5 reasons to have orchards in hospitals. St. Charles Hospital Garden (London)

Some time ago I published many of the advantages of cultivating an organic garden in the city in the post Benefits of urban gardens. Today we will talk about some of them, focusing on a type of urban gardens: hospital gardens.

There are many types of urban gardens …but unfortunately, hospital gardens are perhaps the least popular. In Spain, for example, there are hardly any orchards of this type, although in countries such as the United States or the United Kingdom, they are beginning to be seen more and more. In fact, in today’s post, grouped with the other articles on Urban Nature in London, I will tell you what I saw on my visit to a garden in a London hospital: the St. Charles Health Center Community Courtyard Garden.

1. They improve the diet of the sick

Organic food is healthier, so hospital gardens will help improve the health of patients and their speedy recovery.

2. The environment is cared for

Hospitals prepare food for many people each day, so large amounts of food have to be transported. Growing in the hospital itself will reduce the amount of food to be transported and, therefore, the carbon footprint. In addition, it is known that Organic Agriculture is more sustainable and respectful of the environment than conventional agriculture from which these other foods come.

3. Expenses are reduced

The savings are not too great compared to other expenses that the hospital may have, but it all adds up… and what is grown inside will not have to be bought outside, so the expenses will be lower and the hospital more profitable.

4. The aesthetic appearance of the center is improved

As you can see in the photo above of the St.Charles hospital in London, a garden-orchard is very pleasant and, aesthetically, improves the appearance of the enclosure.Hospitals are often a bit serious, even sad places, so the presence of a vegetable garden will improve their image.

5. Organic food and agriculture are promoted

The patients, their relatives and the hospital staff will be in contact with the garden and with the organic food produced in it. They will therefore be more aware of the quality of these foods, as well as the benefits of urban gardening and community gardens.

London Hospital Garden: St. Charles Health Center Community Courtyard Garden

The truth is that throughout my career in Agrohuerto I have seen few orchards in hospitals or health centers. For this reason, when I became aware of the existence of a large orchard in this hospital in the Kensington neighborhood of London, it seemed essential to me to make a visit to tell you what it is like and how it works.

According to what they told me, the garden was inaugurated in May 2013 thanks to the collaboration of several organizations: The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (something like the local government of this district of London), Groundwork London (a non-profit association which disseminates and promotes Urban Nature, sustainability and social initiatives) and NHS (the National Health Service).

Who cultivates the hospital garden?

As you can see in the photo, the orchard is huge, and is divided into several sectors. Each sector is maintained and harvested by a «Gardening Grup». The Gardening Groups are groups of urban horticulturists who cultivate and carry out activities together and who usually belong to the same school, NGO, association or neighborhood group.

At St. Charles Hospital, 15 Gardening Groups participate, including the Open Age association for the elderly, the gardening group at The Lloyd Williamson School, the Equal People Mencap association (dedicated to supporting people with learning), or the children’s and youth association Baraka Youth Association.

Sick people and relatives can also participate in the garden and walk around or enjoy its views, and planting and pot painting workshops are held for children. As you can see, gardens in hospitals are very useful; not only for the reasons that I have told you before, but also for his great social work.

What and how is it grown?

The St. Charles Health Center Community Garden is an organic garden, and as such follows principles such as crop rotation, composting, the presence of herbs and flowers in the garden, or crop biodiversity. Large amounts of fruit, vegetables and vegetables are grown: tomatoes, onions, chard, leeks, lettuce, garlic, spring onions, asparagus, strawberries, blackberries… and there is even a lemon tree!

Composting bins from the hospital garden

They also fight against pests and diseases in an ecological way through the association of crops, the application of natural preparations or the installation of barriers to prevent pests, such as the mesh that covers the tomato, peas and radish seedlings that you can see in the photo down.

Flowers in the garden at St. Charles Hospital

I liked that they had a lot of aromatic plants and other herbs for the kitchen, so I took a «half photo» with the terrace of aromatic herbs hehehe They had thyme, borage, oregano, tansy, mint, thyme and many others.

Seedlings protected by a net to avoid the attack of pests and aromatic terraces

Well, and here’s my view of this orchard. I hope you liked it. As you can see, gardens in hospitals can be a very good alternative to improve these spaces.

If you want more information about the garden or the groups that grow in it, you can write to us by leaving a comment.

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