Updated: Apr 5
Planting a forest garden
diagram of the project
What prompted me to start this project?
Humans lost touch with nature, we thought ourselves superior to it, but we forgot that we are part of it, so we need to reconnect right away.
We all suffer from health issues due to our break with nature, stress, mental health, and neck pain, I can go on and on. These are symptomatic of our break with nature as we isolate ourselves in our world of concrete and now we suffer.
My goal with this project is to show how we can connect in our own backyards to help ourselves, the environment, and the climate.
How to cultivate well-being through gardening
Gardening is proven to help mental health and is prescribed by the NHS.
How do you make use of the space around your house? Is it a cheery welcome for visitors, a showcase of the seasons and the delights of the natural world? Or, more likely, is it a place for bins and cars? Built-up areas with small front gardens are more likely to ignore their potential, but leafier neighbourhoods do not fare much better: the focus is on privacy, exclusion and excessive neatness.”
The British see themselves as a “nation of gardeners”, and 3 million new enthusiasts have emerged since the first lockdown, according to the Horticultural Trades Association. But one in three British front gardens has no plants, while one in four has been buried completely under paving slabs. This isn’t only bad for wildlife, it can actually impact your mental health as well as that of your neighbours.
The World Health Organization defines good health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing”. It is a complex pattern of interactions. “One of the key things that we have forgotten as human beings is that we’re animals, and we’re part of a system,” says Professor Alistair Griffiths, the Royal Horticultural Society’s director of science and collections. ”People see themselves as separate from nature but we’re very much a part of it. What we have around us in our environment is critical to our wellbeing.”
Contact with nature has been found to improve mental health, with people who garden every day having better well-being. Gardening has been prescribed by the NHS since 2019 and research suggests that being able to see green space can even reduce recuperation time in hospitals.
Gardening seems an intuitive way of connecting people with nature, but many people living in towns and cities need to have their interest revived, or be given more confidence. In 2020, the RHS carried out an experiment in Salford to find out if gardening enhances mental health. Its researcher went door to door, offering two pre-planted tubs of bulbs, annuals, a climber and a shrub – plus an optional tree. The tubs were self-watering and any further plant care was entirely optional. Only 13% of people were prepared to take up the challenge; of these, fewer than half wanted a tree.
A front garden in Salford, Greater Manchester, where RHS researchers introduced plants into bare front yards to test their impact.
However, once the tubs were in place, participants reported feeling more pride in their neighbourhood. Some people not taking part in the experiment bought plants after seeing neighbours tend their plants. People spoke to their neighbours for the first time in years and a significant increase in patterns of cortisol (a hormone that regulates stress) was found.
Griffiths says: “Everyone needs a space to grow. It should be a human right because it’s fundamental to us.”