Mary Berry joins calls for gardening to be used as a therapy

King's Fund wants gardening to be prescribed as a therapeutic activity

Nurses are critical to helping patients benefit from gardening, says the King’s Fund.

The think tank published its Gardens and Health report today, in which it sets out the therapeutic benefits of gardening. It says the mental health gains are diverse, with studies demonstrating significant reductions in depression and anxiety, and improved social functioning. 

The report states that for older people, gardening becomes important because it provides physical activity and can combat loneliness. It can help prevent falls by promoting good gait and balance. 

Report author and King’s Fund senior fellow David Buck said: ‘Nurses are the people who are with patients most of the time. If possible, you can take a patient outside into a garden. That is part of what caring is – providing those opportunities.’

The report recommends clinical commissioning groups prescribe gardening as a social activity. It said NHS England should consider the role of gardens and gardening in its new vanguard sites, which integrate primary and acute care.

TV cook Mary Berry, who is president of the National Gardens Scheme, was at the report's launch. She said: 'I have long been aware of the therapeutic benefits of gardening and visiting gardens and how being in the fresh air is so good for our wellbeing. If the report helps to emphasise these benefits so that they can be put to wider use for people's health, that would be a great achievement.'

Queen’s Nursing Institute chief executive Crystal Oldman, who also attended the launch, said: ‘There are lots of nurses in the community who prescribe. It opens up possibilities if their clinical commissioning group commits to social prescribing.’

She said nurses already understand the benefits of gardening for patients, but the report will provide them with evidence for their practice. 

Read the full report here