Spring Gardens Support Cancer Survivors

gardening pots and plants

Spring is here and we're welcoming garden-fresh produce with a look at one cancer center's approach to healthy growing and eating.

Ohio State University (OSU) created the Garden of Hope, designed in collaboration with OSU’s agricultural research center as a community garden for survivors and their caregivers. The garden aims to help people eat more fruits and vegetables, and improve their health -- all while researching how gardening can help individuals diagnosed with cancer.

Partnering with the James Cancer Hospital, patients and survivors receive education and coaching about healthy eating that aligns with AICR’s recommendations. Dietetic interns from OSU help the survivors harvest produce and answer questions about healthy preparation, food safety and dietary guidelines.

Benefits of Gardening

Gardening can be an ideal form of exercise for survivors because it combines three types of physical activity - strength, endurance and flexibility. Gardening is a weight-bearing exercise, so it can help build strong bones and muscles needed to combat osteoporosis. Pushing a wheelbarrow, raking leaves, or carrying bags of soil builds strength and endurance. Kneeling, twisting and reaching can improve both balance and flexibility.

Time spent in a garden can also offer you a stress-free, productive and calming activity. And all while giving you fresh fruits and vegetables.

Salmon with Quinoa and Broccoli in a Green Curry Cocout Sauce

Here's a delicious way to use garden fresh vegetables in a creative and beautiful recipe from Sous Chef Katie McCurdy of the Bloch Cafe, James Cancer Hospital.

Garden Study Research

Since 2013, OSU's garden studies have investigated the effects of gardening on various groups of cancer survivors every year.

“Cancer survivors are at risk for poor nutrition due to therapy, inadequate dietary patterns and susceptibility to unproven dietary advice,” says Colleen Spees, PhD, MEd, RDN., one of the study’s principal investigators. “One objective of our interventions is to establish a dietary pattern built upon the foundation of improved fruit and vegetable intake.”

Emerging research from the studies suggests that participants increased their daily vegetables and fruit, and reported improved mental and physical health.

Learn more about OSU's Garden of Hope.

Tips While You're Gardening

  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen, long-sleeved shirts and pants, and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • When working outside, stay hydrated with plenty of water, especially if the temperature and humidity are high.
  • Using steady, smooth motions - as opposed to sudden jerks - will help avoid injury.
  • When picking up tools or lifting bags of soil, bend your knees and keep your back straight.
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