Hi, my name is Sheree Surdam. I am the Wellness Assistant Manager here at Mountainside treatment center and I also oversee our horticultural therapy program. Horticultural therapy is essentially utilizing the garden and gardening to promote and support healing of the mind and the body. We have our Residential clients as well as our Extended Care clients spend time in the garden from the beginning to the end. So, planting, weeding, and maintaining, and then harvesting whatever fruits and vegetables or herbs that we’ve grown.
Sometimes, the clients that come out to the garden for the first time are a little out of their comfort zone. They’ve never spent a lot of time outdoors before, in the natural world. But once they get to see the growth in the garden, the different things they’ve planted, from a seed to now they have potatoes or cucumbers or something they can actually look at — tangible things, they get so excited. They have such a sense of accomplishment, and they are proud of it. They feel really rewarded by it.
Horticultural therapy has limitless benefits, some of which are reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, reducing overall stress on the body and the mind, increasing feelings of self-worth and value, and giving people a sense of purpose and stewardship over the natural world.
I truly believe in the transformative power of nature, and of gardening, specifically. I think it’s really valuable for our clients to participate in the garden while they are here in the horticultural therapy program, and to also continue to spend time in the natural world once they’ve discharged from treatment. The easiest way to do that is for them to create a small garden of their own. Doesn’t have to be anything huge. Just something simple. Gardening is easy. It’s accessible to everyone.
So, start with “Right plant, right place” — that’s a rule of thumb in gardening. You can decide to grow fruit or vegetables, or an herb garden. An herb garden is a great start. You can plant an array of herbs in a small pot and just put it right on your front step if you don’t have any room and can’t make that huge commitment.
Spending time in the garden should never feel like work or a chore. Being in the garden is an opportunity to relax and unwind. And what you are doing in the garden is creating and nurturing. So, everything you do in the garden is an act of love.