By Trisha Gedon
Traditional in-ground beds, raised beds and ceramic/plastic pot gardens are mainstay gardening methods, but grow bags add another dimension to this popular pastime.
“One of the biggest advantages is the convenience. Grow bags are great for both seasoned and novice gardeners,” said Casey Hentges, Oklahoma State University Extension associate specialist and host of OSU Agriculture’s “Oklahoma Gardening” television show. “The bags are available in a variety of shapes and sizes to meet your gardening needs. Also, they’re good for gardeners with mobility issues because they’re higher than traditional in-ground beds.”
When shopping for bags, select those made from durable polypropylene fabric or a heavy-duty landscape fabric. Prices vary for these bags, and investing a bit more up front will get gardeners a better, longer-lasting product. Some of these bags will last three or four growing seasons.
The bags often come with attached handles to make moving them easier. They’re also much lighter than the typical clay or ceramic pot. Grow bags work well for people with a small patio or balcony or little space for a traditional in-ground or raised-bed garden. Gardening enthusiasts who are renting or living in temporary housing can plant a garden and take it with them when they move.
Hentges said it’s important to consider what types of plants grow best in the mobile environment.
“Select plants with a relatively shallow root system, such as salad greens and radishes. Plants that need more space to spread out, including melons, parsnips and winter squashes, most likely won’t do well,” she said. “However, there are dwarf cultivars of many varieties that will grow well.”
Oklahoma gardeners are well-versed in summer heat, and plants grown in grow bags need to be watered more frequently, said David Hillock, OSU Extension consumer horticulturist.
“In the heat of the summer, the bags will need to be watered probably once a day,” Hillock said.
“Grow bags need well-draining soil that can retain moisture in between waterings. This soil helps ensure roots can breathe as excess water flows through the soil and the bag.”
Along with more water, plants in grow bags may need additional fertilizing. Plants grown in containers are limited to the amount of nutrients in the soil, which can leach out with frequent watering. Be sure to follow the directions on the fertilizer container.
Grow bags can be used for several years. Properly cleaning and storing them at the end of the growing season will help them last longer. Empty and wash bags with soapy water to kill any lingering bacteria or fungus. Allow them to dry completely before storing.
“This cleaning process is important because any soil-related problems gardeners have with their plants during the growing season will remain in the bag unless it’s properly cleaned,” Hentges said.
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