Inpatient gardening ideas, please!
September 5, 2012 2:24 PM   Subscribe

Help me figure out what to do with my new gardening group! Indoors and out, with an emphasis is on safety.

I'm thrilled that I've been allowed to develop a gardening group at the inpatient psychiatric hospital I work at. I hesitate to call it "horticultural therapy" because I'm not certified, but I hope it will improve the quality of life of the patients. I'm looking into setting up some raised beds and possibly an outdoor water feature.

I'm unfortunately feeling stuck due to the time of year (heading into winter) and a lack of idea of good things to do indoors.

I'd love you favorite recommendations for:
-outdoor plants that I can plant this late in the year (We're in Kansas City)
-indoor plants that require nothing much more than indirect sunlight and plenty of fluorescent lighting. Bonus points for ones we can grow from seeds, as that is fun to observe!
-bright ideas of fun gardening and plant-related activities to do when winter hits
-Ways to keep plants on the unit. I'm not sure any plant in a pot sitting on a table would last long without becoming a projectile. I'm wondering if I could manage some hanging baskets.

-I don't think I can get the patients much in the way of tools, out of inevitable safety concerns. If anything, only plastic children's shovels and rakes. Pumpkin carving would be awesome but knives are out.
-Plants cannot be in the least toxic, as we have some people prone to swallowing objects as self-harm.
-Tight budget

Share your inspiration, please! I'm overwhelmed by all the amazing ideas online but see difficulties implementing them in a rather structured hospital environment.
posted by gilsonal to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Plant a bed of leaf lettuce- mesclun mix type stuff. As long as you keep it watered, it will sprout reliably and very fast. You can start harvesting micro greens within 2-3 weeks. Very fun to watch the different kinds of plants grow and differentiate.
posted by rockindata at 2:28 PM on September 5, 2012

Just Googling around it seems like a lot of psychiatric hospitals have some sort of garden program for patients. Maybe you could noodle around on Google and contact a few directly to see what they do?

One thing I saw in my searching was having a local funeral home donate their used floral offerings, which patients used to learn floral design, creating their own arrangements to decorate the facility. Not exactly gardening but in the same ballpark.
posted by Wretch729 at 2:34 PM on September 5, 2012

I love the funeral home flower idea! I have contacted a few hospitals but am waiting to hear back.
posted by gilsonal at 2:50 PM on September 5, 2012

Orchids! A little light watering and some spraying and many of them are available cheaply at places like Lowes.

Also, impatiens! They love low light, and you can pick off them and grow new plants.

And jade plants, and spider plants, always the babies of them. This time of year, anything that can be grown in spring, like pansies, will thrive. They say Johnny Jump Ups (aka wild pansies) are also named Heartsease, and will cure anyone suffering from a sad heart with their little happy pansy faces. The viola plant is reputed to have a high vitamin C content as well, so maybe there's something to that... but a handful of pansies and a watching of Fantasia or Alice in Wonderland, maybe?

Kale grows well in Fall, as do mums and any green leafy veg like spinach. But pansies and violas are so cheerful!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:12 PM on September 5, 2012

And violas are edible but mums are not, unfortunately. Nasturtiums are also edible, if a bit spicy.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:15 PM on September 5, 2012

You can plant garlic outdoors, or any other type of fall bulb (tulips, daffodils, crocus).

Snake plants are pretty indestructible. So are spider plants.

Soda bottle terrariums are fun, but you mentioned the possibility of projectiles . . . these might be too easy to throw.

You can also plant seedlings in egg shells!

Old newspapers can be made into starter pots for seedlings as well. (And as you see in that link, you can make cute plant tags/markers out of popsicle sticks)
posted by Ostara at 3:52 PM on September 5, 2012

Lettuce and radishes together, in the same plot in the ground or in the same pot. They sprout fast and grow fairly quickly, are edible, and you can get a mature crop off both in about 8 weeks. You should be able to get in at least one crop before winter. (We plant every two weeks, in the same zone as you, and plan to plant until the first week of October this year.) Having one above-ground and one underground is interesting and fun!

Lettuce grows very nicely under a fluorescent light. Actually you can grow tons of things under fluorescent lights -- our grow rack is all fluorescents -- though it's better if they're full-spectrum. As long as it's room temperature indoors and you have fluorescent light + at least indirect sunlight, or full-spectrum fluorescent light, you can grow just about anything you want as long as you don't need it flower-shop perfect!

Parsley grows pretty quickly and is pretty robust indoors. Basil gets scraggly in my experience, but you can certainly grow it indoors. Rosemary I start from a small plant, but it's hardy and smells so nice and does great in a pot.

We have used newspaper pots (as Ostara mentions) for seedlings, they hold up surprisingly well. Also those lightweight cardboard pots.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:58 PM on September 5, 2012

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