Gardening lesson: Brown bag planting

Brown bag planting
By Holly Hayes, San Jose Mercury News

What you'll need: brown paper lunch bags, vegetable oil, a pastry brush or disposable foam paint applicator, lightweight potting mix, a chopstick or pencil, a turkey baster or spray bottle filled with water, seeds (we used Bon Jour, a bicolor corn, and Profuma di Genoa, an Italian basil, both from Renee's Garden Seeds).

Cut off about four inches from the top (the open end) of the lunch bag. Carefully fold down about an inch for a "collar" for your little planter. Paint the inside lightly with vegetable oil and let air dry.

When dry, fill the bag with potting mix, up to about an inch from the top. Tamp down the potting mix a bit, but don't pack it. Using the chopstick or pencil, make small indentations in the potting mix and drop in a seed or two in each little hole. Gently cover up the seeds and dribble on water with the turkey baster or mist with water from the spray bottle.

Set the paper-bag planters in a sunny spot outdoors or a sunny windowsill indoors (at least six hours per day) and keep soil moist. The seeds will sprout in three to 10 days and when the seedlings are about four inches tall, you can plant the seedling - bag and all - right into a prepared bed.

This technique works well for most flowers and vegetables, but is especially great for plants that have delicate root structures and usually don't survive transplanting, like morning glories.

Holly Hayes is the garden writer for our media partner, The San Jose Mercury News.

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