondents, involved in organisations with connections or orientations to horticultural therapy were asked to consider what the links to self sufficiency may be.
Chris Reed, manager of the Kevin Heinze Garden Centre, “the oldest and largest existing type in Australia for therapeutic gardening”, asserted that “therapeutic gardens and self-sufficiency go hand in hand.”
He explained further that “self sufficiency and therapeutic gardening are both moderating mental health issues. It has been part of institutions, such as hospitals, and therapeutic gardens go back hundreds of years to the mental health system in Europe. People with mental health problems worked in the gardens growing food for the institution and it was found to also have a therapeutic benefit. It is a type of historic sustainability that has run through to modern times.”
Explaining the centre’s broader community influence, Chris Reed also conferred that “if people with disability can reach a level of sustainability, it shows it should be up to the rest of us too”. Stephen Wells from the Royal Talbot Sensory Garden suggested that “self sufficiency can be about utilising the garden, and the act of gardening in itself is of therapeutic benefit”.
John Raynor from Melbourne University, explained that “any plant can have a therapeutic outcome.” However, he also noted that “therapeutically, there is something fundamental about growing your own food, growing, harvesting and collecting, and there is 100 000 years of history to indicate this.”
Gardening expert Jane Edmunson spoke about the social and therapeutic benefits of gardening at the Food Gardeners Alliance forum. She expressed that “people don’t how good gardening is, and how good growing vegies is. It is good for you, it is good for your soul to get your hands dirty. Without it, people lose touch of the seasons. How many people get out, enjoy doing and feeling in the garden? How many hours are pleasurable?”
Australia’s Open Garden Scheme’s Cassie Johnstone summed up that gardeners are
“close to the soil and the land .”