Gardening for dummies: advice for green-thumbed students

Lou Siday advises aspiring gardeners on how to maintain an enviable student house-plant collection.

Lou Siday
15th October 2018
Are students as horrible at gardening as we think they are?

Students are not famous for having green thumbs. In fact, you could say that they are infamous for the opposite. If you walk down a street in Jesmond, you can easily tell which is student accommodation and which is not.

Overgrown grass and discarded beer bottles are staple student horticulture - an eyesore yet somewhat charming to certain post-grads who yearn for student life once more. However, this is not always the case, as more students are getting into gardening. Perhaps this is down to the growing realisation of the ecological state of the world, or perhaps because many students think that owning a plant is the next step towards maturity. Whatever the reason, here we are, trowels in hand, ready to save student gardens! So, I have decided, un-knowledgeable and probably misinformed, to give you a few pointers.

[pullquote]House plants are always a good idea... as long as nobody uses them as an ashtray.[/pullquote]

In my third year, my housemate’s mum kindly planted flowers and shrubs in the garden patch at the start of the year. These were easy to maintain; we did nothing except weed them occasionally. They looked pretty all year and were hardy to the Northern weather. These plants included calendula, lavender, fuchsia and heather. Of course, if you have no garden patch then plants in pots are great to beautify a yard. This also means that when you move out in the summer, your beloved plants can come too.

House plants are always a good idea... as long as nobody uses them as an ashtray. In first year, my friend went to Ikea and came back to halls (on the bus) with a massive areca palm she had named Crystal. Crystal was with us until third year, when my friend decided to plant her in the shrubbery on the side of a road in Greater Manchester because apparently it was ‘time for Crystal to be free’. I hope she is doing well. So, I advise going to Ikea and getting your own Crystal. Cacti are a no. They seem like a good idea, but they always die.

Let’s not forget the plants that can be grown from seeds! I attempt to grow tomatoes every year from seeds and plant pots from the pound shop. I use old soil from my snail’s tank, but if you don’t have a pet snail you can always take some from your neighbour. Soil is free anyway, right?

And after a few days of sunshine and water, green seedlings will emerge! This will make you feel accomplished. Show them off to your housemates and send photos to your mum! After a few weeks, it’s time to take them out and put them into bigger pots. While some people throw away the small and frail seedlings, I have a heart and so I end up with rows and rows of tomato plants. After a month of sunlight and water, your tomato plants will be looking good. If their stems are growing tall, it is a good idea to go to find some branches and tie them onto the plants to keep them well supported.

Finally, don’t forget to stick with project ‘tomato-plant’! A few months on, it’s easy to slack on watering and keeping them healthy which really is a shame. I am yet to eat a tomato I have grown myself, but who knows, maybe next spring...

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