University of Illinois Extension

Gardening in a Bag

“One of the keys to get kids to love gardening is to give them successful and enjoyable gardening experiences,” says Ron Wolford, U of I horticulturist. “Even as winter approaches, you can provide those experiences indoors. One easy and almost fail-safe way to do this is gardening in a bag. Now I am talking plastic bags here, not paper, specifically, heavy-duty Ziploc freezer bags. Do not use sandwich bags, they will split and rip open easily. With a sunny window and a few seeds, a garden will grow.”

Here are a few simple step-by step instructions.

  1. Purchase a box of heavy-duty Ziploc freezer bags, pint or quart size, and a bag of potting soil.
  2. Choose some easy to grow seeds like basil, chives, garlic chives or lettuce. The chives will grow like grass and can be cut back to be used in soups, cottage cheese or on a baked potato. Combine some Lettuce ‘Blackseeded Simpson’ and Lettuce ‘Red Sails’ seeds to grow a colorful, nutritious display.
  3. Fill the bag with potting soil. Be sure to punch the soil into the corners of the bag. This will allow the bag to sit upright on the windowsill. Fill the bag to within a couple of inches of the top. You should be able to zip the bag shut.
  4. Sprinkle a few seeds on the top of the soil and lightly cover with soil. Water so the top few inches of soil are moist and zip the bag shut and place in a sunny window.
  5. Now you have your own mini-greenhouse. Check the bag every few days for green growth. When you see green shoots emerge, open the bag allowing the plants to grow. Water the bag when the soil is dry. Be careful not to overwater.

On very cold winter nights, you might want to move the garden bags away from the window.

Gardening in a bag is an easy way to introduce your kids to gardening. Make it a yearly winter activity for the family making great memories in years to come. For more tips about gardening with kids, check out the University of Illinois website My First Garden at www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/firstgarden/ .