A systematic review of community gardening

This systematic review is aiming to assess how and to what extent involvement in community gardening can lead to improved health and wellbeing.

The study will identify and synthesise the body of quantitative and qualitative research evidence relating to the health, wellbeing and social benefits of community gardening, and will seek to understand whether there are different impacts for different population groups, for instance according to age, socio-economic status or sex.

It will also assess if different types of community gardening, such as producing vegetables or a flower garden, have different types of impacts, and whether community gardening can impact the health and wellbeing of the wider community.

The protocol for this review is available here

Working with Alison Bethel at PenCLAHRC the project team will consider the impacts to both adults and children, focussing on changes in:

  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Social cohesion
  • Health behaviours such as physical activity

Communal gardening activities and their perceived benefits have a long history and in recent years interest has developed in assessing the potential of the approach to address many of the threats to health and wellbeing faced by global populations.

There is some evidence to suggest that community gardening may address chronic and non-communicable disease through the provision of opportunities for physical activity, improved nutrition and reduced stress (Draper & Freedman, 2010; Guitart, Pickering, & Byrne, 2012). Participation in the gardening activities may also improve wellbeing through increased social contact or the mitigation of food poverty (Henderson & Hartsfield, 2009; McCormack, Laska, Larson, & Story, 2010; Robinson-O’Brien, Story, & Heim, 2009).

The benefits of community gardening are argued to extend beyond the participants themselves through more coherent and cohesive communities, improved physical environments and the sharing of the products of the labour (Milburn & Vail, 2010; Saldivar-Tanaka & Krasny, 2004). While there are many claims made and an emerging body of research, no previous review has sought to identify and synthesise the body of evidence in a global context.

The protocol will be published through a coordinating body. A conceptual framework and synthesis of the evidence regarding the health impacts of community gardening, how these are best achieved, in what contexts and for whom, will be produced.

Photo courtesy of London Permaculture