For those of you that don’t have any gardens, growing plants in a container seems like the only way to go. Wanting to plant your own produce is perfectly understandable, especially since it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to control what we eat if we keep buying everything from the supermarket. Some form of grow bags have been here for centuries, except that, back in the day, plants were grown in woven baskets.
Today, garden bags are a great option for those who want to plant on balconies and patios, or for those who live in areas where soil just doesn’t have what it takes to grow certain varieties. Today, we’re going to have an in-depth look at grow bags, hopefully to shed some light on what they do and why they might be beneficial for you.
What’s a Grow Bag?
A grow bag is literally a bag that can help you grow plants. That’s the shortest explanation for it. However, there is a lot more to grow bags than that. Usually made out of plastic, these bags have the growing medium necessary for plants to thrive. They are extremely useful for growing salad crops and quite popular amongst tomato growers as well.
In this growing medium, you’re likely to find soilless organic material, such as composted wood chips or composted bark, coir and peat, and even mixtures of these. These stress-free garden bags contain even the nutrients needed for the plants to thrive, so pretty much all you have to do is plant and water as needed.
What to Look for In Grow Bags
There are a few things that you should know prior to spending your money on grow bags, so here are the main features to look out for to make sure you’re buying only quality products that are suitable for whatever it is you need to grow:
You are likely to come across grow bags that are mostly made from nonwoven fabric. That means that either heat or chemicals have been used for bonding. They are designed to be more breathable compared to woven fabric and gives your plant the chance to dry out between two waterings. As the soil properly aerates, it lowers the chances of mold growth.
The size of the grow bag can vary between one to 20 gallons. The appropriate size to purchase depends on what you intend to grow.
Aeration and drainage usually go hand-in-hand, and looking into these features is important in order to keep the roots healthy. Grow bags are well-known for their ability to provide improved drainage and circulation compared to what the same plant would get if planted in regular soil, in the ground. Experts say that when a grow bag can properly drain water and dry out, it can also be reused.
If you’re looking to use grow bags for plants that will require transplant, know that there are options out there with a hook-and-loop closure located on the side of the bag. By unfastening these, you can get better access to the plant and remove it with ease.
There is certain fabric grow bags that come with plastic windows, granting you visual access to the roots. These bags are great for those who want to plant root vegetables, as this feature will let them know if the vegetables are ready for harvest.
This feature is also important because you are likely going to be in need of carrying these around. Look for models that have handles instead of settling for smaller bags that won’t give your plant enough room to grow.
Pros & Cons of Grow Bags
Before purchasing a grow bag, it’s important to have a clear overview of what to expect. Here are some of the things you should know before choosing to spend your money on grow bags:
Pro: Soil is no longer a problem. That means that if you live in an area where your soil doesn’t allow you to grow certain types of plants, grow bags can eliminate that problem. Same goes for regions where soil is unusable, since the grow bag offers the medium needed for certain plants to thrive. The fact that they can be used anywhere is a huge advantage.
Con: They are not as durable as other options. For instance, if you compare them with regular containers, grow bags don’t last very long. On average, fabric grow bags last two or three growing seasons, with some lasting up to six seasons. Naturally, environmental conditions and how well these bags are cared for will also determine their lifespan.
Pro: They are breathable. This may seem like one advantage, but it actually brings multiple benefits for you as a gardener. The breathability of the bags allows the soil to properly drain and the plant can dry between two waterings. This also helps avoid problems with overwatering that would eventually lead to drowning roots.
Con: They consume a lot of water. Generally speaking, grow bags will require more frequent watering compared to other types of pots. Due to their porous nature, excess water is eliminated quite fast. While the advantage is proper soil drainage and no root drowning, it also means that it will require more time because they need watering often.
Pro: They are very easy to use. Basically, when you purchase a grow bag, all you really have to do is plant and water. There is no grass removal, no shoveling to be done, no nutrients to be added, etc.
Con: They don’t look as pretty as other planters. A grow bag poses a downside from an aesthetic point of view. They aren’t very pretty to look at, at least not compared to something like a tower garden or a terracotta pot. A grow bag literally looks like a plastic/fabric sack.
Pro: They keep the plants healthier. This is another gigantic advantage that makes grow bags better than other planting mediums. Root health is often a problem when you choose to plant in containers without proper air circulation or directly in soil that doesn’t drain as it should.
Tips for Using Grow Bags
Learning how to use garden bags is a pretty straightforward process. However, the following list of tips might actually help you make the best out of these products, so here are some other things that you might want to know before you start planting:
- It’s really important that you plant the right crops in the right garden bags. Just for safety, you might want to choose dwarf varieties of certain plants because they grow as a more compact version of the full-sized plant. Some of the vegetables that you can successfully grow in garden bags include green onions, lettuce, peppers, radishes, potatoes, and cucumbers. You can also use these to grow a variety of different herbs, such as oregano, parsley, cilantro, sage, rosemary, or garlic.
- There are self-watering grow bags that are a better choice if you choose to grow thirsty plants. As you know, some plants require more frequent watering than others. These products have a reservoir in the base of the bag which aids in the self-watering process. All you have to do is make sure the reservoir has water inside it and it will provide a constant source of moisture for the plants in question.
- The size of the grow bag is important, as we’ve mentioned before. However, you might not be sure which size to go with based on what you’re looking to grow, so hopefully this information will help you. Two-gallon products are labeled as extra-small grow bags, and they are great options for herbs, including basil or thyme. They can also fit vegetables such as arugula, lettuce, or radishes. Small grow bags can hold up to three gallons of soil and they work for herbs, vegetables (such as carrots or beets), and strawberries. Medium grow bags can hold up to five gallons of soil. That means you can plant most herbs, but also larger vegetables, such as eggplants, cucumbers, and peppers. Holding up to 10 gallons of soil, large grow bags are good for plants that need even more space, such as tomatoes or sweet potatoes.
- Even if grow bags provide you with the proper growth medium for your plants to thrive, there is still a matter of placing the bag in the best location possible. As most of you know, plants need about six to eight hours of daily sun exposure in order to grow, as sunlight plays an important part in having a bountiful harvest. Keep in mind that if you live in hot climates, a little afternoon shade is recommended for your plants as well.
- If you grow tall plants (such as tomatoes), don’t forget they need support. You can use something like a wooden stick or a cane into the bag, tie the plant to it, and attach the cane to a frame for better plant stability.
- Don’t allow the compost in the bad to get too compact. If needed, just shake and knead it to keep it loose.
- If you want to plant multiple varieties in identical grow bags, make sure you label them accordingly. This way, you will always know which is which and cater to the individual needs of each plant.
Best Grow Bags for Low-Maintenance Gardening
The first product that we wanted to show you is a set that consists of three grow bags that are available in a seven-gallon option for those of you looking to plant veggies and herbs in controlled conditions. Suitable for indoor and outdoor planting, this set comes with bags of three different colors. The window located on the side grants a view of the contents, allowing you to see when your root vegetables are ready. That means that you can now grow your own potatoes without having to worry about local soil conditions.
These nonwoven fabric grow bags offer plenty of benefits in terms of breathability and proper soil drainage. When cared for properly, these are the kind of bags that could outlast the maximum of eight uses that you see in products pertaining to their category.
They are designed with side handles that makes it easier to pick up the bags and move them around as needed. When you’re not using them, they’re easy to fold and store. The nonwoven fabric construction is washable and the material provides warmth for the roots in the winter and generous airflow during the summer. This purchase will leave you with bags of five gallons each, but you have other size choices as well, ranging from one to 10 gallons.
The Vivosun grow bags are another worthy investment, as you get five grow bags for a very good price. They offer excellent drainage as they are made from thick nonwoven fabric. That means that in terms of breathability, this set will offer similar (if not identical) advantages to the one from Opulent Systems. The bags are made from durable and recyclable fabric, and come with side handles for easier transportation. The handles have reinforced stitching, so you know that they can withstand quite a lot of weight. Each of the bags has a three gallon capacity, but you have other size options as well (with the largest bags having a 10 gallon capacity).
Since the square grow bags we showed you earlier were at least three gallons in size, we thought about adding some smaller ones, so here is the Vivosun pack of five bags with a one or two-gallon capacity each. Their cylindrical shape makes them perfect for herbs or small flowers and plants. These nonwoven fabric bags manage to provide your soil with proper aeration and drainage. Their quality construction makes it easy to care for them, so you should be able to use them for years to come.
If your agenda is to grow a wide range of plants, how about investing in this set that comes with 12 identical grow bags with excellent features for your home growing needs. Much like the others, these bags are also made from nonwoven fabric, which is the best choice because it provides proper air circulation and helps prevent root rot due to overwatering. The side handles make for easier transportation, so you can move the bags in and out of the sun, as needed. You also get 12 plant labels with your purchase, one for every grow bag in the set. Each bag has a seven-gallon capacity.
Are grow bags suitable for all kinds of plants?
While grow bags are suitable for a variety of different plants, the best ones to consider for this particular growth medium are those without any deep roots, such as tomatoes, herbs, potatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, sweet/chilli peppers, and salad greens.
What do you put under grow bags?
For fabric grow bags, you want a mix of vermiculite, compost mixture, and moss (in equal quantities). This will help retain moisture. Some people prefer mulching the grow bags using wood chips as well.
How long do grow bags last?
This depends on a series of different factors, including the quality and construction of the grow bag itself. A grow bag can last between two to eight seasons, but some people claim that if you properly care for it, it can last way longer than that.
There are a lot of reasons why grow bags are such a hit right now. They are lightweight and come with handles that make it easy to move the plants around if needed. Their material makes them highly breathable and helps prevent roots from getting soggy. They don’t allow the plants to become rootbound. Furthermore, they even allow you to grow a wide range of flowers, vegetables, and herbs, ranging from cilantro to strawberries.