Gardening can do what medicine “tries to mimic” for mental heath, Monty Don has said as he spoke about his own struggles with depression.
The presenter and horticulturist has said that gardening is only just being explored as a treatment for mental health issues.
He said in his column for Gardeners’ World magazine: “That first snowdrop, the flowering of the rose you pruned, a lettuce you grew from seed, the robin singing just for you. These are smallthings but all positive, all healing in a way that medicine tries to mimic.”
Mr Don has spoken frequently and publicly about his depression, and cited the natural world – and his dog – as great helps.
However, he has now spoken of his excitement for the future of research into gardening as treatment.
He added: “We know that gardening is good for you. It is fantastic, all-round exercise. That is easy to see and evaluate. It inculcates high levels of well-being. That is undeniable and needs little measurement. We know that it is extremely effective in alleviating and preventing mental illness. But, and this is quite a big ‘but’, almost all the evidence of gardening being an effective treatment or preventative of mental illness is empirical.
“We know too little about how it does this, why it does it and how much it does it.
“However, the exciting news is that serious money and serious people are now taking this empirical evidence very seriously indeed and it’s being researched in the way pharmaceutical or other conventional treatments are researched. This will cost many millions of pounds and take many years.
“But if the result is the creation of opportunities at a national level for people to have access to gardens and the increased encouragement of the medical profession to prescribe and encourage gardening in the same way that they might prescribe exercise or diet, then that is an entirely good thing. And, it costs nothing other than the time to go outside and tend to your garden.”
The Royal Horticultural Society has been exploring gardening as treatment for mental health problems for some time.
Many gardens at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show will be dedicated to exploring wellbeing, including mental wellbeing.
The Duchess of Cambridge is in the process of designing a garden for the show which will build on Her Royal Highness’s passion for the outdoors and the proven benefits that nature has on physical and mental health.
Another theme at Chelsea is reconnecting with nature in an urban world.
Monty Don has agreed with this idea, and said that gardening is a good way to find beauty in chaos.
He wrote: “When you plant something, you invest in a beautiful future amidst a stressful, chaotic and, at times, downright appalling world.
“Everything is a mess. Many things end badly. Modern life is, for most people, cut off from reality, sealed away from weather, food, seasons, entertainment – almost everything. Our lives are the product of somebody else’s creation, from what we wear, eat, listen to, move around in, to anything you can think of.
“But gardens are real. They are not a version of themselves served up via a corporate process.
“By becoming in tune with the seasons of growth and fall, preparation and harvest you make your mind and body happier and healthier. By having a direct stake and involvement with the process of plants growing, of having your hands in the soil and tending it carefully and with love, your world and everyone’s else’s world too, becomes a better place.”