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Thinking About My Spring Garden as a College Student Without a Yard

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Illinois State chapter.

With the arrival of Spring comes sporadic, midday showers and 70º sunny days, but the most exciting part to me is the return of flowers, leafy trees, and garden produce!

Now, I’m not one of your typical, professional gardeners with an elaborate framework, perfectly measured plots for each plant, and a strong desire to tend to my plants on a daily basis. I’m a college student living in a small apartment with little-to-no garden space and a small plot of land at my mom’s house that I can tend to on the weekends. Gardening is in no way something that is a full-time responsibility to me, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy it just the same.

In terms of planning my garden, I want to emphasize that this is not an elaborate garden. It’s messy, it has its flaws, and I go in blindly each year with what I want to plant. I don’t limit myself to just garden fruits/vegetables either. In fact, my first-ever garden consisted of different types of flowers… that’s it. I thought growing my own food seemed too difficult and that my small rectangle of land was nowhere near big enough to plant any major crops. So I added what I wanted to add. Flowers make me happy so I picked out all the ones that I liked and integrated them into my garden. I made it so that my garden was simply a creative expression; I treated it like artwork.

The following season, I developed a love for fruit and sustainability, so after learning about how easy it was to grow strawberries, I added them to my flower garden and went from there. What started as just flowers and strawberries later turned into flowers, strawberries, blueberries, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, and peppers. I even started working at a local greenhouse/garden shop.

“I made it so that my garden was simply a creative expression; I treated it like artwork.”

As the weather is warming up and my Snapchat memories are reminding me that, at this time last year, I was already seeing lettuce sprouts in my garden, I realize that I am way too behind on my gardening. The fact that I’m confined to a small 8×4 balcony is no excuse to slack on one of my favorite hobbies; it’s time to start thinking about my Spring garden. You’ll be surprised to learn that I can easily pull off adding a little greenery to my balcony, and you can too!

1. Flowers

As I mentioned earlier, you don’t need crops to have a garden! If you’re just into flowers, that’s okay! Buy a three-tiered plant stand, a mini garden bed with legs, or a large, ceramic planter, and pick out some of your favorite flowers to pot. All of these options work great to display your flowers on small balconies or patios.

Personally, I’ll be using a large wooden basket to display all my favorite flowers as a single, beautiful arrangement!

2. Herbs

An alternate option if you want a plant that will do more than just sit and look pretty is planting herbs! You’d be surprised at how easy it is to maintain lavender, rosemary, peppermint, or catnip in small pots/beds while still getting a decent amount of produce. Plus, a lot of the herbs have multiple purposes. For example, all of the herbs I just mentioned have mosquito-repelling capabilities.

I like to plant lavender each year so that I can make small, fragment bouquets to have inside the house. Catnip is another one that I like to grow so that I can give it to my mom’s cats, and rosemary is always nice to have for cooking!

3. Fruits/Vegetables

Last year was the first time that I experimented with a wide range of fruits and veggies, but funny enough, the only crop actually planted in the ground was at my mom’s house: my blueberry bush. When I learned that you could grow many common fruits/veggies in simple 5-gallon buckets, I did it with everything I could.

I planted lettuce, spinach, baby tomatoes, and peppers in large buckets and left them out in the sun. They stayed in a pot for the entire season, which allowed for easy mobility and erased the need for a yard. I could easily fit a couple of these buckets on my balcony and have a small batch of tomatoes or peppers ready at my fingertips.

My favorite balcony crop is definitely strawberries. They are super easy to grow on balconies. All you need is a hanging basket and a strawberry plant and you’ll have endless strawberries all Summer. You can also grow them in raised beds, but I found that a hanging basket makes it easier to see when the strawberries are ready for picking and makes it easier to pick them without having to dig around as much.

When thinking about my Spring garden this year, I really have to consider the space I have to work with to pick what I’m going to be planting. But there is no doubt that some of my essentials will be strawberries, herbs, and a small variety of flowers. College living isn’t going to stunt my ability to do the things I like, and it shouldn’t do that for you either! Whether you’re also into gardening, or just starting out, it’s truly a hobby that anyone can do. Space restrictions may apply, but there is nothing stopping a potted plant next to a window!

Hannah Hagie

Illinois State '25

Hi! My name's Hannah. I attend Illinois State University as a sophomore and am majoring in Creative Writing. Writing has always been a passion of mine and I've been doing so since the second grade. A goal of mine is to be a published author one day and I hope to work towards that with my experience of writing in school, in my free time, and on Her Campus. A few of my personal interests include writing, reading, music, baking, thrifting, and shopping, so I'm sure you'll be seeing articles from me on all of those topics and more! You can find me on Instagram @hannahhagie!