Gardens and health: Implications for policy and practice

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Part of Improving the public's health

The National Gardens Scheme commissioned The King’s Fund to write an independent report on the benefits of gardens and gardening on health.

The report has three aims:

  • to collate and summarise the evidence on the impact of gardens on wellbeing across the life-course, from childhood through family life and into older age
  • to demonstrate the important place gardening interventions have in the wider health and care system with a focus on four specific areas: social prescribing; community gardens; dementia care; end-of-life care
  • to make the case for the further integration of gardens and health into mainstream health policy and practice.

The report includes a ‘menu’ of recommendations that aims to encourage the NHS, government departments, national bodies, local government, health and wellbeing boards and clinical commissioning groups to make more of the diverse health benefits of gardening in support of their priorities.



Ed Macalister-Smith

NED @ UHCW; Chair at NIHR HS&DR Panel,
Comment date
22 May 2016
I am really delighted to read this review and the report. 35+ years ago, after studying land use and forestry, I started my career at the charity then called HT, now known as Thrive, and referenced in the research.

Apart from working with people with disabilities and gardening, we supported a number of large scale gardening schemes in NHS hospitals involving people with mental health problems and learning disabilities. There were many passionate advocates of gardening for health in the widest sense, some in the NHS and others in social care and the third sector, but we operated from the point of view of common sense rather than any objective research evidence.

It's great to have that evidence now, and it's not too late to promote gardening and horticulture for all the benefits that they undoubtedly provide! The current take on gardening and social prescribing is a particularly welcome approach.

Ed Macalister-Smith, CEO retd

Antony Cobley

Head of Inclusion, Engagement and Wellbeing,
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
Comment date
24 May 2016
An excellent validation of the links between green spaces and health. We have planted 140 fruit trees in orchards (200 by the end of this year) planted 10,000 bulbs, a wild flower meadow, have food growing on site, have bee hives, launched a Green Gym and appointed a Green Space Coordinator to work with schools and local groups. Staff Grow Club, poly tunnels and wildlife pond will follow. Great way to work with Public Health and bring prehab and rehab out of the gym and outside.

Shona mcinally

Natural play worker at Edible Estates, Edinburgh,
Edible Estates, Edinburgh
Comment date
15 July 2016
I work in an edible garden with vhildrenvaged 4 to 14 years, in a community of multi deprivation. The impact of the green space on these young people has been astounding. I also work with 2 local primary schools and the children thrive in the garden, they have fun, learn, play, make connections between food and the garden. There are so many benefits, that I would be writing an essay! The natural space and play has had a huge impact on the children's mental, social and physical well being. Gardens and greenspaces are a powerful place to heal and grow.

Sarah Conlon

Comment date
23 January 2017
Housing Associations have a responsibility to create attractive gardens and community spaces for people on low income. However I point to the fact that social prescribing of garden planning initiatives can result in social exclusion and unacceptable social stigma which probably even hand washing initiatives and tool cleaning projects are unable to address.

Rachel Gosho

Horticultural Therapist,
Comment date
02 June 2017
I am not at all surprised at the research results. During years of working and volunteering at Thrive, all these outcomes were obvious to me, and I did discuss them with various colleagues. Some actively championed the sense of responsibility on the rest of the world that the disadvantaged gardeners had to feel and work towards in the process to becoming part of society, and not always leaning on the more able part of society, including staff and volunteers. I agree that the key message should always be, we are here to help you get on with life,dealing with people and the rest of the world. EU Human Rights Act financial grants etc mean that we are a
ll entitled to live a life of dignity. Just my thoughts, thanks. Rachel. #

Susan Clements…

Interior designer,
Sue Clements-Loftus Interiors
Comment date
03 April 2018

Dear Ed, I found this article whilst researching a project that I am working on which involves designing for hospitals using biophilic design for well- being and mental health benefits. I wondered if we could talk about this a bit more. I would be most grateful for your input and experience. Many thanks Sue

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