In the modern world, people’s exposure to plant life is decreasing every day. Many students sit in classrooms with white cinder block walls, stare at computers for hours straight and live in dorms or apartments with bright, phosphorescent lighting and little to no landscaping. To many students, this is not an issue, but to others, these environments can create — or add to — their anxieties.
Luckily, there is an easy fix to this dilemma. With $10, water and sunlight, a student can change his or her living environment and improve their daily mood.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln agronomy and horticulture associate professor Stacy Adams said raising plants can help students who are struggling with stress and anxiety.
“Environments with a lot of light can put people on edge,” he said. “There’s therapeutic value to caring for plants. They bring nature into a living space and can mellow the mood of a harsh environment.”
No matter what living situation or level of gardening experience a student has, Adams said there is a wide variety of plants that anyone can grow — of these, succulents like aloe, agave, houseleek and cacti are the easiest plants one can grow indoors.
“Succulent gardens are fun,” he said. “You can place several in a small pot or random antique and use them as a decoration. Put them in the light in a windowsill in the morning, remove them in the afternoon and give them a quarter cup of water every couple weeks.”
If students are looking for larger plants to grow indoors, Adams said English ivy and Sansevieria are their best options.
“These plants don’t require a lot of light, but they do need more water than succulents,” he said. “Saturate the pot with water once a week, and place a tray of gravel below it to help retain the humidity.”
If a student wants to go even further and grow edible plants, there are several ways to grow produce inside or on a small balcony area at this time of year.
Sarah Browning, a UNL extension educator with a focus on water, climate and environment, said it is possible for students to grow lettuce, spinach, basil and parsley indoors during the winter months. She said light is of the utmost importance for these plants.
“The biggest aspect of growing them successfully is providing enough light,” she said. “As we move further into fall and winter, light levels become very low and supplementing with artificial light will be critical.”
Because artificial light sources can be hard to come by, this may not be practical for many students. With Lincoln’s estimated first frost just over a month and a half away, there is still time to grow crops outside.
If a student doesn’t have backyard access, Adams said there are several ways to grow spinach, radishes, bok choy, lettuce and herbs in a limited outdoor space like an apartment balcony.
“You can grow these plants in a box or a tub, or you can cut open a bag of fertilizer, poke holes in it and plants your seeds there,” he said. “Bag cultures are nice because they are small and disposable.”
Since these plants fit indoors, they are typically small and affordable. A bag of spinach seeds costs anywhere from $1-2 while succulents, cacti and ivy can range from $3-12 apiece, depending on their size.
If you’re tired of the decor of your living space, eager to bring more nature into your life or are searching for a low-maintenance DIY project to help you de-stress, a number of small-scale fall gardening projects are manageable for the nature-deprived student.