Patients in Rhondda may be offered gardening on prescription to help to improve their wellbeing.
Rachel Bennett, a GP at Forest View practice in Treorchy, came up with the idea of Grow Rhondda, a therapeutic gardening group.
The service is designed for people presenting with mild anxiety, low mood, low self-esteem or social isolation.
Patients can now be referred directly to the eight week gardening programme which is based at Ysbyty George Thomas.
Dr Bennett said: “It’s a social prescribing project based here in the Rhondda.
“There’s lots of evidence that gardening interventions can help patients’ health and well-being.
“If patients feel they can benefit from this project they can be referred from their GP.
“The scheme consists of eight weekly sessions where patients attend and are involved in all aspects of gardening.”
The project as a joint venture by Rhondda primary care, Ysbyty George Thomas and the community group Men’s Sheds who will deliver the sessions to cultivate courtyard gardens at the hospital.
Men’s Sheds was first developed in Australia to help to combat male isolation but has spread to the UK and Ireland. There are now 32 ‘sheds’ in Wales.
The hospital project is open to men and women.
Dave Harris, from Treorchy Men’s Sheds, said: “I think the benefit you will get from any gardening project is the fact you are outside.
“You can share that experience with other people and enjoy the aspect of the garden through the changes in the seasons, what you can plan or plant.
“Within a few weeks you have something growing and that’s a rewarding experience.
“Men’s Sheds got involved in Grow Rhondda because it gives us the opportunity to do something within our community so it’s not just about us and finding something that satisfies our needs it also helps the community to grow.”
Roger Watts, a volunteer with Men’s Sheds, said: “There is an area out the back of the hospital, a blank canvas if you like, where we can incorporate raised beds with fruit and veg, and wild flowers.
“Paths in between for patients to walk around, plant if possible, and enjoy the flowers that are out there. Insects that will come and pollinate the wild flowers.
“It’s an area that’s therapeutic, out in the open, that’s the main thing.”
The original idea was developed by the primary care cluster in Rhondda.
The project combines the growing interest of primary care in well-being, brings the local hospital into the community and links with community groups.
Grow Rhondda was officially launched by the chair of Cwm Taf University Health Board Marcus Longley.
He said: “The health board is committed to improving the health and well-being of the people we serve. This is exactly the sort of thing we need to support this in practice. It is a tremendous initiative and I hope to see similar projects grow across the health board area.”