Growing plants in your dorm room can increase the air quality and aesthetics of your living space, but growing plants that you can eat adds an additional layer of benefits. Not only will you have healthy food to snack on, but nurturing edible plants in your dorm will be good practice if you want to plant your own fruit or vegetable garden in the future. However, for right now, we’ll start small with these six simple edible plants.
Many types of lettuce can easily be grown in a dorm room; however, it’s usually best to stick with “baby” varieties as they are smaller than standard varieties and are often looseleaf for easier harvest and maintenance. Examples included baby red lettuce, baby romaine lettuce and even arugula.
These plants require well-draining soil, plenty of sunlight (twelve hours a day is ideal) and proper potting. Good pots are usually made of plastic or clay, are four to six inches in diameter and have holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain out. Make sure to keep your pots on a saucer or tray to catch the drained water. To tell if the plant needs water, push your finger an inch into the soil and if it is still moist, you don’t need to water, but if dry, water enough so that the soil is thoroughly moistened. The best time for harvesting the leaves is right before they begin to wilt. Simply snip off ripe leaves with a pair of scissors, wash and eat!
While there are many varieties of this cute red fruit, Alpine strawberries are typically grown indoors. They produce smaller, wilder-looking fruits than what you would find in the grocery store, but are better suited for indoor environments. Water and soil requirements are similar to that of lettuce plants, but strawberries require a little more space and don’t need as much sunlight. Pot your strawberry plants in pots that are five to seven inches in diameter, and six hours of sunlight a day is sufficient. Harvest when the fruit is entirely red in color; when harvesting, use a gentle twist-and-pull motion to detach the fruit from the stem. Then, wash and eat!
Chives are a great addition to omelets, baked potatoes, chowder and many other savory dishes. They are also easy to grow indoors. Simply plant in a six-inch pot with holes in the bottom, and water when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch. Six to eight hours of sunlight a day is recommended, and trim the tops of the stems if they begin to wilt. When they reach a desired height, simply cut the bottom of the stem with scissors, wash, chop into small pieces and use them to garnish!
Mint is fragrant, flavorful and fun to grow in your dorm room. Mint plants do better in wide, shallow pots as opposed to deep or narrow pots, and, like most edible plants, require well-draining soil. Keep the soil moist by watering when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch, and mist between waterings. Mint does well in sunlight for six to eight hours of the day, but can tolerate shade. Regularly prune any woody or wilting parts of the plant. To harvest, simply pinch off desired leaves and use as needed!
Basil is a highly multi-purpose herb, often complementing everything from pizza to salads to soups. (Tip: Pair it with your dorm-grown strawberries for a refreshing snack!) It grows well in a four to five-inch pot and well-draining, moist soil. As with mint, water when soil is dry to the touch and mist between waterings. Four to six hours of sunlight (or more) is best for basil. Regularly prune the plant to encourage more growth. Harvest as you would with mint; pinch off a leaf or two, wash and use!
Another multi-purpose plant, ginger is put in teas, soups and sauces to add a kick of flavor and additional health benefits. Ginger thrives in wide, shallow, well-draining pots. Be careful not to over-water, but keep the soil moist by regularly misting the plant and lightly watering. For those whose dorm rooms don’t get much sun, ginger is the plant for you: these plants prefer partial or full shade. Begin harvesting when the green shoots above the surface are three to four months old. Pull back some of the soil until you find a ginger root (also called a rhizome), cut off a piece, then replace the soil and allow the root to grow back. Wash and enjoy!
Starters for these plants are much easier and more efficient than propagating them from their respective seeds, divisions or cuttings. Nurseries, gardening stores, greenhouses and botanical gardens often sell starters, and you can also check the botany or horticulture department at your school. To develop your interest in plants even further, take a botany or horticulture class for a semester, volunteer at a community farm or natural reserve and encourage others to grow their own plants. Nurturing edible plants is a rewarding, educational and tasty process. Give it a shot!
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