How to Use Garden Grow Bags: 10 Tips

The secret’s out of the bag: Grow bags make great garden containers.

heirloom strawberry plants in a fabric container pot
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Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or new to growing your own food, garden grow bags make great containers for plants, fruits, and vegetables. Garden grow bags come in a variety of lightweight, durable materials that allow for excellent air and water flow through the soil. 

Although grow bags most often focus on utility over aesthetics, they have many advantages over ceramic, clay, or plastic containers. Grow bags keep your plants’ roots cooler in the summer and encourage air pruning, which allows plants to sprout many small root tips.

Here are our top 10 tips for making the most out of your garden grow bags.

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Start With the Right Soil

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Soil is the literal foundation of a healthy garden. Most container gardeners prefer a mix of ⅓ compost, ⅓ vermiculite, and ⅓ peat moss or coconut coir for their garden grow bags. Be sure to fill your grow bags to the top, then shake them to fill out the entire space.

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Plan for Drainage

One major advantage of garden grow bags is that they provide excellent drainage, reducing the risk of overwatering. Waterlogged soil prevents oxygen from flowing to the roots of your plants.

Of course, you don’t want that drainage to soak your carpets or warp your hardwood. If you keep your grow bags anywhere that can’t support water run-off, you’ll need a tray beneath it to catch excess drainage.

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Water Your Plants More Often

Watering a plant.
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The material of your planter plays an enormous role in how your plants absorb and maintain moisture. Grow bags allow your roots to breathe, but they also require more frequent watering because all sides of the roots are exposed to the air. Make sure to keep the soil in your grow bags moist because if it dries completely, the roots can die. This may mean daily or twice daily watering during the hottest months of the year.

Did You Know?

Plants grown in containers can become rootbound with tight, circular roots that never extend into the soil, eventually choking out the plant. When the roots inside a grow bag reach the side of the container, the drier soil and greater air circulation force the roots to stop growing and to sprout many small tips that can better absorb water and nutrients, making for a healthier plant.

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Fertilize More Frequently

In general, container gardening requires more frequent fertilization than in-ground gardens because container plants need more water. This watering flushes nutrients from the plant. Replace them by adding fertilizer every two weeks to keep your plants growing well. The type and method of fertilization depend on your plants. For example, vegetables prefer higher phosphorus and lower nitrogen fertilizers while flowers and plants prefer higher nitrogen. 

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Pick the Right Plant for the Right Size Grow Bag

Plant The Sapling in Crop bags
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Want to try your hand at growing fruit trees, tomatoes, or potatoes? Many top-heavy plants and root vegetables require wider, deeper containers with at least 10 gallons of soil. That makes for very big, heavy planters. Garden grow bags offer a lightweight solution. You can also look for dwarf or compact varieties of plants that will thrive in smaller containers. Use grow bags with under two pounds of soil to create an edible garden of lettuce, kale, bell peppers, and herbs. Add another pound of soil, and you can grow strawberries and carrots.

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Grow Plants in Small Spaces

Anyone can grow plants with a bit of sunshine, but not all containers can easily accommodate small spaces. Garden grow bags can be used just about anywhere. Have a balcony? Hang grow bags off the railing for a space-saving solution. Grow bags can also sit on windowsills or tables—just be sure to consider where any excess water might drain.

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Move Your Plants for Best Sun and Temperature Exposure

Because they are lightweight (and because many of them have handles), garden grow bags make it easy to move your plants to accommodate shade or sun, warmth or cold. Most plants need at least six hours of sunlight a day, but too much sun can fry your plant’s leaves. Conversely, too much shade can stunt growth. Grow bags make it easy to move your container garden for best exposure. If you’ve got cold-sensitive plants that need to spend the winter indoors, you can use grow bags to transport them back and forth as the seasons call for it.

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Easily Transfer Plants to New Containers

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Found the perfect decorative container? Keep your plant in its grow bag and place it inside of the container without causing root shock. Remember, however, that the new container may not have the same breathability as the grow bag. Change your watering habits accordingly.

What Is Root Shock?

Root shock occurs when a plant experiences stress due to a sudden change in its environment. This includes changes in light, temperature, or the container itself. Over or under watering and fungal growth can also cause root shock.

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Plant Your Grow Bags in the Ground

If your garden grow bag is made from biodegradable materials, you can begin growing your plant indoors and then plant the entire thing in the ground. Some gardeners prefer this method because it allows them to begin growing their plants earlier in the season and helps prevent root shock during transfer.

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Wash and Pack Up Your Grow Bags During Winter

During the colder months, you may find yourself with a bunch of soil and not much else. Grow bags easily disassemble and take up next to no space to store during the off-season. Depending on the material, most garden grow bags can be cleaned by simply spraying them with water and allowing them to dry before storage. (Others may tolerate cleaning with hot water and bleach to prevent mold.) Next season, simply break out your grow bags and fill them with soil and seed.