Garden Therapy for Cancer Survivors

Sometimes, I develop a “crush” on a study because it’s just so cool! This is one of those. Researchers were looking to implement an intervention that would prompt cancer survivors in their 60’s and beyond to be more active, eat more vegetables, and engage in health-promoting behaviors. What did they come up with? Gardening!

garden collage

Participants included 46 survivors (aged 60+ years) of Stage I-III cancers across Alabama from 2014 to 2016. Master Gardeners delivered guidance to establish three seasonal veggie gardens at the survivors’ homes. Plants, seeds, and gardening supplies were provided.

How did the participants rate their experience? Seventy percent said it was “excellent,” and 85% would “do it again.” Vegetable and fruit consumption increased by approximately 1 serving/day, waist circumference improved, and they reported an increased sense of well-being.

When a cancer diagnosis arrives, friends, extended family, neighbors and community members are eager to help and often at a loss for how to best offer their support. Why not start a garden for the cancer survivors in your life? It’s an excellent gift.

The time to begin planning a garden is now! Pouring through seed catalogs to select varieties, seeing all the vibrant colors and reminders of summer, helps me get through the bleak post-holiday winter months.

Below are some excellent sources of heirloom, GMO-free, and organic seed. Choose a location near you for seeds that are adapted for your local conditions.

Never gardened before? This book has all the info you need to get started and be successful: The Garden Primer [2nd Ed], by Barbara Damrosch (2008).



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