Green-fingered community patients grow fresh produce at their own allotment
An allotment project is helping people who experience mental health challenges improve their wellbeing by enjoying the outdoors and growing their own produce.
Our Intensive Outreach Team (IOT) provide crisis care to people who have a severe mental illness and need extra support at home.
The team was invited to join the Lower Bell Field Allotment Association in Rettendon and worked with patients to develop an allotment plot using upcycled and donated materials.
Occupational therapy assistant Lucy Dane said: “The mental health benefits of gardening are broad and diverse and studies have shown significant reductions in depression and anxiety, including improved social functioning.
“In high stress times, physical activities lend an outlet for keeping people’s hands and mind busy and hands-on activities such as gardening allows the brain to focus on something else.
“So it’s great that some of our patients have access to the allotment where they can distract their minds from the stresses they are feeling.”
They have made bird boxes and raised flowerbeds, planted flowers, fruit and vegetables, and fed the wildlife that visit the allotment.
Support worker Gordon Crabb, who is passionate about upcycling and the benefits it has for the planet, said: “We wanted to create a space that was accessible for all our service users and encourage them to learn more about growing produce and maintaining the plants.
“We were really lucky to have gathered materials that we were able to re-use.
“It was great to show our service users how to upcycle and teach them about the benefits of upcycling and how it is an inexpensive way to grow produce.
“It is an ongoing project that I hope will be therapeutic to all who visit and take part in the project.”
All of the beds, composting bin, bird house and a feeding table, have been constructed from donations of scrap wood, wood pallets, water butts and old fence panels.
The raised beds were designed and made to be accessible to all, including those with additional needs and mobility concerns.
An area has also been set up with a selection of fruit bushes and vegetables ready for the patients to maintain. All the produce that grows on the allotment is being offered to the patients to take home and being offered to the local food banks.
They have been given tips and advice for growing and maintain plants and crops, and recently won third place for Best Allotment in the Rettendon Horticultural Society summer show.
The allotment is an ongoing project and the IOT plan to create more areas within the plot to encourage wildlife and create a relaxing environment to visit.