What are Grow Bags?
Grow bags are used to hold a growing medium for plants such as vegetables. They can be made from breathable fabric or plastic and come in various sizes. Bags made from fabric are well-aerated and have superior drainage. The bags are often filled with organic material or soil. They’re a popular alternative to in-ground gardening and can be used either indoors or outdoors.
Composted green waste, peat, composted bark, coir, wood chips compost or even a mixture of the materials are usually used as growing medium for salad crops or tomatoes. Nutrients such as nitrogen are added to the growing medium to sustain crops for an entire growing season.
With grow bags, gardeners only have to sow their crops and water them for optimal growth. They’re ideal for plants with shallow roots. The bags are placed on a bench in the growing area or the floor. Access holes are then cut on the top surface of the bags to create room for inserting plants.
Use the bags when you don’t have enough garden space or simply got poor soil in your yard. Furthermore, they’re portable, meaning you can move them outdoors, in balconies or reposition them in areas receiving sufficient light for your vegetables. Unlike plastic containers, grow bags are versatile and easy to arrange in your garden.
The bags are also flexible, meaning you can shape them as you deem necessary. If you want to create the illusion of a raised bed, arrange the bags to form a large rectangle. When not in use, you can store the bags indoors. Moreover, they’re foldable flat for compact storage. The bags take up less storage space than plastic containers.
Other benefits of using grow bags include improving healthier root systems, preventing over-watering and controls temperature.
Brief History of Grow Bags
The first set of grow bags were manufactured in the 1970s. Although they were originally designed for use at home, today they find use in farming and market gardening. The bags are made in various sizes and formulations to meet the needs of different gardeners.
Traditionally, the soil was used in greenhouses for planting. After harvesting and before the next planting season, the houses were emptied and soil sterilized to prevent disease and pest buildup in the soil. Commercial grounds were steam sterilized before planting. However, it wasn’t feasible for beginner gardeners or those with small gardens to tend to.
Therefore, grow bags were introduced to support amateur gardeners with a few gardening needs. After harvesting, the plants are disposed of and the growing material spread over outdoor borders. However, some grow bags cannot be reused.
Preparing Biodegradable Bags for Planting
How to Use Grow Bags
Growing bags have been designed to minimize waste and support reuse. Whether you’re planning to use your bags indoors or outdoors, it’s important to learn how to use them. Here’s a detailed guide to help you learn how to use your growing bags to plant, care for and nurture your plants:
Top 3 Steps to Using Growing Bags for Gardening
- Prepare Your Grow Bag for Planting
- Buy the Right Grow Bag
Buy a grow bag from a home improvement or gardening supplies store, online or locally, or a local nursery. Choose between a plastic and fabric grow bag. The latter is popular but requires more watering.
Plants Growing in Grow Bags
Roots usually grow as large as the plant, so choose a bag size accordingly. If you’re planning to sow a large plant, opt for a large grow bag, and vice versa. For instance, a grapefruit tree would fit and grow comfortably in a 50-gallon grow bag.
- Use Clay Pebbles to Line Your Growing Bag and Improve Drainage
Do your plants require proper drainage? Place chunky perlite or clay pebbles to line your grow bag for better drainage. Cover the inner bottom of your bag with the materials in two to three layers.
- Fill Your Bag with Soil
Add soil into your growing bag. Create your own potting mix or use gardening soil that resembles compost. Mix 1/3 compost mixture (such as mushroom compost or chicken manure), 1/3 moss and 1/3 vermiculite (material with high moisture retention properties) to make a home-made potting mix.
Plastic Grow Bags Filled with Soil
Fill up the grow bag with the potting mix up to the brim, leaving about two inches of space at the top. Space would come in handy later when you need to fertilize your vegetables.
- Loosen the Bag and Shape it up
Shake the bag and knead soil to loosen it as you’d do with your pillow. Shape your bag to resemble a hill, giving it the shape of a low hammock. Loosening the soil and shaping the bag spreads it evenly.
- Pierce Holes at the Bottom of the Bag
Use scissors or any sharp-pointed object to pierce holes into the bottom of your grow bag to further enhance its drainage. Make sure the holes are half an inch apart and the size of your scissor piercing, not larger. The holes should be large enough to allow free flow of water, but no soil or your potting mix.
Grow Bag with Drainage Holes
- Plant Your Vegetables
- Select Shallow-Rooted Plants
Grow bags are ideal for growing plants with shallow roots because they’ll barely reach the bottom of the bag. On the other hand, plants with deep roots often experience stunted growth upon reaching the bottom of the grow bag or container. They then trigger the growth of more roots, eventually killing the plant.
Capsicum or peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, marrow, eggplants, cucumbers, lettuce, French beans, strawberries, flowers, and herbs are some vegetables you can easily grow in a bag. However, larger plants such as trees can grow in larger growing bags.
- Place the Bag Where You Want to Create Your Garden
Grow bags are portable, meaning you can easily move them around. Place your bag filled with soil and now in the right shape in the specific area where you want to create your garden. It could be your garden, backyard, balcony or even a greenhouse. When picking the right location for your plants, make sure it receives enough sunlight and warmth for optimal growth of your vegetables.
- Dig Out Soil to Sow Your Plants
Use a large spoon, a trowel or even your hands to dig out soil and create space for the roots of your plants. Scoop out more soil until you create enough space to hold the roots of your plants. If you’re planning to plant seeds directly onto your grow bag, the scooping doesn’t have to be as large.
- Sow Your Plant
Take your seedlings and insert their roots into the spaces or small holes you just created. Make sure the roots are fully immersed then cover with the soil you scooped out to the top of the root.
- Care for Your Vegetables
- Mulch and Water Your Grow Bag Frequently
Unlike potted plants, growing your vegetables in grow bags would mean you water them more often. Mulch your plants before watering to ensure they retain moisture for longer. Check your bags daily and water your plants if you notice any signs of dryness. Constant watering ensures your potting mix doesn’t heat up to a level that’s harmful to your plants.
- Opt for a Drip Watering System
Checking your bag daily for dryness can be difficult or even unrealistic, especially if you work on a tight schedule. A drip or self-watering system can ensure your grow bags are always moist.
It involves the use of a bottle with a small opening to slowly and consistently allow water to flow into your potting mix or soil. Alternatively, place you’re grow bag into a large, low-lying container and fill it with a water.
- Fertilize Your Vegetables
If you’ve grown plants such as tomatoes, corn and leafy vegetables that tend to feed heavily, fertilize them. Buy fertilizer or make your own organic manure. Use worm castings, Epsom salt, compost tea, egg shells and dead plants to make organic fertilizer.
Fertilizing Plants in a Grow Bag
Lightly apply fertilizer on top of your grow bag soil to form a thin layer. The two inches space you left while filling your bags with soil should be enough. Make sure you fertilize your vegetables once or twice a week.
- Support Weak Plants, Vines and Climbers
Vines and climbers are weak plants that often require support during growth. Use sticks to prop your plants. Push a stick into your potting mix, just next to the plant. Attach the stick to a frame for added support and tie the plant to the stick. Propping also ensures plants with heavy tops such as tomatoes don’t get into contact with soil.
- Consider Under-Planting to Maximize Space
You can grow tall and short plants in the same grow bag. If space is limited in your home, under-planting is a great way to increase your crop yield. For instance, you can grow tomatoes and radishes or lettuce in the same bag. Make sure you grow the tall plants first and let them grow before introducing shorter vegetable varieties.
- Recycle Soil to Prevent Wastage
After harvesting, recycle soil for the next crop or damp it in a part of your yard with poor soil, but you’d like to use as a garden in the future. If you opt for recycling, use the soil for up to three seasons, after which you can damp it in your yard to improve underlying soil quality.
You can also use your potting as mulch for your perennial plants in the yard or garden. Wash your grow bags, let them dry and fold them for storage in a dry place.
Young Trees in Grow Bags
11 Plants You Can Plant in Grow Bags
Are you planning to start your container garden, but not sure what to grow in your bags? Here are eleven vegetable plants you can grow in your bags:
Depending on the size of your grow bag, you can grow up to three plants in a single bag. They support versatile and efficient gardening. Prepare your bags for planting and sow the right plants for your specific bags.
Make sure you care for your plants from the moment you sow your seeds or transplant your seedlings to the time they’re ready for harvesting. Most importantly, don’t forget to buy high quality grow bags from a reputable supplier to guarantee the durability of your bags.
Looking for grow bags for sale? Find out more about grow bags available in varied sizes to meet your needs.
This article is copied with permission with some modification from Green Valley Supply.