Many people enjoy gardening and don’t have a lot of room. They may use pots and other containers, but grow bags are another option. Grow bags are large plastic bags that are filled with a growing medium.
It’s important to find out how to use them, what can be grown, and the benefits of grow bags. You also need to understand sizing, watering, and fertilizing needs. All of this is covered so that you know everything there is about grow bags and how to garden with them.
Table of Contents
Benefits of Using Grow Bags
Since you can buy pots and containers for cheap and create them yourself, you may wonder why you should use grow bags instead. Here are the many benefits of grow bags:
1. Healthier Roots
The roots of potted plants usually grow in circles, which causes them to entangle. This means they’re going to have problems getting oxygen, and water can be stagnant. If there isn’t adequate drainage, this is especially true.
When the roots finally reach the edge of your pot, they continue growing to find water and nutrients. Ultimately, they encircle their container, which leads to structural damage of the plants. The roots are constricted, so there are less nutrient and water intake.
Grow bags prevent this problem because when the roots hit the edges of the fabric, they sense dry soil exposed to air. This tells them that they’re at their growth limit. The roots are ‘air pruned,’ which is essential for growing healthy plants.
In a sense, roots don’t overly grow, so they don’t get damaged. You can also find more fibrous roots this way. This means that there are more small root tips, and the plant takes in more water and nutrients.
2. Better Temperature Control
When pots are in direct sunlight, and it’s the middle of summer, the pot gets very hot. They aren’t breathable and trap in the heat, which cooks your plants.
Grow bags tend to regulate temperatures because they’re breathable. More heat is allowed to escape from every side of your grow bag.
3. Easy to Store
At the end of the growing season, you have to store the pots you’re not using. These empty eyesores have to be stacked in your shed or on the porch so that they don’t get broken or crushed. Grow bags, however, can easily be folded and stored, saving space every season.
Grow bags are often lightweight and have built-in handles. That means you can easily move them to different places on the lawn. You can even plant the grow bags directly into the ground because they’re biodegradable.
5. No Overwatering
Grow bags are more porous, so they require more water. However, it’s actually harder to overwater plants in grow bags because the extra moisture is wicked out.
Traditional pots often need less watering, but you can easily overwater them. If you do this, the plant could develop fungus or mold and drown.
Pros and Cons of Using Grow Bags for Gardening
There are many pros and cons of grow bags. It’s essential to know both sides to make the right decision:
- Use them anywhere. Most gardeners want to expand their garden space. You can use grow bags on balconies and other areas that are often considered unusable.
- They can be used in bad soil areas. If you’ve got soil that isn’t suitable for growing what you want, consider a grow bag. They’ve got healthier, looser soil, and sometimes they use other materials.
- You can easily use them. Grow bags are cost-effective and easy to use. There’s no need to prepare beds or remove grass.
- They’re breathable. These fabric grow bags allow for better drainage. Plus, the plants get adequate oxygen, so there’s less of a risk of root rot.
- You get better roots. Grow bags allow for better overall root health. The roots get established and then stop growing when they sense air.
- Durability. Grow bags don’t last as long as regular containers. They can withstand two to three growing seasons. However, this varies based on the conditions in your area.
- Cost. Since grow bags don’t last as long as your containers, you are going to replace them more frequently. However, they’re usually very inexpensive, so this might not be an issue.
- Aesthetics. Grow bags don’t look very pretty as terra cotta pots. They’re solid (gray or black) and don’t have patterns or motifs.
- Environmental issues. Grow bags aren’t always eco-friendly and biodegradable. Therefore, you’ve got to make sure you choose the right brands.
- Water consumptive. Grow bags require you to water them more. Therefore, it takes more time to check and do the watering. Still, it’s hard to overwater the plants, so this can be a draw.
What Can I Grow in Grow Bags?
It’s important to understand what can be grown in your grow bags. Though they work well for almost everything, some vegetables fare better than others. Grow bags tend to work better for vegetables without deep roots, such as:
- Chili peppers
- Sweet peppers
- Summer squash
- Salad greens (rocket, endive, lettuce)
- Basil and other herbs
You can plant up to three things in one bag during the spring. Consider sowing in rows and cut across the bag’s width for salad greens.
What Size Grow Bag for Different Vegetables in Gardening?
Be mindful about the type of grow bag you get and realize that they aren’t all the same. Some of the cheaper options are just large plastic bags, similar to a trash bag. They’re not going to give you the benefits of a traditional fabric grow bag.
Plastic bags don’t water very well. They retain heat and water, which defeats the purpose of using a grow bag. Typically, you want something constructed from polypropylene fabrics, and make sure they’re food-safe and BPA-free.
There are plenty of sizes available, from seedling bags to 1,000-gallon garden beds. You can also find specialty grow bags with flaps at the bottom to harvest potatoes and other root vegetables.
The standard grow bag size is 9x9x15 inches or thereabouts. You can typically use them for any vegetables. However, potatoes may fare better in a 15-gallon potato grow bag.
Best Soil for Grow Bags
Some manufacturers of grow bags offer special ‘soil’ that you can buy to match. However, you don’t necessarily have to get the same brand of grow bag and soil. In fact, you can mix your own; just make sure that the ‘soil’ has no actual dirt in it.
One of the good things about grow bags is that they don’t use traditional gardening soil or earth. Therefore, you have healthier plants.
Typically, a good mixture of growth medium is equal parts of compost mixture, moss, and vermiculite. This mixture helps retain moisture and is essential for grow bag gardening.
If you don’t want to make your own growing medium, buy a compost-like garden soil mixture. You can also choose a compost made for containers. However, most people find that making their own is the best solution and gives them the nutrients they need for their plants.
How to Plant Vegetables in Grow Bags?
It’s easy to plant vegetables in grow bags, but there are some steps you must take to ensure it’s done right. The first thing to do is get the grow bag. Buy it online or from a nursery.
Make sure you pick a fabric one because they’re biodegradable and better. The bag should just large enough for the root system. Don’t buy something overly large because it could damage the roots or cause them to grow out of control.
Line your grow bag with pebbles made of clay to help with drainage. That way, the bag doesn’t sit directly on the ground. Cover the entire bottom of the grow bag with chunks of perlite or clay pebbles.
Next, you’re going to add the soil mixture to the grow bag. Fill the bag up almost to the top with just a couple of inches left clear at the top. Shake the bag gently and knead the soil to help loosen it.
Then, you want to shape your bag to make sure that all of the soil is evenly distributed. Most grow bags already have drainage holes. If yours doesn’t, consider making some with scissors.
However, this isn’t always necessary. The bag itself should let out extra moisture. Read the instructions on the grow bag package to determine if you need to make holes or not.
It’s now time to add your plants or seeds. Consider shallow-rooted plants for best results in a grow bag. This means the roots aren’t going to be stunted.
Figure out where you’re going to grow the plants. You can move the grow bags later, but it’s usually easier to start the planting process where you want the plants to be. Use them in a greenhouse, on the balcony, or by the porch.
Focus on how much sunlight the plants need. Make sure the grow bag is going to get plenty of direct or indirect sun during the day.
Scoop out some of the soil with a trowel or your hands to make room for your plans. The entire root ball or system needs to be covered when you’re done. Add the plant to the soil and cover the top of the ball with what’s left.
In most cases, you should water the bag right away. This gives your plants a needed drink and promotes root and plant growth. Check the grow bags daily to see if more water is necessary.
Water them whenever you see the soil drying out. Remember, most of the heat dissipates, but some can remain. You want the growing plants to flourish.
Watering Grow Bags
Grow bags tend to dry out faster than containers or pots. There is more aeration (oxygen) and drainage with a grow bag, so it leads to you watering more frequently. However, it’s nearly impossible to soak your grow bag because the water just comes right back out.
You can be a little lax on overwatering since the grow bag isn’t going to hold as much moisture as a pot. However, be prepared to water the plants more often because of that same reason.
Typically, you’re going to water the plants every day. Just check every morning, and add water when the soil is dry. Alternatively, you can install a self-watering system so that you don’t have to do as much maintenance.
Fertilizing Grow Bags
It’s important to make sure the plants inside the grow bags have enough nutrients. This usually means you’ve got to add fertilizer throughout the growing season. You can buy a fertilizer that is designed to be used with the vegetables or plants you’re growing or make your own.
Grow bags are a great alternative to pots. They’ve got many benefits associated with them, but there are a few drawbacks, too. Ultimately, most gardeners prefer to grow bags over other containers.
Learning how to use grow bags is essential. That way, you are going to ensure that your plants flourish. If you plan to grow vegetables, you’re going to see bigger yields each year with grow bags.