My Experience With Raised-Bed Gardens Using Fabric Pots

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.

I Am The Gardener and Fabric bags have been a lifesaver for me

Vegetables grow just as well in a bag as they do in the ground.

garden vegetables I am writing this page as a single, middle-age woman, who does all her own gardening.  From lugging the dirt to the beds each Spring, to weeding, harvesting and the Fall clean up, the jobs are all mine.  I garden because I love it.  

Another BIG reason I grow my own veggies is that I know what has been used on the plants - nothing!  I can eat vegetables that I know are organic.  

Setting up a fabric raised bed is easy, and it can be used year after year.  I have used mine since 2013 when I lived in New England.  Now I continue to buy fabric grow pots while beginning my new garden adventures in central Florida.

(My photo - Fresh vegetables from my backyard garden.)

Garden Grow Bags come in a variety of sizes.

Many companies sell bags, but read reviews and buy sturdy, good quality bags.
GardenMate 3-Pack 8 Gallons Planting ...Smart Pots Big Bag Bed Fabric Raised Bed
$39.95  $27.10

Lots of Companies Now Sell Fabric Grow Pots

Once the fabric pot industry caught on, many companies began to sell this type of gardening system.  The Grassroots company is based in California and they sell tan colored bags.  

I live in a very hot climate and having tan bags instead of black would make sense.  My plants don't need extra heat, but in some climates black may work better.  I don't know.

Find bags in sizes from 3 gallons to 600 gallons when you click the link below which will take you to the Amazon page where they are sold.

Tan sided fabric pot grow bags

The Grassroots company offers many sizes from 3 gallons to 600 gallons
HIGHEST QUALITY REUSABLE (10 PACK) (3 Gallon Tan) Classic Grassroot...

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.

Fabric garden bags can make gardening easier.

Creating a garden anywhere takes a lot of work.  Digging and tilling and amending the soil is hard work.  Then once it is 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.  

Here is why I like to garden using bags:

  • Move each bag into the sun as needed, or inside if weather turns bad. (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.

Stacked, Filled Bags Ready to Use

I stack unused bags filled with dirt near the garden until I'm ready to plant in them.
Bags of dirt next to the house
Bags of dirt next to the house

Use the Right Size Pot For Growing

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.

 

Typical Garden Vegetables

Garden vegetables
Garden vegetables
Pixabay

Don't Use Bags For Plants That Need Staking

The only problem I have ever had with growing vegetables in fabric bags is when I have to stake a tall plant, like a tomato.  The dirt in the bag is not compact enough and the bag is not deep enough.  Staking could be done around the outside of the bag, but a tomato cage stuck into the soil doesn't work well.  My tomato plants fell over once they got big.

A patio tomato, or determinate variety would work better.

 

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 potatoes per bag.
Growing Potatoes in the 7-Gallon Pot Size
Growing Potatoes in the 7-Gallon Pot Size

Red Potatoes

Left - my garden potato, Right - store bought
Fresh and Store Bought Potatoes
Fresh and Store Bought Potatoes

Bush Beans

Have a trellis or something near the bag for the beans to climb.
Green Beans in a 10-Gallon Bag
Green Beans in a 10-Gallon Bag

Carrots

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

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
Garlic and Zucchini

About the big potting bed

It may look small, but it holds a lot of dirt, as you will see when filling it!

The black fabric potting bed is a great size to create a raised garden you want to keep in one place year after year.  It's the perfect size for growing peppers, eggplant, celery, onions, parsley, garlic, or a couple of zucchini / squash plants.

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.

 

Do you use fabric garden bags?

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Yes, it's a great way to garden.
Veronica on 08/29/2015

I certainly do and I put a photo on Wizzley ( Preserving the best ) just this week of my rhubarb plants in canvas pots. I have a small garden and I think they are marvellous.

Updated: 08/06/2018, dustytoes
 
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I'd love to hear about your garden!

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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.

WordChazer 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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