What We Do

What is Therapeutic Horticulture?

Therapeutic Horticulture is the process in which gardening, and plants, are used to improve both physical and mental wellbeing of an individual. It is a widely accepted and recognised as an effective form of therapy. Panania Free Rangers is a not for profit organisation that is passionate about bringing change to our local environment and working alongside people to bring real and lasting change to health.


By tending to a garden, students take on a care-giving role. They receive an increased sense of responsibility, purpose, accomplishment and this fosters positive behaviour, particularly for those with behavioural and learning difficulties. Being outside and getting your hands in the dirt amongst nature has a general calming effect on students, with many having improvements behaviourally. Studies also suggest that this is because being outdoors exposes you to more sun, and therefore, more Vitamin D.

Stress Relief

Various studies have concluded that gardening reduces stress and calms nerves. It substantially decreases cortisol, which is the hormone directly related to stress response. As humans, and especially students, we have a limited attention span. Students can often become irritable, distractible and stressed out. The rhythms of the natural environment and the repetitive, soothing nature of many gardening tasks are all sources of effortless attention, and give students the break they need from their usual learning environment.

Nature and community

Therapeutic Horticulture has so much to offer to children in particular in a school environment. For one, the children are engaged in making real changes to their gardens and instantly see the benefits of their physical work. By adding new green spaces and growing food, the children are actively engaging with issues of climate change and learning about food production. Therapeutic gardening helps people connect with others and reduces feelings of isolation and encourages team work and a sense of community. At Panania Free Rangers, we like to donate the extra produce to local charities and churches, this allows them to recognise that their hard work in the garden is not something that just benefits themselves.

Self Esteem

Gardening encourages the development of self-esteem, confidence and pride in personal achievements and effort. There’s no tangible measure for one’s power to cause positive change in the world than to nurture a plant from a seed and see it grow into a plant such as a fruit or vegetable! Seeing something emerging and growing from seed and grasping the whole cycle of plants and food security also leads to a better appreciation of food and food waste.