Therapeutic Horticulture


Martineau Gardens forms a therapeutic environment of over two acres of organically maintained land, two miles from the city centre. The Gardens include a substantial wildlife area, formal gardens, a vegetable plot, an orchard and herb beds. Martineau Gardens has been looking after the site with a wide range of volunteers since 1997. The volunteers look after the Gardens creating a safe and welcoming place where the people of Birmingham and beyond can connect to nature and improve their wellbeing. 

We have established a friendly, respectful culture where the volunteers support and encourage one another. Gardening together provides an opportunity for talking and listening to other people. Working with the natural cycles of sowing, nurturing, harvesting and surviving the winter can help vulnerable people to learn from experience that they can help things to grow, and eat the result in some cases. They also learn from the fact that sometimes things don’t work out, but next year you can try again.

What is Therapeutic Horticulture?

Find out more about the positive impact Therapeutic Horticulture has for our volunteers, in their own words – you can also watch our film and read our reports – click here

The volunteers:

Martineau Gardens provides a unique therapeutic horticulture service to people from all over the city. Because of our location, in 2019, 80% of our volunteers were from south Birmingham.

Our service is socially inclusive in that we welcome a wide range of volunteers who work together, looking after the Gardens. Our regular volunteers have included people with the following disabilities or support needs:

  1. Mental health issues
  2. Learning disabilities
  3. Autistic Spectrum Disorder/ Asperger’s
  4. People living with Dementia
  5. Physical disabilities
  6. Brain injuries
  7. Older people
  8. People recovering from addictions

Staff work with the mix of people so that everyone is contributing to the best of their ability, and learning about plants, the environment and each other. Some of our volunteers are people who want to support the work that we do ‘I just want to do something else on my day off’ or are currently unemployed or getting work experience with us.

The work and its impact

Volunteers have the opportunity to mix with other people, to join in purposeful activities, and improve their physical fitness and emotional resilience. Our volunteers often move on into work, training or other volunteering activities but they can stay at Martineau Gardens for as long as they benefit from coming and meet our expectations of respect for other people and the Gardens themselves..

At the Gardens, volunteers are offered a safe and welcoming space with:

  1. Opportunities for voluntary work (gardening, conservation etc.)
  2. Opportunities for physical exercise
  3. Opportunities for socialising
  4. Routes and opportunities for arts and crafts activities
  5. Routes to education, training and paid work

Using Personal Wellbeing Questions, we are exploring ways of measuring the impact that volunteering has on their lives. We believe that volunteering at Martineau Gardens has a beneficial impact on a number of factors that directly contribute to wellbing.

Our volunteers are supported to develop skills, in both practical horticulture and their interpersonal relationships while volunteering at the Gardens. Most volunteers attend independently, some are accompanied on their first few visits, and some are brought and collected by family or support workers. Volunteers may have some choice in how much they work alongside other people, or by themselves.

Volunteers regularly contribute ideas to the planning and direction of the Gardens’ development.


Our volunteers find us for themselves, or are referred by a wide range of organisations.

We ask the referrer to make a judgement as to whether the volunteer is a danger to themselves, other people or the Gardens. In such cases we may not be able to offer a spac, e or ask the referrer to provide staff to accompany the volunteer.