How I Use Fabric Pots For Gardening

by dustytoes

Fabric garden bags come in a variety of sizes from small to extra large. Once the dirt is ready you have a very easy garden to care for.

I'll tell you, I am so happy to have discovered this simple way to start a new garden bed using fabric pots. I began with the small ones, but quickly decided the large size might suit me better. The summer of 2013 was my first attempt at growing vegetables in fabric pots and I still use them today.

Any gardener will tell you that getting the soil right is absolutely essential to growing a good crop. But what if the backyard landscape has no ready made dirt spaces? That means getting out the pitchfork and digging yourself a garden. Tough work, to be sure.

Using fabric pots is perfect for anyone who doesn't have the manpower, money or know-how to build a raised bed with wood. The most difficult part of using a big fabric bag is filling it with dirt, but if you can use a wheelbarrow, you're all set.

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Fabric garden bags can make small space gardening easier.

Creating a garden anywhere takes a lot of work.  Digging and tilling and amending the soil is hard work, and sheet mulching takes time.  Then once crops are planted, there are the weeds to deal with.

At my age, I need easy.  People who have busy lives, but love to garden, need easy.  Using bags to fill with dirt and tend plants individually seems like a no-brainer.  It's a bit expensive to get started, depending on the number of pots needed (don't overcrowd vegetables), but worth the initial effort.

Here is why I like to garden using bags:

  • Move each bag into the sun as needed, or inside if weather turns bad. Or move fruit laden plants indoors overnight to avoid raccoon thieves. (Bags with handles are great.)
  • No rocks get in the way of digging or planting.
  • The soil warms quicker, which keeps plants happier.
  • It's virtually weed-free.  Any little weeds popping up can easily be removed.
  • It's easy to get water straight to the roots.
  • Moles and other critters can't get to the roots.  Worms do appear in the dirt - or throw some in yourself.
  • Have access to the garden from all sides and plants are raised up a bit so not as much bending.

I have cats and they never go up into the bags to do their business, so that is another plus.

Maui Mike's Soft POTS are made from recycled water bottles.

Attractive brown pots with handles that help save the planet. I have these.
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I Am The Gardener

Discovering fabric grow bags has been a life changer for me.

I am writing this page as a single, older woman (in my sixties), who does all her own gardening.  From buying and lugging the dirt to the beds, to weeding, watering, and harvesting, the jobs are all mine.  I garden because I love it, for the same reasons you do - eating the freshest food which is free of chemicals.

Since 2013 I have been using fabric pots.  I've tried many different sizes for my various gardening needs.  I learned a lot about growing vegetables in New Hampshire and now I am re-learning so I can grow food in Florida.  Although I plant in the ground and in raised beds, I still use fabric pots for growing certain vegetables.

Maui Mikes Soft Pots in My Yard

These 7 gallon pots contain little cauliflower seedlings.
7 Gallon pots will hold one cauliflower plant each.
7 Gallon pots will hold one cauliflower plant each.

What Size Bag Do I Need?

Novice growers often crowd crops.  I definitely did!  It's difficult to pull up those excess baby seedlings, but many crops won't thrive if they don't have space to themselves.  It can even be detrimental to the entire crop. 

Most vegetables need at least a 6 inch depth, and many need more space.

The seven gallon bags are a good size for a single tomato plant, eggplant, pepper, or cauliflower which is what I have planted.  ONE plant, that grows long, branching roots, should do well in this size bag.  Or plant multiples of herbs, carrots, and lettuce / greens. Know the root depth of what you want to grow and find a pot that is not too small to accommodate it.  Roots can also wrap around and survive because most bags will not be truly tall enough.

Either begin by putting seeds into the dirt and then thinning, a little at a time, to the best plant, or transplant seedlings from smaller pots.

Vermiculite Keeps Soil Loose

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Southern Gardening Using Individual Fabric Pots

Buying more fabric bags to fill my little garden area.
Beginning a new garden in Florida
Beginning a new garden in Florida

Creating a New Garden Bed

It took over a year, but eventually I had plenty of good quality dirt.

I recently moved to the south where I must begin establishing my vegetable gardens all over again.  My son made a wood framed raised bed, but because it will be difficult to get a truckload of dirt to the area, I bought some fabric pots and bags of organic soil to begin planting.

As the seasonal veggies died down, I dumped the dirt into the garden bed.  Between that and new bags of organic soil, my raised bed was filled.

From there, I added compost and used the raised bed as a sort of mixing site to create good dirt to use in the fabric bags.  After about a year of doing this I had filled bags and a filled raised bed with gently of places to grow vegetables.

Growing Crops in Florida Winter

Now that I live in Florida, I have to learn how to grow new types of food.  The best time to plant and grow most crops is October through March or April.  The daytime temperatures are usually warm to hot, but evenings and overnight can be chilly.  The temperature can dip to freezing or below sometimes, and anything growing in a pot can be dragged inside, or put close to the house where they shouldn't freeze.  If seedlings are still growing, they need to be inside in the warmth.

Amendments For Soil

A loose soil with organic matter lets the roots spread and the plant thrive.
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Buy the Correct Size Bag For Your Crops

Consider the root length and don't overcrowd vegetables.

If you know about growing a vegetable garden, you can probably figure out which veggies will grow best in which size pot.  For those who aren't sure, I'll give you advice from what I've learned by using these pots over the years.

The Extra Large Bags:  Grow just about anything except tomatoes in this size bag.  The bag is too short to add a tomato cage, or stakes, to hold the plants up, unless they are added to the ground outside the bag.  A zucchini will take over the bag, so plan on growing just zucchini if you choose to do so.  I like the large bags for grouping a number of smaller growing veggies like peppers, parsley, celery, onions and garlic (around the edges).  You could even throw a flowering plant into the mix.

The Medium Size (7-10 gallon Garden Mate bags): I've grown potatoes in these with success.  You won't get a big yield, but the bags work, and can be dumped out to collect the potatoes.  Beans, peas, carrots and any long rooted vegetables work well in this size, but they won't hold a lot of seeds.  

The Shorter Bags:  I have just discovered this size and I'm thrilled.  They are perfect for any vegetable that doesn't need a deep bag.  Think lettuce, onions, garlic, or most herbs.  Use less dirt and the bags can be moved easily.


Purchase Gardening Bags and Other Items in the Off Season

Save money and buy in fall and winter.

As I write this paragraph it is December and I've noticed that many of the bags listed on this page are nearly half price!  Most gardening is done in spring and summer, but if you wait until then to buy gardening items there may be shortages or higher prices.  Buy during the off season, or during the holidays when sales are in full swing.

Fabric Pots in Pretty Colors

Much better than plastic pots, the colorful bags are perfect for the flower gardener too.
Wraxly Premium Fabric Flower Grow Bags (3-Gallon) - Make Your Flowe...

Typical Garden Vegetables

Garden vegetables
Garden vegetables

Plants That Need Staking

Although the grow bags are excellent choices for all types of vegetables, some plants will need support as they grow.  Tomatoes, peas, certain beans, cucumber and others will need staking or a trellis near the pot.  I've found that any support should be placed outside the pot.  A tomato cage should not be put inside the pot because it won't hold as the tomato plant gets large.


Large fabric pot trial and error

My photo shows tomatoes in the pot, but they couldn't be staked easily.
My Big Fabric Bed - Summer 2013
My Big Fabric Bed - Summer 2013

Tips for growing potatoes in fabric bags

Choose the tallest bag and plant only 3 tubers

I have grown little red potatoes from the ones that have sprouted in my kitchen.

1. Add a few inches of good soil in the bottom.

2. Cut potatoes with at least 2 budding eyes in each piece, and set 2-3 pieces into the bag

3. Cover with another few inches of soil.

4. As the potatoes grow, cover the green stems leaving just the top sticking out.  Keep doing this until the bag is full of dirt.

5. The green leaves will eventually die.  This signals when it is time to dump the bag and collect the potatoes.

My Potato Plants

Don't overcrowd bags. I used 2 or 3 sprouting potato pieces in each bag.
Growing Potatoes in the 7-Gallon Pot Size
Growing Potatoes in the 7-Gallon Pot Size

Green Beans

Bush beans won't need support. Let them grown and hang over the side of the bag. Or use a trellis for other types.
Green Beans in a 10-Gallon Bag
Green Beans in a 10-Gallon Bag


They need to be thinned, but I did grow decent carrots.

Trowel With Serrated Edge

The serrated part of this handy trowel can cut through small roots and open bags of mulch as well as dig a nifty hole.
Corona CT 3720 eGrip Transplanter

I write about my gardening experience on my blog Hydrangeas Blue.

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Large Fabric Pots Ready for Planting

My backyard in New England
Extra large garden bags can stay put through winter.
Extra large garden bags can stay put ...

End of summer garden

Tough to see the bag beneath all those veggies! I left mine filled with dirt all winter and added amendments the following season.
Large bag filled with veggies
Large bag filled with veggies

Growing Garlic and Zucchini in Large Fabric Bags

I had these two raised beds in another area and everything grew wonderfully.
Garlic and Zucchini growing in New Hampshire
Garlic and Zucchini growing in New Hampshire

Bags With Large Circumference

A big garden space for plants with shorter root systems.

The black fabric potting bed is a great size to create a raised garden you want to keep in one place year after year.  This one is really a permanent addition to the yard.  Think garlic and onions around the edge with larger crops in the center.

Of course it could be emptied out and moved, if needed, but in New Hampshire I left mine up over the winter and began in spring by adding amendments to the soil.

One of the very nice things about using this type of bed is the relative absence of grass and weeds.  Some will pop up, but none can creep in from the yard.  Also, fertilizer stays within the boundary of the bed and won't seep away from the crops.  The same will happen when watering.  The black color brings extra warmth to the soil, which will keep plants happy and growing well.


Buy the Right Size Pot

Some vegetables need plenty of space for root development: tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, potatoes. Use a deep bag.
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Updated: 12/19/2023, dustytoes
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frankbeswick on 01/17/2015

jptanabe, your defence against groundhogs etc is plastic or nylon netting. Rabbits will burrow under fences, unless you use rabbit wire, which is a bit hard for you to out in, but they cannot burrow into pots. Deer be deterred by netting, but will attack young trees. Hogs are the most difficult. They can rip up netting, but pots that are solid and fixed, and covered with strong netting will provide some defence.

In Britain we have hogs, wild boar to be precise. You cannot handle them without a hunting rifle, as I am sure that you know. I don't know if your ground hogs are as bad as wild boar, but you have wild boar problems in parts of the United States as well.

Lay the netting as a ground, which will deter rabbits, but then ensure that you cover individual beds/pots with netting firmly fixed.

dustytoes on 01/16/2015

@jptanabe I am very happy with the fabric pots. I can't build a fence either. I don't bother to grow things that I'm sure would be eaten - like corn. It's trial and error. This past year all my tomatoes got a disease just as they were turning red! I was so discouraged. They were in the ground, and not in a pot. Live and learn. I now know about wilt and how to deal with it.

jptanabe on 01/16/2015

What a great idea! I'd love to grow more vegetables but the groundhogs, deer, rabbits and who knows what else tend to eat everything except tomatoes I grow in pots on top of buckets by my backdoor! I know a fenced in area would stop them, or at least most of them. But building a fence .... well.

RuthCox on 11/13/2014

I am really intrigued by these fabric bags for planting. I have a small yard and limited sunlight due to trees, but I am definitely going to try this come Spring.

sheilamarie on 08/09/2014

Sounds like a great idea for those with limited garden space.

dustytoes on 08/05/2014

It's a good idea to use the deeper pot for the crops you mention. I'll have to look for them. Thank you for that info.

kimbesa on 08/05/2014

We tried a deeper brand of pot, and first time for anything like these. We had tomatoes and potatoes in them. Because they are deep, we could stake the tomatoes. They have turned out well.

frankbeswick on 05/18/2014

There are about forty of us with plots there.

dustytoes on 05/18/2014

Thanks Frank for that additional info. The allotment sounds like a good idea. I will have to look into the community gardens around my area, but it's nothing like what you describe. It makes sense that you would get something for a structure on the land. Sounds like a good way for property owners to find income to pay their taxes and such on empty land. I certainly understand your being busy.
Other questions I would have (which you may or may not address in your article) are:
1. Do you pay year round even when it's winter and you can't grow anything?
2. Do you need permission and approval to add a structure or building?
3. How do you keep your gardens "safe" if you are not there to keep an eye on them?
4. Is your allotment next to another allotment, or is it one piece of land just for you?

Thanks all for the interesting conversation. Good luck with your garden too WordChazer.

Guest on 05/18/2014

Looking forward to reading from you when examination season is over, Frank. I worked one season for a University College and count myself lucky to have survived! I'll stick with audit administration for now, if it's all the same to my bosses... My deadline is in just over one calendar month/six weeks (20 June) so I'm likely to be scarce until then too. After that, boss has promised me TOIL so I shall be sitting at home writing furiously, listing eBays and tidying up the house as if my m-i-l was coming over *ahem*.

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