Dorm Gardening 101

Every year I’ve been at Trinity, I’ve had at least one plant.  Perhaps the oxygen emissions help my brain function better.  Maybe it improves the feng shui or makes my living space more aesthetically pleasing.  Perhaps a little greenery just reminds me that there is life outside of school, and taking care of these other living beings reduces excess personal stress and creates an added sense of accomplishment.  Regardless, there is definitely something internally satisfying that comes from taking care of a couple plants.

There are many purposes besides these psychological advantages that come with keeping plants in your dorm room or apartment, as well.  Fragrant plants can make your living space smell wonderful, and edible plants or plants that produce fruits or vegetables are great for cooking or a freshly picked snack.  What you grow just depends on personal preference.  I’ve had all types of plants, including herbs, vegetables and flowers.

To give you some idea of advantages from personal experience, I wanted my dorm room to smell good all the time my junior year, so I bought a lavender plant and a rosemary plant.  Everyone who came to my room commented on how great it smelled.  Success.

This year, living in my own apartment, I have far more “freedom to grow.”  Currently, for decorative and fragrant purposes, I have a floral hanging basket, a small fragrant olive tree, an orchid and a leafy vine plant.  I have several kinds of herbs, as well, including basil, mint, cilantro, rosemary and lavender.  I often use these herbs for cooking — especially the basil, mint and cilantro.  Additionally, I have an aloe plant for burns, and jalapeno and tomato plants which provide me with a little fresh produce.

Although I have all of these plants, they don’t require much effort to keep alive.  You can do it, too.  But you don’t have to go all-out like me.  My best advice would be to start out with a couple of your favorites.  If you get something you really like, you will be more likely to pay attention to it and remember to care for it.  Each plant has slightly different needs as well, so read the tag that comes with the plant.  It should explain how much to water it and how much sun it needs.  Before buying, make sure you can provide the right amount of sunlight for the plant — otherwise, it could end up being a waste of your money.  Balconies, depending on which direction they’re facing, are often perfect for most potted plants that are conducive to this region.

Don’t know what you need to care for the plant?  Remember to buy potting soil, pots (cheap, plastic ones are fine) and a watering can or spray bottle.  The pots should give the plants enough room to grow but shouldn’t be overwhelmingly large either.  You can find all of these items at your nearest Wal-mart.

Lastly, and most importantly, where can you buy your plants?  While you’re at Wal-mart buying supplies, you should check out their plant selection, as well.  They usually have a little bit of everything, from veggie plants to flowers, and it’s all at a reasonable price.  Central Market offers a good selection of herbs for $4 or less.  Last time I was there, they were three for $10.  If you are a beginner, definitely go for the cheapest you can get.  If you want to check out a legit nursery with a huge selection, I recommend Schulz Nursery (at 3700 Broadway).  They have a knowledgeable staff that will help you pick out and find what you need.

Now you have all you need to get started.  Happy growing!