Planting a Garden—and Improving Mental Health—at Lotus Home

Staff at CHD’s Lotus Home in Hartford were busy in the backyard recently—building and painting raised garden beds and planting such vegetables as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and lettuce to promote healthy diets and wellness.


The gardening project was suggested by staff and the individuals served at Lotus Home, which provides long-term housing and services for up to five women who have severe mental illness. CHD Adult Mental Health-Connecticut Navigator Sammy Woods donated materials and took the lead in this effort.


“Gardening has huge potential to help people with defined mental health needs,” said Lotus Home Program Manager Tayna Howard. “There are so many activities and options—more than any other type of therapeutic activity.” Gardening, she pointed out, has been shown to lighten mood and lower levels of stress and anxiety. “It’s very gratifying to plant, tend, harvest, and share your own food,” she said. “Routines provide structure to our day, and they are linked to improved mental health. Gardening routines, like watering and weeding, can create a soothing rhythm to ease stress.”


Howard said that working together—especially tending gardens and growing food together—yield remarkable benefits, including improvement in self-esteem, teamwork, social interaction, planning, problem solving, and coping skills, as well as a passion for gardening that may continue throughout life.


“Clients and staff are committed to promoting healthier lifestyles and finding a sense of connection with the environment,” said Howard. “Tending to plants can give us time out from unhelpful worries and help us to feel more relaxed—all helping us to keep a healthy headspace.”