Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Let it grow: gardening is self-care

Clara Webb

As the Lorax once said, “Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care. Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.” 

Whether it’s one succulent or an assortment of fruits and veggies, caring for plants teaches students patience and promotes a healthy mindset and connection to nature. Students should follow the wisdom of the beloved Dr. Suess character and “let it grow” by incorporating gardening into their self-care routine. 

“If you take care of something, you’re also taking care of yourself because you’re showing that you have the capacity to (maintain another) life and take care of it,” biology senior Hansha Chen said. 

In recent years, the American Psychological Association reported that Gen Z adults, ages 18 to 23, face unprecedented uncertainty, elevated stress and worsened symptoms of depression. This crisis stems both from young adults’ isolation following the pandemic and a widening separation between people and nature. 

Biology junior Morgan Heard is one of two project co-leads at UT Microfarm, an organization where students, faculty and staff grow plants and learn about their role in making our community a more nourished and thriving place to live. 

“The farm is an escape to relax and get away from school,” Heard said. “I’ve heard from other volunteers and team members who say the same thing — that it’s really fulfilling to do something and to see a tangible result.”

Students can incorporate gardening into their lifestyles by starting with what works best for them. There are plenty of low-maintenance options that accommodate even the busiest of schedules. Students don’t necessarily need any special skills or tools to garden — not even a “green thumb.” 

To further personalize the experience, students could visit a local nursery like Shoal Creek Nursery, where an expert can recommend plants best suited for their environment. For example, spaces with lots of natural light are perfect for easy-to-grow succulents and cacti, while a dorm windowsill is sufficient for basic herbs like mint, basil and rosemary. Pothos or spider plants work well in rooms with less light. 

Gardening can be an aesthetic and practical hobby that supports one’s mental health. For example, my small patio garden has herbs that I use for cooking, cleaning and making teas and marigold and honeysuckle flowers for decoration. I would love to grow green onions or tomatoes next. 

Growing edible plants can also help address local food insecurity. Heard explained that UT Microfarm donates all of its produce to UT Outpost, an organization that then provides the food to students. 

Students who aren’t quite ready for a home garden could volunteer with organizations like the Microfarm and UT Farmstand. The Microfarm even offers personal plots for people to grow their own miniature gardens. 

“A lot of people don’t know where their food comes from or how to grow things,” Heard said. “We get a lot of volunteers who it’s their first time seeing a tomato plant, planting or harvesting.”

While some students may worry that gardening will add stress to their already busy schedules, establishing a gardening routine can enhance organization and positively impact mental well-being. Daily tasks like watering create a calming pattern that alleviates stress. 

“You create a better appreciation for the environment as well, ” Chen said. “For me, when going outside and being with my plants, I started being more aware of the nature around me: the birds, squirrels, insects, earthworms. … You don’t realize that life is so big around you until you step your foot into it.”

As humans, connecting with the Earth’s natural environment is vital to our psychology. Research has proven that staying close to nature cultivates gratitude for the world around us. When people care for plants, they gain respect for the resources that sustain them and experience the satisfaction of supporting a life in return. With a little research, anyone can reap the rewards of gardening.

“It’s super cool for students going from the stress of a week of school, being on campus, late nights indoors studying and then being able to get their hands dirty and just dig,” Heard said. 

Jackson is a Plan II and journalism sophomore from Boerne, Texas.

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