There are many different ways to start a garden. It is important to understand that there are solutions perfect for any site and situation. Grow bag gardening can be a great solution for many small-space gardeners. But is it the right solution for you? And if it is, what do you need to know to get started? Read on to find out more.
What is a Grow Bag or Growing Bag?
Grow bag gardening, or growing bag gardening can refer to two different but related ideas.
First of all, it can refer to growing crops in special plastic bags that come ready-filled with compost and nutrients. These are laid flat onto the ground, or a potting bench or staging. Holes are cut in the upper side of the bag, and plants are placed into these holes.
It can also refer to the idea of growing in any fabric bag type container. Grow bags can be made of a number of different materials. But they are usually made from a synthetic fabric (plastic fabric) that will not break down. They can then be filled with your own choice of growing medium, and planted up in much the same way that you would plant up a solid sided container.
The Pros of Grow Bags
The benefits and down-sides of both of this types of grow bags depend on which of these two types we are taking about.
If we are talking about the ready-to plant grow bags, then the advantages can be:
This is an easy way to get growing, as the bags come already filled with the nutrients and growing medium common edible crops need.
You can simply cut the holes in the top and required and get growing.
You should not have any weed problems, as this is basically a small planter or raised bed.
If we are talking about a fabric bag type grow bag, the advantages can be:
Containers that are lightweight, and can be moved more easily than those made from heavier materials.
These containers are less likely to have issues with excessive water retention than some other containers you could choose.
Plants will often ‘air prune’ as they reach the edges of the grow bag. So root compaction is less likely to occur.
Like other containers, grow bags of all kinds can help you grow more food in less space.
The advantages of a fabric grow bag (and the disadvantages) will, further to this, depend on what exactly the grow bag is made from, it’s colour, and its quality.
The Cons of Grow Bags
The cons of grow bags will also depend on what type of grow bag we are talking about.
A growing bag that you buy, ready-filled from a store will not always be the best choice because:
These options vary in quality. Some do not really contain sufficient growing medium and nutrients for the plants they are designed to grow.
The growing medium inside the plastic grow bags can be prone to compaction.
The depth of these bags can be insufficient to sustain healthy root growth for certain plants.
(Sometimes, additional plastic collars are added atop a grow bag to provide additional depth and allow for extra watering.)
Grow bags may dry out too quickly, so it may be challenging to provide crops with the water they need, or to get water to where it is needed.
These grow bags can usually only be used once before they are thrown away, and contribute to the plastic waste problem on our planet.
Other Grow Bags:
Other grow bags also have disadvantages:
They will often dry out much more quickly than other containers. And so can also be challenging when it comes to making sure plants have the water they need.
Some grow bags are not good quality. And even those of good quality may not last as long as other types of container.
One other thing to remember about many of the grow bags on the market is that they are made from plastics. Plastics are not a sustainable or eco-friendly choice.
Gardeners who want to go greener should try to avoid unnecessary plastic use whenever possible. So only grow bags made from hemp, hessian or other natural materials should be considered from an ecological and planet-kind standpoint. It will also be a more ethical and sustainable option to re-use old bags created for other purposes rather than buying grow bags new.
Sustainability should be something that factors into your decision about whether grow bag gardening is right for you.
How To Prepare Grow Bags
If you do decide to opt for grow bag gardening, then think carefully before you choose which grow bags to go for. Remember that each has pros and cons.
If you choose a ready-filled type grow bag, you will only need to cut openings in the grow bag for your plants. You can then simply place from transplants into those openings, water them well, then tend them as you would any other plants grown elsewhere over the growing season. You can also open the top of the bag and sow seeds of shallow-rooted crops like lettuce etc..
If you choose a different type of grow bag, then you will need to choose and add your growing medium. Remember, it is important to choose a growing medium that is suited to the crops you are trying to grow.
Remember, where you position your grow bags or any other containers is important. Positioning is just as vital to your success as other factors. Think about whether to position them outside, or undercover. Think about sunshine, rainfall, wind, and other environmental factors when deciding where to place them.
What Can You Grow in a Grow Bag?
Ready filled growing bags are suitable for growing only more shallow rooted crops, since they do not provide much depth for root systems to form. While often used for tomatoes, peppers etc… these crops do not always perform at their best when grown in this way, unless extra collars are added for additional depth.
Lettuce and other quick season crops, however, are shallow rooted enough to thrive in one of these grow bags. And will be harvested quickly, before the nutrients in the growing bag are depleted.
Other types of grow bag (that are pretty much the same as a reusable shopping bag) provide extra root depth and a greater volume of growing medium. So these can be used to successfully grow a much wider range of crops.
Almost any crop that can be grown in a solid container of comparable size can successfully be grown in a grow bag too. As long as you fill it with a suitable growing medium, and take care of the watering needs of the plants you grow.
Caring For Plants in a Grow Bag
Caring for plants in grow bags is similar to caring for any container grown crops. The most pressing concern will be water. It is important to make sure that you provide enough (but not too much) water for the crops you grow. Take into consideration the needs of the particular plants, the temperatures, weather conditions, and location in which they are grown.
As mentioned above, grow bags will often dry out much more quickly than in-ground growing areas. So these are not necessarily the most low-maintenance option. You may also find that you need to add organic fertilizers or liquid feeds to ensure that plants get what they need throughout the growing season.
Many plants that can be grown in grow bags will also need support as they grow. So this is something else to consider. You might add stakes or canes, or place your grow bags against a fence or trellis, for example.
Do you grow your crops in grow bags? Share your comments, tips or suggestions for grow bag gardening below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.