Growing your plants in fabric grow bags can be very beneficial to the quality and health of your container garden, and they are an easy, fast, and inexpensive way to enhance your garden.
Grow bags are usually made of felt or other non-woven, pressed fabrics, which have small holes in them to allow the free circulation of air. This free circulation of air benefits the roots by allowing them to more efficiently absorb water and nutrients from the soil. In traditional plastic, ceramic, or clay pots, the roots of a plant will grow out and hit the edge of the container. When this happens, the root system is not being used efficiently, which limits the ability of the plant to pick up nutrients. Plants that grow in traditional pots are also susceptible to temperature shock in warmer weather, due to the surface of the pot absorbing more heat.
Grow bags encourage the plants to self-prune. As the root of a plant hits an air pocket, the plant will automatically prune the root, creating a side bud. The plant then develops a solid, fibrous root system, which allows for a greater surface of root hairs. If you wish to transplant some plants that have been previously grown in traditional containers, you can break up the root systems to encourage growth. Some more fragile plants may not do well if their roots are broken up, so make sure you know which plants are intolerant to this.
Companion planting in grow bags encourages the mixed growth of plants. In a small “ecosystem” such as a grow bag, there are complex root systems as well as a mix of soil microbes in sister plants that will help feed each other.
Easy to Water
Grow bags take away the guesswork of watering your plants. There are small holes and pores in the pressed fabric which allow any excess water to drain. While grow bags reduce your chances of over-watering, there is still a risk of under-watering the plants. Since air circulates so freely throughout the grow bag, the soil can dry out rather quickly. Be sure to water regularly.
Mobility and Durability
Grow bags are great for gardens of all sizes, both indoors and outdoors. You can start a plant in a smaller grow bag and move it to a larger grow bag as the plant reaches maturity. Grow bags are predicted to last 7 to 8 seasons, but with good care, they can last for much longer. Grow bags’ fabric is pressed together, not woven, which increases their durability. The bags can be cut without damaging their structure, allowing for the growth not just on the top of the grow bags, but also around the sides of the bag.
Vertical Grow Systems
Good vertical grow bags allow for nutrient-rich garden systems. If you have multiple grow bags, you can stack or hang them on top of each other. When you water the top plants, the nutrients drain from the top bags and form a cascading effect on the lower bags. These systems can be irrigated with PVC piping or hand-watered.
Starting your own Grow bag
Starting your own grow bag is very simple you will need just a few things:
- Organic Soil
- Starter Fertilizer
- Grow Bag
- Seeds or Plants
- A location with enough sunlight
To Start Your Grow Bag:
- Fill with enough organic soil to leave just a few inches of headroom for your plants to percolate water down the root systems
- Moisten and mix the soil with fertilizer to get it ready for the plants
- Plant your plants or sow your seeds
- Fertilize your plants every four to six weeks to ensure that they are receiving the nutrients that they need
While grow bags are a good alternative to traditional containers, there are still a few issues that may need to be addressed.
You will potentially need to weed if a seed so happens to fall in your plants, or a bird or other organism deposits a seed in your garden
You may need to be prepared for pests such as aphids, worms, and other insects. Earthworm castings are a good, organic solution to deter pests. These castings can be mixed into your soil to make your plants taste a little less delicious to the unwanted garden visitors.
46 CommentsLeave a Reply
I’m planning to use grow bags for peppers and tomatoes this year as a test run. I’m confused by constantly seeing potatoes as an example crop for grow bags. How is it worth the cost in both the bag itself, and the appropriate soil etc for the number of potatoes produced? They seems like an affordable crop that doesn’t warrant the cost and effort?
Potatoes are a crop that you can grow in the ground pretty easily. Many gardeners who are limited on space or want an easier way to harvest choose to grow potatoes in containers but you don’t have to.
Hi, what kind of fabric or felt is used in the grow bag? I am interested to know about possible toxicity or leeching.
Hi Monica, thank you for the comment. Grow bags are most often made out of felt or polypropylene fabric. If you choose a polypropylene fabric look for BPA-free.
My daughter in law did her research…truly organic kids! She found a place in Oregon, called OBC Northwest – http://obcnw.com/ they have all sizes. I ordered the 20 gallon, but my kids have 20 gal, 7 gal , 5 gal, 3 gal and 1 gal, I believe. Their plants look beautiful! They are not too pricey so maybe you should check them out for yourself.
Thanks for the assist Susan!
I am going to be starting a small fabric vegtable garden. I’m extremely new to gardening. Would I have to worry about bugs? If so what can I do naturally to minimize bugs in my garden? Also I plan on growing serrano peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and spinach. Thank you!
Hi Jane, thank you for the comment! Bugs are always part of gardening and of course, we need bugs both good and bad garden bugs. There are quite a few bugs that may come in for you as well as lots of organic methods to get rid of each bug. Starting with good healthy soil is the first step, start your seedlings and then transplant them when they are nice and strong will also help. We have a section on pests to address the varying types of pests you may encounter, what to look for, and then what to do if they come. You can read the articles here: https://www.kellogggarden.com/blog/insect-pest-control/
Hello, I’m curious about the sizes. The medium sized grow bag You where planting in at first is that a 10 gallon?
Hi Sara, here is more information about the sizes of grow bags. A 3-gallon size grow bag works well with plants like pepper, or a couple of plants such as lettuce or peas. A 5-gallon size grow bag works well with tomatoes, flowers, herbs, potatoes, and small fruiting trees. A 10-gallon size grow bag is large and can accommodate more than one plant in the container. You can grow tomatoes or potatoes with basil around them. We hope this helps you!
What do you think about using the Farmer’s almanac moon calendar to garden using grow bags. For example when the almanac says best not to plant on a certain day, is that planting in the ground? Can you plant in grow bags at any time? Thank you for your time.
You can follow the same planting schedule for container gardening that you do for in-ground gardening. In some cases you can start container gardens sooner than in-ground gardens because the soil temperature can be higher but you do have to watch out for frost and heat with both. In our companion planting guide we talk more about temperatures. If you have already signed up to get our ebooks it is available via the download link, if not you can get it here: https://www.kellogggarden.com/companion-planting-guide-ebook/
Great information for us less-experienced gardeners who really want to try our “thumbs” at growing a garden.
Do you have a list of vegetables that are best suited individually for bags? What are the best companion choices?
What are more examples of the herbs that can grow in the hanging pouches?
Thank you again, it was really great! Lisa
Hi Lisa! Thank you for visiting our blog, we love your enthusiasm! For companion planting information we have a guide you might find useful: https://www.kellogggarden.com/companion-planting-guide-ebook/ we have a container gardening guide coming out this week also but you can find container gardening advice here: https://www.kellogggarden.com/blog/container-gardening/ and herb gardening information here: https://www.kellogggarden.com/blog/herb-gardening/ in the meantime.
Hi, I’m new with grow bags. Because of back issues we put them on table where the top is made of a wire rack. I did a drip system of 1 gal. Per hour! I mixed regular soil, bagged garden soil, and cow manure, I mixed it up in a wheel barrel the shoveled it into the bags. My concern is the water just flows right on threw. Some are seeds, some are plants. I set a timer for 15 minutes once a day. In the trial and error stage! I did soak the in the beginning. Did I do everything wrong or is the drip ok?? Advice would be wonderful! Thank you Tim
Hi Tim, You may want to put your bags on a solid surface. If you are using felt bags they are very porous and having a solid surface under them will create a bit of a stopgap for the water. Be careful planting seeds in garden soil, the particle size can be too big and the sprouts may have a hard time breaking through. Seedlings also need to stay in moist soil so starting them in pots and transplanting them when they are stronger is recommended. Felt bags allow for good airflow which is great for the roots of your plants but it can mean more watering so mulch the surface to help a bit. Watering is tricky you will need to check the soil often, in the beginning, to see if you need to adjust your drip irrigation flow rate and watering intervals. As temperatures heat up you may need to adjust again.
I’ve planted my grow bags. I’m worried about mold and fungus. Is it OK to set them directly on grass?
Hi Kris, it is okay to put the grow bag on grass. But beware the grow bag will most likely kill the grass it is set on.
Hi! I’ve used grow bags for my Anouk & Spanish lavenders since I carry them inside in the winter months (not Mediterranean-lavender friendly part of the US). I got a few 15 & 25 gallon ones for planting tomatoes, peppers, etc. My question is, to save on potting soil cost (for the 25 gallon ones), would filling the bottom with empty water bottles or (cleaned) milk jugs work? I’ve done this with other containers (resin, terrace, ceramic, etc) in the past but I’m not sure about the fabric pots. Thanks in advance!
Hi Steff, thank you so much for commenting! It should be fine if you use a layer of bottles on the bottom of your grow bags. You may also want to consider layering organic materials such as twigs, leaves, compost, or grass clippings. Here is the link to an article you may find helpful about layering soils, https://www.kellogggarden.com/blog/raised-beds/layering-soil-for-an-inexpensive-raised-garden-bed/. Happy gardening!
I’m new here, I live in an apartment complex and want to plant by using grow bags, it’s a lot of sun in front of my big window, so I’m figuring that’s a good spot, but from time to time, sand cranes do wonder around my area, must I be concerned about them?
Hi Norma, that sounds like a great location to start your grow bags but you may encounter issues with Sand Cranes trying to eat your delicious fruits. One way to mitigate this is by using bird netting to protect your crops. This blog post discusses bird netting as well as other methods to protect your garden from birds, https://www.kellogggarden.com/blog/animals/best-ways-protect-your-plants-from-birds/. We hope this helps, happy gardening!
Do you recommend Patio Plus Premium Outdoor Organic Potting Mix or Raised Bed and Potting Mix Premium Outdoor Container Mix for growing in felt grow bags?
I’m leaning towards the potting mix to help with moisture retention.
Hi Nathan! The felt bags are more of a container growing environment so the Patio Plus Premium Outdoor Organic Potting Mix would be the better option. Felt bags allow airflow which is phenomenal for the roots but does require a bit more watering than other containers you may grow in. Don’t forget to grab some organic fertilizer, we recommend a liquid and a granular for slow release, and mulch for the top of your soil to help retain that moisture even better.
Can I use a combination of newspaper, grass clippings, leaves ( mulched) in bottom of my 5lb garden bag and then pour the potting mix?
How much of the top layer before the potting mix ( ratio- 1/2 of each or more potting mix?
Hi Terri, you can add all of those items into your garden. You’ll want your top layer of potting mix to be about 6 to 12 inches deep. For more information on layering material check out this blog post, https://www.kellogggarden.com/blog/raised-beds/layering-soil-for-an-inexpensive-raised-garden-bed/.
Hello, Well your above information is useful to our customer as well. We will definitely going to recommend them. As we are also in container trading business from few years, we have number of customer who purchased used containers for container farming.
I’m wondering if I can reuse my soil mix in my grow bag for next season? Or should I replace it. Thank you
Hi Lara, you can absolutely continue using the same soil next season, as you build life in the soil each season your soil should get stronger. We recommend amending your soil to ensure it is sufficiently nutrient-rich as some of the nutrients may be depleted from this past gardening season. For information on how and why to amend your soil, check out this blog post, https://www.kellogggarden.com/blog/soil/amend-soil/. Happy gardening!
Hi. This is my first year using grow bags. My questions are about watering. I do NOT have a water drip system nor do I want one. I want to know specifically if it is ok to put the 5 gallon bag (or any size) on a shallow tub and then add about 2 inches of water for the bag/plant to wick and use? Do I just refill my tub the 2 inches of water when it’s gone or keep a continuous 2 inches? Lastly, I will be adding mulch to the top of the bag lightly around the plant. Do I also need to water from the top if it feels dry even though the bag is clearly wicking water? Thank you!
Hi Sharon! You can water bottom up with grow bags. You want to make sure that you are meeting the needs of each plant, most vegetables need about an inch or two of water a week but larger plants can require more water as do newly planted vegetables. Grow bags allow airflow and higher temperatures can also contribute to faster water evaporation. You will need to watch to see how much moisture is getting to your plants. Many plants have shallow root systems so it is important that the top 6 inches get the moisture it needs. Deep watering encourages deeper and stronger root growth so you may need to water more than once a day when temperatures get higher and you may need to supplement your tray watering system with some top watering if the plants are not getting the water they need.
A lot of great advice from this website! It would be nice to have a reference chart regarding what size of grow bag to use for certain vegetables. Trying to figure out what grow size bag to get for indeterminate tomatoes. I’m getting mixed advice from the internet. Some say 10 gallon is enough; but some say it has to be 20 or 25.
Hi Barbie! We have a guide with a lot of that information in it https://www.kellogggarden.com/container-gardening-guide/ But it really depends on the type of tomatoes you are growing. The larger heirloom tomatoes are going to need more room so the 20 – 25 gallon container would be better. The smaller tomatoes, like the cherry or small pear-shaped tomatoes, can be grown in smaller containers. To be safe bigger is better, 20 gallons should be enough for most tomatoes, you can companion plant with a shallow root vegetable or herb also if there is room. If you only have a 10 gallon container for your tomatoes pick a variety that is a bit smaller. We hoped this helped, let us know if you have additional questions.
Are grow bags recommended to just sit on concrete or is it better to put them on top of a pallet?
Hi Kim! you do not need to elevate your grow bags, however, if you are worried about the surface the pots are on getting too wet or staining from runoff you could put a tray under your fabric pots.
Hi there! I’m wondering about rot. Is there anything I can do to prevent it? Should I put rocks or wood inside the bottom of the bag, before adding soil? Can I just leave it on the ground. Can I put it on the top of soil? Should I rest it on wood, bricks or stones?
Hi Debbie, you don’t need to worry about rot in fabric pots, they should last 3 to 5 years. Some companies recommend washing fabric pots between growing seasons in cold water with baking soda and vinegar to remove nutrients and amendments that build up in the fabric. You don’t need to add any material to the bottom of your pots for drainage or to help water evaporate, fabric pots allow airflow. You also don’t need to lift them up off the ground, you can if you would like to, but it could result in the soil drying out faster and your plants needing to be watered more often.
Hello there! I’m wondering about bag rot. Do I have to place the bag on anything like bricks or wood? Can I, our should I, put anything inside the bottom of the bag? Is the bag okay to sit on soil, or is that a no no?
Fabric pots don’t need anything in the bottom of your pot for drainage, they dry out faster than hard-sided pots and they aren’t known for rotting, they should last anywhere from 3 to 5 years. What can break them down is sun and the build-up of nutrients and amendments you add to your soil. Some fabric pot companies recommend emptying and washing your pots in cold water with baking soda & white vinegar between plantings to remove some of that build-up.
Hi, I read a suggestion to drill holes in the felt grow bags to facilitate drainage, do you recommend this?
Hi Bill, those on our team who grow in felt bags have not felt the need to cut holes in their felt containers. Felt doesn’t trap water like other materials can, if anything they dry out too fast or faster than we would like. ? That’s not to say you can’t overwater a plant in felt but typically you don’t have to worry about drainage in felt.
With the watering needs and drainage of the felt grow bags, what is timing recommended for using water soluble fertilizer.
Hi James! Felt bags have great drainage properties, with that being said you should still follow the application recommendations on the fertilizer products you are using. Make sure to water first and then add your water-soluble organic fertilizer. You can also add the diluted liquid fertilizer as a foliar spray so the leaves of the plant absorb the nutrients as well as the roots in the soil.
I’m looking at grow bags for my small space vegetable garden. Are there health or environmental concerns about 100% nylon grow bags?
Hi Lori, we recommend reaching out to the company or manufacturer of the nylon bags you’re interested in purchasing. They will be able to provide information about their specific manufacturing process as well as the safety and sustainability of their bags. Happy gardening!
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