Growing Seeds In Plastic Bags: Learn About Starting Seeds In A Bag
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By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
We all want a jump start on the growing season and there are few better ways than germinating seeds in a bag. This method works great on most vegetables, especially legumes, and can also be used for annuals and other plants.
What Do You Need for Starting Seeds in a Bag?
In northern climates, seeds need to be started indoors for the best chance at germination. Other factors besides cold temperatures can affect sprouting, such as rain and wind, which may wash away seeds. To keep control of your future plants and get them ahead for the growing season, try the baggie seed starting method. It’s cheap, easy, and effective.
You can use a clear plastic bag that has a zipper, or not. Even a bread bag will work, provided it doesn’t have holes. Remember, the two most crucial items for seed germination are moisture and heat. By starting seeds in a bag, you can easily provide both, plus light if the variety of seeds is one that is photosensitive.
In addition to the bag, you will need some material that is moderately absorbent. This might be a bit of towel, coffee filter, paper towels, or even moss. Ta-da, you now have a perfect seed incubator.
Tips on Plastic Bag Seed Starting
It is extremely helpful if starting several kinds of seed to mark the bags first with a permanent marker. You should also consult seed packets to see if they need dark or light to germinate.
Next, moisten your absorbent material. Get it good and wet and then squeeze out excess water. Lay it out flat and place seeds on one side of the material and then fold over. Put the seeds in the plastic bag and seal it somehow.
If the seeds need light, place them by a bright window. If not, put them in a drawer or cupboard where it is warm. You can use a seed germination mat if you wish since they produce a fairly low temperature and shouldn’t melt the bags. If so, put a dish towel over the mat first before placing the bags on top.
Caring for Seeds in Plastic Bags
Germination times will vary when using the baggie seed starting method, but will generally be faster than soil planting. Every 5 to 7 days, open the bag to release excess condensation which can contribute to damping off.
Keep the absorbent material moderately wet when needed. Some pros recommend a mister bottle filled with a 1:20 water/hydrogen peroxide solution to spray on seeds and prevent mold. Another suggestion is the chamomile tea to prevent mildew problems.
Once they have sprouted, use toothpicks as dibbles and carefully transplant seedlings to the soil to grow on until time to plant out.
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Germinating Seeds in a Bag: Science Experiment for Kids
Germinating seeds in a bag is a fun way for kids to view how seeds transform into plants right before their eyes. Seeds don’t need soil to start germinating, so you can place them in a sunny window and they will start sprouting right away. This allows kids to watch how seeds sprout, which is a process normally hidden by dirt. There is a lot to learn in this experiment, yet it is so simple to do! As long as you have dried beans and some plastic bags, you can make these seed germinating bags.
Four Ways To Grow An Avocado Tree From Seed
There are four ways to grow an avocado tree from seed.
- The Toothpick Method
- The Baggie Method
- The Soaking Method
- The Soil Method
Avocados are native to Mexico and also grow well in California and Florida. Most avocado varieties need to have mild temperatures and good humidity to grow outdoors. But since they don’t like cold temperatures, it is unlikely that avocados would grow outdoors in Grow Zones 7 and below.
If you live in a colder growing zone, you can still grow your own avocados from seed, just grow them inside as a beautiful houseplant. You can use any of the following four methods to sprout your avocado pits.
Method #1 – Use a Seed Starter
Purchase an inexpensive dome style seed starter from your local garden center or discount store. These usually sell for less than $10, and contain everything except the seeds to get you growing, including a humidity dome to keep in heat, and soil or soil less cubes. The only downside to these is that the growing blocks are usually pretty small, so if you are going to plant fast growing annuals such as sunflowers, morning glories or squash, you might want to wait to just two weeks before last frost. Otherwise, you will have to transplant your seedlings into larger containers as they outgrow the seed dome. This method works very well for growing perennials, since they are slower growing than annuals as a rule.
There is a large selection of dome seed starter trays and germination trays available at Amazon. Check them out here.
Make sure the growing medium is moist, place the seeds at the depth recommended by the packet, and place the dome on. You will see moisture condense inside the dome. This is great for starting out, as the heat and moisture is trapped in. However, once seedlings start to appear, you MUST remove the dome to prevent “damping off” a fungal disease that will kill the seedlings. Add water as necessary to keep the soil moist, but not wet. This seed starter greenhouse is from ‘Gardeners Supply‘.
Method #2 – Use recycled pots
The second method is the most economical one. This is where we plant seed into reusable or recycled containers. These containers must have drainage, and be able to be moved easily. Tupperware, egg cartons or pots made from recycled newspaper are several popular ideas. Placed on a tray, such as an old cookie sheet- they make great planting flats, if not too terribly attractive. It helps when using this method to enclose the entire tray in a clear plastic bag until seedlings appear. This does the same job as the $10 dome, by keeping in heat and moisture.’Lovely Greens’ has 12 ideas for using recycled materials for growing seeds! Here is just one! Use egg shells to make biodegradable pots!
Or, use newspaper to make pots you can plant right into the ground when they are ready. Photo by ‘Fine Gardening’.
Method #3 – Use a greenhouse
This is my preferred method for growing seeds indoors, and one I just started using two years ago. I picked up a portable greenhouse. It has several metal shelves for seedling flats covered by a polycarbonate panels to keep in heat and moisture. This makes it very easy for me to move the entire set up outdoors for daylight, and the panels keeps the heat in, even when it hovers near freezing outside. I can grow several hundred seedlings in this setup. I caution you against leaving it outdoors during windy conditions, however. Also keep in mind during sunny days it can heat up inside the greenhouse quite quickly, so make sure you open up one side and occasionally monitor the temps in your greenhouse. Here is one from ‘Burpee‘ just like mine! (they also have larger ones, in case you want the dream!)
Once the seedlings are up, they must have very bright, though not direct light. If you don’t pick yourself up a greenhouse, then using a windowsill during bad weather is acceptable. But to grow healthy and strong, seedlings should be placed in either artificial light, or on a protected porch for much of the day. Make sure you bring them in at night, and don’t leave them out in frosty weather.
You can create an artificial light system easily and inexpensively with this tutorial from ‘Grow a Good Life’.
Growing seeds indoors will save you money and allow you to grow plant varieties in your garden that are special and unusual. It’s easy, so try starting your seeds indoors today!
Make sure you check out our posts on DIY Greenhouses, and also Square Foot Gardening! And then jump on over to OhMeOhMy and read 13 Indoor Plant Shelf Ideas!
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