Gardening at hospitals as a means of rehabilitation has been used since World War I and research has shown the therapeutic nature of tending to plants.
The Trenton Psychiatric Hospital in Ewing Township, New Jersey, has been using horticulture to help patients since 2011 and has seen great success. The New Leaf Gardener Program (NLG) is just one of the vocational training opportunities offered to the patients at the mental hospital.
The horticultural vocational program features classes on nursery production, interior plantscaping, greenhouse management and landscaping. Participants in the NLG program have a variety of mental illnesses.
The patients range in age from 18 to 65, but the average age of individuals involved in the program is 32. Those working in the New Leaf Gardener program have three hours of educational classes and three hours of paid work each week.
“The TPH horticulture program educates students and teaches practical skills used in the landscaper and horticulture industry,” Department of Human Services Acting Commissioner Elizabeth Connolly told MyCentralJersey.com. “The main goal is to prepare students with job readiness skills and competencies to obtain entry level employment in the green industry. The program encourages students to develop teamwork and critical thinking skills that are applicable to the horticulture industry and life.”
The patients have played host to several community events and make seasonal flower arrangements for the holidays. The New Leaf Gardeners also grow vegetables that are used in the cafeteria and sold to local residents.
“These are discharge-preparation activities that boost patient esteem with skills that provide quick, tangible, brag-worthy results,” said Teresa McQuaide, CEO of TPH, on the Department of Human Services website. “The work provides a sense of purpose and pride.”