Master Gardener Project at Natchaug Hospital

Working With the Land Provides Solace, Sustenance

Master Gardeners working on gardens at Nathaug Hospital were honored at the 2014 Annual Board Reception

Staff and volunteers throughout the Behavioral Health Network are always volunteering discretionary effort, and campus beautification has been one area of focus.

At Natchaug Hospital, the Master Gardener Garden Improvement Team was started in April 2009 by Edward Sawicki, MD, a retired member of the Board of Directors. Since its beginning, the Natchaug Garden Improvement Team has transformed outdoor areas throughout the main hospital campus into beautiful and therapeutic environments for clients to enjoy and engage in. Just last year, the Journey House courtyard received designation as a National Wildlife Native Habitat.

Even this late in the gardening season, the team continues its efforts each week. The Master Gardeners have made it a priority to involve Natchaug clients whenever possible. Girls from Journey House were involved in planning the initial garden concept, and continue to participate in planting decisions, garden care, and harvesting of the plants. Teachers from the inpatient and CDT schools have also incorporated the gardens into science lessons, with students studying wildlife, insects and plants and participating in harvesting and cooking vegetables.

Rushford’s summer garden program started as an H3W project with the support of a $1,500 grant from the Rushford Foundation employees’ fund. The project, which started in April, concluded its 2014 growing season with a gardener’s recognition celebration on Nov. 18 in Meriden.

Approximately 15 to 20 clients participated as gardeners, mainly from the Friendship Club and Rushford case management, along with staff from each of these programs and the facilities department. The garden served as a therapeutic program for participating clients, centering on goal setting, physical activity, relieving stress and developing coping skills. Each person helped with seeding, planting, watering, weeding and harvesting the many plants, including collard greens, cucumbers, basil, tomatoes, peppers and scallions. Each participating client received a certificate of completion signed by Rushford Vice President of Operations Steven Zuckerman.

Many thanks to all the staff and volunteers who make the Natchaug and Rushford gardening projects successful.

From the November 21, 2014 BHN News