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Easy Growers - A Guide to Growing for Students

Lucy tells us the secrets to making gardening as affordable, easy, and fun as possible for students! Some tips are shared for planting various herbs, fruits, and vegetables that can be used to add a homegrown element to meals.

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It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to gardening. Often there are concerns that it will be time-consuming and require lots of tools to begin, but this is not the case. For students, buying fresh and sustainable products can often be financially difficult. Still, as our climate continues to suffer, it is important to make choices where we can that lead to a more sustainable lifestyle. What our diet consists of plays a big part in both our physical and mental well-being, therefore it is important to consider the benefits of eating fresh food and vegetables, particularly with increasing research available on pesticides and metals being found in supermarket products. The process of gardening itself has also been found to improve our moods and is a great way to relax after a long day at university.


For these easy growers, access to a green space is not required; the following ideas only need a sunny windowsill and some time.


HERBS

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Your health is not the only benefit because your bank benefits as well. Supermarket-bought herbs are pricey, short-lived, and are normally sprayed with harmful fertilisers… all the more reason to grow your own! A herb garden is a quick and easy way to take your homemade meals to the next level and they will last as long as you want them to. Before you begin your herb garden, it might be worth considering what herbs you already use, or what will be most useful to have on hand. Mint, parsley, cress, and chives are some of the most popular easy growers. If you are unsure of where to begin, herb kits are a good place to start. Herb-growing kits are available on Etsy, a carbon-neutral shopping platform, with a large variety of choices. Grow Your Own Cocktail Herb Kit would be the perfect gift, and contains step-by-step instructions, tools, and peat-free soil. For the following herbs, you can choose to divide a mature plant or grow from seeds.


Cress:

Cress is particularly easy to grow, and you don’t need compost. You need a tray, lined with a wet paper towel, and cress seeds. Organic cress seeds can be found in your local garden centre, or online from organic companies.


Pea shoots:

This herb is packed with antioxidants and nutrients and can be added raw to salads. In order to grow this, use whole, dried peas, found in supermarkets and soak overnight. After, place in a thin layer of compost (3 cm) and sprinkle 1 cm over the top. They will grow quickly, so make sure to cut them as they tend to have a bitter taste when left too long.


Chives:

A beautiful herb to look at, all it needs is well-draining soil and a container. They grow well next to other growing pots and therefore are a good contribution to your windowsill herb garden! When the soil is dry to the touch, add some water, and they will germinate within two weeks. Chives are perfect for homemade soups or for garnish when you're feeling fancy.


Mint:

Not only is this a versatile herb, but there are many varieties of mint to choose from. Fill a container with potting soil, and water until the soil becomes moist. Make 0.5 cm holes in the soil, and place in the seeds. Keep the soil moist and you should see germination within 2 short weeks. Personally, I believe mint is the most useful to have on hand, as it can be used for anything from brewing mint tea to mojito-making for a cocktail night.


Basil:

Purchase your basil seeds, place them in well-draining soil in a container with good drainage, and spray with water. Cover the seeds with dry soil, and don’t pack them down. Add a layer of dry soil on top, and mist it with a spray bottle again. Place in a sunny spot and the seeds will germinate between 5-10 days. Basil can be used for pizzas, pesto, pasta and much more.


FRUIT AND VEG

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Fresh fruit and vegetables really transform any student meal, and it is proven that organic ingredients have far more nutrition and taste. Learning to grow and eat healthy ingredients is a sustainable practice that can be taken through life. It is a fulfilling hobby and is a sure way to impress your friends. Growing fresh fruit and veg can seem daunting, but they take very little preparation and are particularly rewarding once they ripen and can be used. There are many environmental benefits that should be considered too, such as reducing plastic waste and using little water. However, shopping for locally-grown fruit and vegetables is always a good alternative if you don’t have the energy to grow your own. Small choices like these make a big difference over time.


Carrots:

To grow carrots, all you need is a deep pot with drainage holes and 30 cm of soil. Fill with soil and then add seeds (shorter-rooted carrot seeds are recommended). Keep the top layer of soil moist, whilst not overwatering, and by week 12 they should be ready to harvest.


Spring onions:

Spring onions are very easy to grow, perhaps even the easiest. The quickest way is to use cuttings from spring onions you already have. Place the white base and its roots in a container of water and change the water regularly. Wait for roots to grow and then place in soil. Spring onions can be used in various ways, such as in a stir fry, dips, and salads, and are a great way to spruce up a pot noodle.


Microgreens:

Microgreens are increasing in popularity and can be blended in pesto, or added as a pizza topping. They are full of flavour and dense in nutrients, which is why they are sometimes referred to as a ‘superfood’. They are a young vegetable and there are a variety of seeds to choose from, such as the Brassicaceae, Apiaceous, and Amaryllidaceae family. To grow them use a shallow tray with a thin layer of compost, add the seeds, and place a shallow layer of compost over the top.


Cuca melon:

These mini watermelon-looking fruits taste like a mix between a cucumber and a lime. They are a perfect windowsill plant but do need somewhere to allow the vines to grow. To germinate the seeds, place them on a damp paper towel and keep them in a warm spot. Keep them damp, transfer to a large container that has plenty of drainage holes, and keep in direct sunlight. Whilst Cuca melon’s initial growth process is slow, once they sprout, they grow fast.


SUSTAINABLE CHOICE


When starting your indoor garden it is important to maintain the sustainability of your project. Sustainable choices should be made when choosing containers, soil, where to purchase seeds and more. Often for containers, you may have some already laying around without realising. Save yourself a trip to the garden centre and consider using glass jars, milk cartons, and plastic bottles if you don’t already have any spare plant pots. Toilet rolls are also ideal for seed germination. If using glass, use a clear glass to allow light in, and to see the progress of your plants.


When choosing soil, peat-free soil is a must. Peat is extracted from fragile ecosystems, such as peatlands and bogs, and stores the most carbon than any other vegetation type. Instead, use alternatives such as coco-fibre, bark, and your own compost if you have the time. To add nutrients to the soil for your indoor plants, consider adding banana peels. They are usually readily available and are a good way to add potassium to potting soil.


About the Author: Lucy Barker is currently studying English Literature at the University of York, and hopes to pursue a career in environmental journalism, working towards spreading awareness for climate change related issues.

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