If you are a gardener or are interested in starting gardening, you never tire of learning new and improved ways to grow your plants properly. Those with a large amount of land can easily plant a vast garden, but these abilities are limited when you live somewhere with limited grow space. This is where grow bags come in as an interesting and popular alternative to in-ground gardening.
Are grow bags worth the money? Grow bags are a great way to garden in smaller spaces as they can be moved indoors, repositioned with changing light, and placed just about anywhere. Compared to other garden pots, they can be far less expensive depending on the size and material that you purchase.
When you purchase higher quality grow bags, they can be reused a few times. This increases their worth even further, though they may not be as visually appealing as decorative planting pots. However, if you have limited space and a tight budget, grow bags are a great choice.
What You Need to Know About Grow Bags
As mentioned, grow bags are a perfect option if you have little to no space for a traditional in-ground garden. They can be arranged practically anywhere, from in a small yard to along a porch or balcony. These can even be hung from walls or any area of your home that receives quality sunlight.
We will further discuss the many benefits of grow bags and how they can work for your gardening needs. However, they are perfect for gardening a variety of plants and can even improve your soil quality with time. Plus, you can reuse most bags for a few seasons.
How Much Do Grow Bags Cost?
Grow bags will range in quality and price, depending on where you purchase them from and the material you choose to purchase.
There are plastic grow bags that tend to be the least expensive but not always the most environmentally friendly or longest-lasting. However, even fabric bags are not very expensive, and many find them worth the costs for the benefits received.
Some of the many cost benefits of grow bags over traditional pots and containers:
- They are less expensive. Compared with traditional clay or ceramic containers, grow bags are much less expensive. Purchasing the equivalent number of garden pots as grow containers would be far more expensive and more space-consuming.
- They take up less space. When you are not using rigid flowerpots, these take up a lot of unwanted space. However, grow bags can be stored completely flat and take up much less storage space. Even when in use and filled with soil, these plant bags usually take up less space and can be squished into the areas you need them.
- They are more durable and less fragile. While flowerpots can be used over and over, they can easily break. The grow bags are very durable and can be manipulated, dropped, and thrown around without the fear of breaking. Compared to rigid containers, they are easier to care for.
- They are cheaper to ship. Purchasing rigid containers online is very difficult as they can be expensive to ship and can be easily broken during transit. Comparatively, transporting grow bags is much less costly, and they can be shipped easily from practically anywhere.
Best Grow Bags on the Market
You can purchase grow bags practically anywhere that traditional gardening supplies are sold. They are often found at big box stores like Walmart, Target, or even many nurseries. They also are sold both individually and in bulk from Amazon.
Some of the top-selling grow bags sold through Amazon that are highly rated are:
- GardenMate 5-Pack 8-Gallon, Soft-Sided Plant pots
- Mearteve Premium Nonwoven Containers
- Bootstrap Farmer Gallon Fabric Handles
- Adorma Gallon Thickened Nonwoven Fabric
- VIVOSUN 5-Pack 7 Gallon Plant Grow Bags, Premium Series
- VIPARSPECTRA 10-Pack 7 Gallon Grow Bags – Thickened Nonwoven Aeration Fabric
Are Grow Bags Any Good?
Now that you know more about grow bags and how much they cost; you may be questioning if they can really do the job. Will your plants thrive, and can you grow many of the same plants you can grow in the ground? Yes, and yes. However, you want to learn more about their many benefits and how they can work for your needs.
A Few Issues You’ll Encounter With Traditional Grow Pots
- The roots of the plants will get entangled by growing in circles. This increases the chance of having oxygenated or water stagnation in the pot, especially if it lacks proper drainage. If the roots reach the edges of the pot, they can begin causing structural damage to the plant.
- The roots can become constricted, affecting the water and nutrient intake. The stem can even become compressed and cause tissue damage, further restricting nutrient intake.
Grow bags can alleviate these issues because roots come in contact with the edges of the fabric pot, sensing the drier soil; they know they have reached the growth limit.
The roots in grow bags become air pruned, which is really important to growing healthy plants in containers. The University of Washington describes air-pruned root as “… effectively “burned” off, causing the plant to constantly produce new and healthy branching roots.”
This means the roots don’t wrap themselves over and over again in circles, getting strangled or pot-bound. Instead, they are allowed to stop where they are and grow more fibrous. More fibrous roots allow the plant to take in more nutrients and water. When plants are placed in pots, it leads to a few larger roots dominating and constricting nutrient uptake.
More Benefits of Using Grow Bags
Direct sunlight in plastic or glass pots can cause the pots to get extremely hot. Plants in these pots cannot breathe properly and they will trap the heat. This can actually cook your plants, causing them to dry out and essentially die.
However, in grow bags, plants have a more breathable environment and can better regulate temperature. The grow bags have porous sides all around, allowing for excess heat to easily escape. from all sides and avoid overheating. Certain grow bags are even more breathable, ideal for warm environments.
More Consistent Watering
Grow bags are porous, which means they require frequent watering and means you need to water them slightly more often. So, this makes grow bags harder to over water than a traditional pot because excess moisture can be wicked out of the container. While traditional pots can require less frequent watering, but they can be over-watered, causing drowning and mold development.
Some grow bags even have small holes in the bag that allow extra water to escape. This makes it even less likely for you to overwater these plants. However, it does mean you have to water them even more because they can become too dry.
Since consistent watering is so important to growing healthy plants, you want to ensure you have a good watering schedule and each plant is watered regularly.
Storage is Simple
We touched on this slightly earlier, but another reason many love grow bags is that they are super easy to store when not in use.
You do not want to leave empty pots out on your patio or porch when not in use, and these can take up a ton of space if you don’t have a lot of storage in your home. However, grow bags can easily be stacked up and stored away when they are not in use. You can even fold them and stick them in a closet or cabinet without worrying about them ripping or breaking.
They are Versatile
Grow bags can be used in practically any location, even if you are extremely limited in space. They are lightweight, and most come with handles, making them easy to move from location to location.
Grow bags can be planted directly into the ground, hung on porches or balconies, or simply placed anywhere you would like them.
Most grow bags take up little space and are ideal for apartment living. They are also a top choice among those who spend extended time in their RVs. They can be hung outside when camping and then brought inside the camper or RV when they are in motion.
Great for Companion Planting
Companion planting can be difficult in traditional pots because of the previously mentioned root problems, which often leads to one plant outgrowing the others.
Companion planting in grow bags is much more effective. Grow bags can encourage the mixed growth of plants, and without one set of roots overpowering the other, both plants can truly grow together and complement one another. This small environment can lead to a complex root system and a mix of soil microbes, letting plants help feed each other.
They are More Durable
When your plants are in pots, it can be easy for these to break, and certain materials like clay pots can be very fragile. Grow bags come in all different sizes and are not fragile. They can be dragged around, planted in the earth, hung from hangers, without fear of them falling or breaking.
In short, you can handle them roughly without damaging the integrity of the bag – something nearly impossible for ceramic, clay – or even plastic – pots.
We will further discuss the materials available for grow bags, but these are often made from fabric, which increases durability.
You Can Create Vertical Grow Systems
If you have several grow bags, you can grow and display them together for a beautiful effect. You can easily stack or hang them on top of each other and create a vertical grow system that allows for nutrient-rich garden systems.
When you water the plants at the top of the vertical system, the nutrients will drain from the top bag and cascade on to the lower bags. You can even irrigate these vertical systems with PVC piping or basic hand watering them.
What Are Grow Bags Made Of?
Grow bags come in a variety of materials, depending on their overall costs. The least expensive grow bags are usually made from plastic, but these are not as high quality as others out there. They can be quicker to rip and are often not as easily reused as others you can easily find on the market today.
The best grow bags are made from a polypropylene felt-like fabric, which is breathable and allows for easy air pruning. The ideal fabric is BPA-free and food-safe, great for planting vegetables and other foods. Other commonly found materials are:
- Non-woven pressed fabrics
- Fabrics featuring small holes for circulation and drainage
A big benefit of fabric grow bags is that they promote the self-pruning we discussed earlier. This is due to being constructed of a breathable material, which allows for air pruning when the plants’ roots reach the edge of the bag.
Another big benefit of fabric grow bags is that they are often biodegradable, which makes them safer for the environment. Though fabric grow bags do not last as long as traditional pots, they can be disposed of properly and are biodegradable. They will break down more quickly and can easily be thrown away when you can no longer use them without harming the environment.
Best Plants for Grow Bags
Grow bags can be used for practically any plants; you simply want to ensure that you are buying the proper size for the plants you are interested in growing.
However, some plants do work better in grow bags than others and they can be grown easily in the bags. The best vegetables for grow bags are those that do not have deep roots.
Some top choices for grow bags are:
- Chili and sweet peppers
- Zucchini and summer squash
- Lettuce, endive, rocket, and other salad greens
- Herbs like basil
- Just about any flower that works in your zone
You can plant multiple plants in the same bag if the space allows, similar to your “in-the-ground” planting requirements. For salad greens, many cut the wide side of the bag and sow the plants in rows, depending on your personal preference. You can also plant vertically, like we previously discussed, to help grow stronger plants.
How to Use Your Grow Bags
As mentioned, if you have limited space for your garden, grow bags are the way to go. Grow bags can help you grow fresh veggies, fruits, herbs, flowers, and more with little to no land. They can also easily be moved from location to location and even brought inside of year-round growing.
Before embarking on the grow bag journey, you do want to learn more about how to plant in them properly. Grow bags are fairly easy to use as they can be hung or placed practically anywhere that allows for proper sunlight.
However, as with any gardening project, there is a right way and a wrong way to approach it if you want best results. So, we will break down how to use the bags properly and how you can have success with your grow bags.
Which Soil to Use for Grow Bags
You can use a variety of soils for your grow bags, but many use a good mixture of materials to get the best results. A commonly used mix is:
- 1/3 peat moss or coco coir
- 1/3 compost or potting mix
- 1/3 vermiculite or perlite
This is a good mixture for retaining moisture, which can be critical for grow bags that can get dry easily. Some use mulch or wood chips at the tops of their grow bags, similar to what you would see in a traditional garden. Adding these materials will help keep the soil moist at the top of the bags, and many plants grow better with added mulch.
My favorite soil mix recipe for pots and grow bags is a modified 5-1-1 blend (there’s one more “1” in my mix). I use:
- 5 parts pine or fir bark fines
- 1 part coco coir or peat moss
- 1 part Fuller’s earth (Turface, oil absorbent)
- 1 part perlite
and for plants that prefer really well drained soil, like my potted citrus trees, I prefer and recommend Al’s Gritty Mix which is made up of:
- 1 part screened crushed granite (poultry grit)
- 1 part Fuller’s earth – screened
- 1 part pine or fir bark fines – screened
My favorite source for the bark fines is Soil Pep from Home Depot and I get my Fuller’s earth in the form of oil absorbent from my local Tractor Supply.
Reusing the Soil From Your Grow Bag
A great benefit to using grow bags is that the soil you use can be reused for years with no problems. You will take off any mulch or wood chips and empty the bag. You can add a little new potting soil and mix it up well, putting it back into the bag for new planting or into a different bag if needed.
As mentioned, you can use the grow bags practically anywhere, which is ideal for smaller spaces. However, if you do plan to later plant an in-ground garden or are doing a mixture of in-ground and grow bags, you can dump the soil out in the garden area. This can increase the soil quality around your home and can easily be added to gardens, flower beds, or other landscaping.
Choose the Right Size Grow Bag
Depending on what you plan on planting, you need to ensure that you are using the correct sized bags. There is a wide range of grow bags on the market today and you can easily find bags from a few gallons up to 100-gallon bags. However, different plants work best in different sized grow bags. A basic guide to choosing your grow bag is:
- 3-Gallon Bags – This size grow bag works best for a single plant or a couple of smaller plants. For example, you can use these for a single pepper plant or a couple of lettuce plants.
- 5-Gallon Bags – These are the ideal choice for most gardeners, and you can use them for practically anything. You can use the basic five-gallon size for peppers, flowers, potatoes, herbs, and even small trees. This is probably the most versatile of grow bag size.
- 10-Gallon Bags – This is a fairly large bag and can be used for planting multiple plants in one container. This is great for growing multiple plants like potatoes and herbs or a variety of salad greens. This is better for those who have a larger amount of space and want to have a bigger garden.
- 100-Gallon Bags – There are actually 100-gallon bags on the market today, but these are made for those who want a large garden and aren’t using bags due to limited space. This is great for creating a garden that is similar to a raised bed and gives you space enough to grow many plants.
In addition to choosing the correct size, you will want to choose the bag that works best for the plants you are planting in your garden.
Obviously, grow bags come in different shapes and sizes but some fabric bags can be used for certain fruits and vegetables easily. For example, there are grow bags designed for planting and growing potatoes because they feature side openings for harvesting. Another example is some bags come with side pockets for planting in a stacked formation, great for strawberries.
Setting up a Watering System for Your Grow Bags
If it has not been mentioned enough, it is important for your plants to be watered regularly while in grow bags because they can become dry over time.
Since these bags are known to feature extra drainage and can wick away moisture, you will need to water them more than traditional pots. However, watering regularly can be challenging for some and it can be beneficial to set up a system for this.
Some commonly used systems that those with grow bags have found beneficial are:
- Drip Systems – Adding a pipe drip system to your grow bags can be very beneficial as they supply constant moisture. This is a fairly easy installation process and can keep your plants growing properly by delivering water straight to the roots.
- Self-Watering Systems – You can put a container underneath of your grow bags and fill it with water. The grow bag will wick up the water as the plant needs it as long as you keep most of the roots in the above the water level so they don’t drown. This container can be made from practically anything. Just ensure your grow bag is not completely submerged into the water and is able to wick up water as needed. This keeps the plants watered well and you only need to fill the container up as needed.
Fertilizing Your Grow Bags
Grow bags do need to be fertilized regularly as they do not have access to nutrients that the natural ground soil offers. Heavy feeder plants that require more nutrients will need to be fertilized regularly, as they’ll suck up their nutrients quickly in a grow bag.
Giving plants this extra boost can be done in a variety of ways, you can certainly use whatever works best for you but my favorite fertilizers for potted plants are:
- Osmocote Plus Smart Release (check out on Amazon) added to the soil at the time of planting and
- Dyna Gro Foliage Pro (click to see on Amazon) given in “maintenance” dosages with waterings
Reusing Your Grow Bags
Grow bags are extremely economical, and their ability for reuse is a big reason why many gardeners love them and justify their costs. Many gardeners use the bags for their spring plants and then harvest them prior to fall. You simply remove any unwanted plants and the remaining soil is still great, which means you can then plant whatever fall harvests you would like into the rich soil left behind.
After cutting any fall plants and you want to put your bags away for winter, you can easily spread any remaining soil into your flower beds or landscaping. This increases soil quality around your home significantly over time. The bags can then be rinsed out and put away until you need them again in the spring.
To ensure you can reuse the bags properly, you want to find a quality fabric bag that says it is reusable upon purchase. You simply dump out the remaining soil, clean out the bags, and allow them to dry, then store them in a safe spot until needed again.
Ideally, you can get a few growing seasons out of your grow bags, which even further justifies any costs. Of course, these will not last as long as a traditional flower or gardening pots (at least those pots that remain unbroken!) but are much less expensive at initial purchase.
Making Your Own Grow Bags
If purchasing traditional grow bags is still a bit out of your budget, or you need a large variety of bags that make purchasing difficult, you can make your own.
These may not be as durable as the bags you purchase, but with a little sewing skill, they can easily be done. These bags can cost you less than a dollar a bag depending on the quality of material you purchase. You simply need landscaping fabric and nylon sewing thread (link to Amazon).
To create your own fabric grow bag, you will want to follow these steps:
Step 1 – Decide how big you want your grow bag to be and measure this out with your landscaping fabric. You want to leave an added inch for the seam to be sewed properly.
Step 2 – Fold the material and sew the bottom and sides to make a bag. It will resemble a big pocket.
Step 3 – Fold and secure the bottom corners of the bag. This will allow the bag’s bottom to be opened up in a square shape (as opposed to a big pocket.)
Step 4 – Sew along the corner lines.
Step 5– Finish the top by folding it over. You can also add a handle to the top of the bag, which is recommended. But make sure it is sturdy enough to support your bag and the soil you’ll be putting inside.
Step 6 – If you want to hide any unwanted seams, you can flip the bags inside out.
Helpful Links for Making DIY Bags
Of course, these directions can be slightly vague, and you may want to follow a more detailed step by step on creating your own grow bags. A couple of great tutorials that you can easily follow are:
To save even more money, you can actually make a form of grow bags using old paper shopping bags. These can be used similarly to fabric bags but clearly will not last as long as a fabric version. A good tutorial for creating kraft paper bags from a roll of paper or grocery bags is:
Of course, if you are a visual learner, there are several great videos on YouTube that you can watch to learn more about creating your own grow bags and how to use them. Here are a couple of my personal favorites that take you through the step by step process of creating these bags:
No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.-Thomas Jefferson