Grow bag gardening is a popular option for new gardeners. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to this idea, and help you work out whether it is the right option for you. We’ll also give you some tips to help you grow in bags successfully if you decide to take this route.
What is Grow Bag Gardening?
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.
Is Grow Bag Gardening The Right Option for You?
Whether you are using a ready-filled bag, or a grow bag you have bought or made, this can be an easy way to get started with a food-producing garden.
Grow bags are lightweight, and can be moved more easily than those made from heavier materials. They are also often less likely to have issues with excessive water retention than some other containers that you could choose. Plants will often also ‘air prune’ as they reach the edges of the grow bag. So root compaction is less likely to occur.
However, it is very important to note that opting for grow bags is not always the best choice. The use of plastic is not the most eco-friendly or sustainable option, for one thing. And many grow bags are made from plastic of some kind.
Ready-filled grow bags are worse environmentally because they are usually only used once before they are discarded. They often dry out quickly. Some contain a low quality mix not really suited to the plants they are designed to grow. The mix can also be prone to compaction and may not be sufficiently deep to sustain healthy root growth.
Other grow bags may also dry out too quickly. Grow bags can also be very variable in their performance. How useful they are will often depend on what they are made from, and the specifics of the option that you choose.
What Type of Grow Bag Should You Choose?
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.
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.
Avoid single use options for greener gardening, and embrace a zero waste mindset. 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.
What Can Be Grown in Grow Bags?
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.
How to Use Grow Bags – Some General Tips:
- Think About Placement: 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.
- Choose the Right Growing Medium: If you choose a ready-filled type grow bag, you will only need to cut openings in the grow bag for your plants. But if you choose a different grow bag, you need to choose a compost/ potting mix suited to the specific plant or plants you are trying to grow. For certain situations (such as when growing potatoes in grow bags, for example) you might not fill the bag to the top right away. You might use some medium in the base, then ‘earth up’ with more of the growing medium as the potato plants grow.
- Water Well: Remember that grow bags can tend to dry out more quickly even than other containers. And container plants always require more frequent watering than those growing in the ground.How you water is important too. Remember that many plants will do better if you water at the base of the plant, rather than from above, and try not to wet the foliage etc.. You might want to think about setting up an efficient drip irrigation system or using watering globes or watering spikes to keep on top of water needs.
- Maintain Fertility: Plants in grow bag gardening, as in other types of container gardening, will often also require more frequent feeding than those in the ground. You will often need to add organic fertilizers or liquid feeds to ensure that plants get what they need throughout the growing season.
- Provide Support: 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.
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.