filet beans

Barbara Pleasant

                                                                    Garden Writer

April 2015

At last, the world is alive with beautiful bulbs and I can hardly keep up with the needs of a hundreds of little veggie seedlings. Does life get better than this? 

Thanks so much to Virginia Master Gardeners for your wonderful hospitality during these last weeks of winter. Last week in Lexington, VA, big snowflakes flew as we discussed composting. Happily, no snow is expected at next week's Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville!

Question of The Week: 
Will plastic leach from bags used to grow vegetables?

After seeing the bag garden method from your book in Mother Earth News, I’m wondering if the bags leach out any toxic ingredients into the soil when they sit out in the sun.  I’d like to try it this summer for lettuce but am concerned that the plastic bags containing the soil might turn toxic. Thanks - Shelley L.

We have no way of knowing what types of plastics are used to contain potting soils, so there are unanswered questions about leaching of compounds into the soil. Let’s assume they do: each time it rains, miniscule bits of plastic dissolve and are carried into the soil and mulch around the bags.

Here we find an interesting microclimate, ruled by earthworms, capable of remediating a reasonable load of chemicals. Earthworms and beneficial fungi are attracted to the dead grass or mulch and shelter under and around the bags. Humic acids released by earthworms are known to help soil cope with leachates, and fungi are nature’s leading force when it comes to soil restoration. So, you have a set-up that is at least to some degree self-cleaning.

That said, I suggest using the bag method for only a year, as a way to break in new garden space. At the end of the first year, take up what’s left of the plastic bags and dispose of them properly. Then dig the bagged soil into the soil beneath it, and you are on your way to having a permanent garden bed.

Looking for something I’ve written, but can’t remember where? I know the feeling! In attempt to bring order to the chaos of hundreds of articles and blogs, I’ve set up Pinterest boards of my work. The categories range from permaculture and pollinators to growing onions and garlic. I hope you find my Pinterest guide easy to use and more enjoyable than reading through long lists.

Explore My Gardens

Click around to learn more about my books, blogs, lectures, and of course my garden!  By the time you move on, I hope you feel inspired to garden a little more, and have a great time doing it.
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Thank you, Garden Writers!


Recently I received word that both my long-running Gardening Know How column in Mother Earth News and my GrowVeg Blog won Silver Awards of Achievement from the Garden Writers Association. I must be doing something right, among them working with the great creative teams. I am especially grateful to Cheryl Long, editor-in-chief at Mother Earth News, whose gardening passions run as deep as mine, and to Jeremy Dore at GrowVeg, who never runs out of great new ideas.

Barbara Pleasant
Blue Ridge mountainsei


Floyd, VA, USA

Near Roanoke on the

Blue Ridge Parkway

cat with hollyhocks
Magnus, who bears a family name from my Swedish ancestors

Short historial fiction

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