Revitalise underused spaces with a garden

26 June 2023

Gardens and green space are good for people and good for the planet. The research confirms it, although most people who spend regular time outdoors don’t need any further evidence to tell you about the benefits.

Gardens for mental and physical wellbeing

According to the Queensland Government’s mental wellbeing site, spending time in nature can improve mood, reduce stress and help build your immune system. The Victorian Government’s Better Health website also notes that regular gardeners may increase their strength, mobility and endurance.

Medical journals around the world have published research into the mental and physical health benefits of gardening. This international literature review from the Royal College of Physicians in the UK looked in detail at the potential for so-called ‘green care’ (holistic therapy by exposure to plants and gardening) to reduce pressure on national health services.

From an environmental perspective, many experts also suggest that starting your own garden is one of the most practical and accessible ways for individuals to positively contribute to healthy ecosystems.

Community gardens at UQ

So, it’s wonderful news that sustainability and community gardens are thriving at UQ.

In addition to two main community gardens at the St Lucia and Gatton campuses, a new sustainability garden was created by the UQ Business School last year with support from the UQ Green Fund.

This year, the Green Fund supported another staff-led planting initiative, this one at UQ’s Pharmacy Australia Centre of Excellence (PACE), in Woolloongabba.

The new garden – now named GreensPACE – is the brainchild of Julia Chun-Yin Lin, a senior research analyst at the Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences (QAEHS). Julia attended UQ carbon literacy training last year and was inspired to revitalise an underused space for PACE staff and students.

She landed on the idea of ‘veggie pods’, which enabled her and a team of enthusiastic staff and student volunteers to create a garden on a concrete balcony by planting out a variety of herbs and other chiefly edible plants in small boxes and pots. Julia used recycled and repurposed tables and benches to house the garden, and some seedlings were donated to the project.

The UQ Green Fund then covered costs such as potting mix, pots and additional seeds and plants, as well as low-key gardening equipment (gloves, trowels, watering can and hose) that now enables the self-formed Green Start Committee at QAEHS to care for the garden in an ongoing capacity.

“It really has been a team effort that has made all of this possible, and in particular I would like to thank my colleagues on the committee,” Julia says.

“I’m passionate about workplace health and safety, and I really care about the wellbeing of the people I work with,” Julia says.

“I’ve taken on multiple volunteer positions to support these aims at PACE and UQ, including as a Health and Safety representative, UQ Wellness Ambassador, UQ Mental Health Champion, UQ Green Labs representative and a trained First Aider (including mental health first aid).

“I loved this garden idea because it enabled me to bring together so many of these objectives simultaneously.”

Get involved in a way that suits you

Staff and students are invited to become involved in various garden spaces at UQ. For the main community gardens, regular workshops and working bee sessions are published on the UQ Sustainability events page – and you can join the UQ Community Garden group on Facebook.

UQ visitors can also do the UQ Sustainability Walk or visit the bush tucker garden at St Lucia.

The new GreensPACE gardens, meanwhile, have become a popular peaceful refuge for PACE staff and students. Julia and her colleagues on the GreenStart committee organise fortnightly lunchtime sessions in the space, focused on both sustainability and wellbeing education.

“These are our GreenSpeaker talks, which cover a range of topics from practical gardening tips to simply optimising the beautiful space to enhance related learning. For example, last week we hosted a yoga session, run by one of the PACE students, who is also a certified yoga teacher.”

PACE staff and students can find out more about upcoming sessions and working bees in their garden via their internal communication channels.

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