By Wayne J. McLaurin
University of Georgia
OK, there's just something about the neatness of paper bags. They fold and can be stored. They're square and really fit into the garbage can. Most important, they break down in the environment. So I still ask for paper bags in the store. I get a lot of strange looks.
Even though I don't get things in plastic bags, people bring me things in them. I had to find uses for them, and gardening has never been the same.
I keep some at the end of the row and put those terrible weeds in them, the ones that are full of seeds so they're not going into the compost pile. Diseased plants go in those bags, too.
The same end-of-the-row bags can be used as harvest bags, too.
Handy usesIn the early spring or late fall, with a little wire support, plastic bags can become small greenhouses to protect plants from frost.
For pulling poison ivy, I put my hand down into the bottom of the bag (I use double bags) and pull the plant at the base. Then I just hold the plant and reverse the bag. I tie it up and dispose of it without touching the ivy. Same for poison oak.
When you're going to move a small plant, plastic bags are very handy. Just spade it up and place soil and all in the bag. When you get it to the new site, just set the whole thing in the hole. Then cut the bottom of the bag and remove it.
Always keep some bags in the car. You never get away from a fellow gardener without hearing, "You just have to have a cutting or division of this." Nothing is so handy as a plastic bag.
The bags hang up well in the potting shed, too. They hold line for my weed cutter, and I often grab one to take tools to the garden.
Plastic bags have all kinds of uses. I still prefer paper, though.
(Wayne McLaurin is a professor emeritus of horticulture with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)