Discovering your green thumb

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With limited space and usually no yard of one’s own, a college student would seem the least likely of green thumbs. But with a few tools even the most cramped of quarters can house fresh veggies to the occupant’s delight.

While large stake-filled plots of land are the idealistic images that come to mind, successful flower and vegetable gardens can be created in portable containers perfect for students wanting to play in the dirt.

Sanna Motola, manager of Vineyard Garden Center in Orem, said a container garden is a simple way for students to exercise their green thumbs and harvest some tasty, home-grown vegetables.

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With limited space and usually no yard of one's own, a college student would seem the least likely of green thumbs. But with a few tools even the most cramped of quarters can house fresh veggies to the occupant's delight.
“There’s something about getting your hands in the dirt and getting outside,” she said. “You’d be surprised by the joy you get from growing your own garden. … It’s more of an addiction for me.”

With a little sunlight, Motola said students can grow almost anything.

Anything includes strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, peppers, lettuce and even squash if your pot is large enough. Containers are also useful for growing fresh herbs such as cilantro, basil, rosemary and sage.

To start their garden, students need three simple items: a container, potting soil and the desired plants. A small garden can be started for a small upfront cost of around $25 or less.

Containers come in a variety of sizes and gardeners can be creative with their containers. The Vineyard Garden Center in Orem also offers free used plastic containers.

“You’d be surprised what you can plant in,” Motola said. “You can have fun spray painting them and making them pretty.”

Container sizes are based on their diameters and not their depth. Motola recommends students start with a 16-inch pot.

Most of the cost will come from the price of the potting soil, which tends to run about $8 per bag.

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While it can be tempting to just dig up some soil from the yard, Julie Chai, associate garden editor at Sunset magazine, warns against it.

“You don’t want to dig up soil from your yard because that’s generally too heavy and it could introduce weed and diseases that you don’t want to have in your container plants,” she said.

When selecting plants, Marie Hofer, a writer for HGTV, warned gardeners not to mix to many plants in one pot.

“Select plants that are compatible in terms of light, water, growth and the conditions in the chosen site,” she said. “Don’t mix a shade and water-lover like impatiens with a dry-and-sunny plant like thyme. Some plants like mint are such aggressive growers they need a pot of their own.”

While students can start their gardens from seeds, the process takes longer.

“For college students, it’s probably easiest to start with starters,” Motola said.

Individual starters usually cost only a few dollars, with some coming in four-pack containers for $2-$3.

For the flower designer, students need to buy the three-part system: thriller, filler and spiller.

The thriller is a tall upright plant that acts as the showy, bold element of your container. The filler is a mid-level plant that fills up the pot with billowy shapes. Spillers are what their name implies — plants that drape over the edge of the pot.

Once you have all your items, Motola said the rest is easy.

“You just grab the pot, dump in soil, put in the plants and you’re done,” she said. “You just need to water them.”

Not resricted to a plot of land, container gardens can travel wth students to new apartments each semester.

“You can pack up and say ‘Come on, pot, let’s go'” Motola said.

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