Occupational Therapy Gardening Ideas for Adults (& Kids)


According to AOTA, “gardening is one of the most popular pastimes for Americans. Gardening can also be difficult for people with health conditions that limit movement (such as arthritis) or cause fatigue”.

Especially among older adults, gardening is a familiar and therapeutic activity with many benefits.

Benefits of Gardening

  • Promotes movement, coordination
  • Improves strengthening balance
  • Builds endurance
  • Social engagement
  • Following a routine
  • Participation in outdoor activity (fresh air, sunlight)
  • Reduces isolation
  • Rewarding, accomplishment
  • Functional (fruits, vegetables, herbs)
  • Impacts cognition (judgement, problem solving, memory, sequencing)
  • Mental health

Importance of Gardening

Oftentimes, therapists may be limited by pragmatic barriers, e.g. inpatient in a hospital, locked hospital. Furthermore, COVID-19 may have contributed to isolation and from going outdoors leading to occupational deprivation.

Gardening Intervention Ideas for Adults (or Kids)

  • Gardening as a Means
  • Gardening as a Ends


  • Watering a plant, several plants
  • Picking and arranging flowers
  • Carrying water and tools
  • Trimming, cutting
  • Watering with a cup, hose, spray bottle
  • Washing harvests
  • Planting
  • Weeding
  • Scooping soil
  • Composting
  • Potting
  • Painting pots
  • Molding clay pots (modeling clay)
  • Picking up small seeds (fine motor)
  • Planning a new garden
  • Leaf blowing
  • Raking
  • Sweeping
  • Fertilizing
  • Maintenance, Clean-up
  • Organizing tools, toolbox
  • Lifting various loads
  • Standing, kneeling, crouching
  • Walking on different terrain, levels
  • Putting on/taking off gardening gloves
  • Tool use
  • Digging holes (uncovering and finding objects)
  • Grip strength
  • Joint protection
  • Cognition (planning, problem solving, researching)
  • Dual tasking – categorizing, recall, seasonal plants, what grows best, etc.
  • Pushing & driving (a lawnmower)
  • Smelling the flowers
  • Safety, avoiding falls, injury, thorns, etc.
  • Indoor gardening, greenhouse
  • Other occupations in the garden (e.g. painting, eating, cooking)
  • Gardening competitions (tallest, biggest, tastiest)
  • Mindfulness, Relaxation, Stress management
  • Socialization (other clients)
  • Gardening group
  • Shopping for gardening activity with client (e.g., buying seeds)
  • Sequencing, following instructions
  • Bonsai, Chia Pets

Vegetables to Grow & Eat

  • Tomatoes
  • Corn
  • Beets
  • Cucumbers
  • Lettuce

Fruits to Grow & Eat

  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Cherries
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Figs

Also consider other plants and herbs!


  • Vision, Low vision, Visual-perception
  • Body mechanics
  • Role, Habits, Routines
  • Background & Culture
  • Teachback
  • Mental health
  • Sensory activity
  • Specific SMART goal setting
  • Remedial vs. compensatory

Where to Get Supplies

  • Dollar Store
  • Online
  • Local nursery
  • Donations
  • Garage sales