Allotment Therapy: More empirical evidence on the salutary benefits of gardening

    Warrenville Lakes Homeowners Community Garden. Photo by Shawna Coronado,

Warrenville Lakes Homeowners Community Garden. Photo by Shawna Coronado,

Speaking of allotment gardens (see our 1/13 post about Charlie Hopkinson’s photography of allotment gardens), here’s an interesting study:

30 allotment gardeners were assigned to do a stressful task (not related to gardening). Immediately after, half of the gardeners worked in their own allotment plot and half read indoors, both for 30 minutes. With both groups, cortisol (a stress indicator) and self-reported stress levels went down, but they decreased significantly more in the group that gardened. I think I’m going to build me a greenhouse…

And here’s a moving blog by someone who struggles with depression and finds solace in her allotment garden. The blog is Allotment Therapy: A personal view of Ecotherapy, and the post is “The Wisdom of Plants.”

Stay tuned for another article on this topic, coming very soon!

Full abstract (link to the Journal of Health Psychology website to access the abstract and to buy the article): Stress-relieving effects of gardening were hypothesized and tested in a field experiment. Thirty allotment gardeners performed a stressful Stroop task and were then randomly assigned to 30 minutes of outdoor gardening or indoor reading on their own allotment plot. Salivary cortisol levels and self-reported mood were repeatedly measured. Gardening and reading each led to decreases in cortisol during the recovery period, but decreases were significantly stronger in the gardening group. Positive mood was fully restored after gardening, but further deteriorated during reading. These findings provide the first experimental evidence that gardening can promote relief from acute stress.

Full citation: Van Den Berg, Agnes and Custers, MariĆ«tte H.G. (2011). “Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress.” Journal of Health Psychology, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 3-11.