If someone had asked me if I used grow bags even two years back, I would have said “Why would I use grow bags when I have a nice garden!?”
Last year I discovered a reason to use grow bags and this year I’ve discovered even more reasons.
Reason #1 – Eggplant – Flea Beetles
We enjoyed eggplant last year for the first time in 34 years of gardening — all thanks to grow bags. No matter where I ever planted eggplant plants the flea beetles ate them up before they had time to get big enough to withstand the attack. It was like that at our previous place and it’s been that way here — even though I’ve tried almost every spot on our acre of ground.
Until last year, eggplant was never one of my “have-to-have” crops. Eggplant in the store is not that good and Bill and I were never that crazy about it. But last year I discovered some delicious recipes which enabled us to really enjoy our abundant harvest from the two eggplants plants in my one grow bag! Now I’m hooked on eggplant!
Three grow bags are ready in garden awaiting two plants each of 3 different varieties of eggplant. I can hardly wait!
Reason #2 – Japanese Turnips – Flea Beetles love them as much as eggplant.
I was ok with late plantings of these turnips. (Flea beetles only bothered the spring planting.) Since I’d winter sown several jugs of these delicious turnips for early planting I ordered several lower grow bags for the seedlings.
February 22nd I transplanted the seedlings into the grow bags in the garden. If the forecast calls for temperatures below 32, I’ll cover with row cover fabric to keep them a bit warmer.
Reason #3 – Chance to Double or Triple my Yield from Potatoes
I enjoy planting potatoes in the ground. Digging in the earth for new potatoes is a joy that I look forward to each year and won’t give up. Because —there is nothing — I repeat — nothing — like the taste of new potatoes fresh from the garden!
In spite of that – the chance to double or triple my yield from 4 or 5 seed potatoes by planting in a grow bag is very appealing to me.
Here’s what I’ll do:
- I’ll use the largest grow bag (25 gallons) — fill it with about 3 inches of rich garden soil and then a layer of straw — plant about 4 or 5 seed potatoes — cover with 2 inches of good garden soil rich in organic matter – another layer of straw — and when the plants grow to 4 inches – add more straw to cover all but the top inch or so of leaves. Continue this process until they are far above the top of the grow bag.
Why increased yields?
- The principle behind this increased yield seems to be that by allowing the stem to grow up and covering it with straw, it in turn increases the space for stolons to grow from which the potatoes grow.
Watering and Why
- If you’re a regular reader you know I’m not set up for watering a garden — so I don’t and never have. But with this grow bag of potatoes, if we don’t get rain often enough I’ll use a watering can of reserve rain water to water them to keep them growing their best. This will help me make the most of the grow bag experiment.
- When the vines die back, I’ll let the potatoes “cure” in the ground (the bag) for an indefinite period of time. Because of the bag, the voles won’t get them while I wait. These will be the last potatoes harvested and eaten. Can hardly wait to see how many I get!
After season update:
I realize that potato production can depend on a lot of things including the variety of potato. But overall this experiment was not impressive. I get higher yields from my potatoes grown in the ground than I did in these grow bags.
Reason #4 – To save my sweet potatoes from voles.
I planted sweet potatoes for the first time last year. They were planted outside the garden because no room was available inside the garden. The voles got almost all of them. (In case you don’t know what a vole is — it’s similar to a mouse, but lives underground.)
Since sweet potatoes are a treat for us — and not considered a “have-to-have” crop – I allotted only one large grow bag to grow sweet potatoes. The vines can sprawl down into the garden, root and produce if they will — but I’ll really be looking to what’s in the bag for my sweet potatoes.
After season update:
I was not impressed with this experiment either. If I did try sweet potatoes again in a grow bag it would only be because there was no other place to plant,
Reason #5 – To utilize space in the garden where I can’t plant into the soil.
There’s a path between the fence that surrounds the garden and the garden beds. Placing the bags strategically along this path and using some soil from the path to fill the bags works out great. I’m able to grow more things by making use of space that is usually only used for walking.
Soil for the Bags
In case you’re wondering, I throw a handful of straw into the bag and then fill it with a mix of soil and leaves (80/20) shoveled from the path on the side of my garden. It’s been covered with leaves and straw over the years, so it’s great soil. And yes, I mulch the top.
If you decide to use grow bags, be sure to get the really good ones made from a two layer special fabric that is breathable and allows for good drainage. I told all about them in my post Eggplant and Grow Bags a Great Combination.
Grow bags can be problem solvers in the garden as well as outside the garden.
Organic gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.
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Interesting, I’m not clear on exactly how they beat the flea beetles, though? Is it the added height? Great idea for the potatoes, I can see how it would increase yields.
I’d just been looking at a home made setup and thinking how I might be able to make it work for potatoes. It’s sort of a circular wattle fence. http://pinterest.com/pin/235102043017546710/
Is it too late to order seed potatoes? And any recommendations for a good ‘clean’ source?
Oh, and did you get your tomatoes going this weekend as planned?
Yes, Sandra, I think it is the added height.
Although it is late, you may still be able to get some good seed potatoes.
You can try Wood Prairie Farms or
your can try the Maine Potato Lady
Wood Prairie is 100% organic. The Maine Potato Lady sells both conventional and organic potatoes, so make sure if you want organic that what you want is labeled organic.
Too many interruptions and I didn’t get my tomato seed planted yet. I’ll try again for Wednesday! 🙂
Theresa, Thanks for your patience! When I went back and read your previous potato posts, there was the information on both companies.
Not a problem Sandra. I’m always glad to help.
Theresa, Do you think the grow bags could help solve the problem of squash bugs? I have almost given up on squash.
Also, I’m not sure what kind of harvest you’ll get on the sweet potatoes. Mine usually grow on the vines (mostly).
Thanks for great info. I’m experimenting with the bags for the first time this year.
Unfortunately I don’t think the grow bags will help at all with the squash bugs. If it slowed them down at all (which I doubt) it might be for an hour or so. I have been thinking about a possible solution — at least that will decrease the numbers to be bearable. I’ll do a post on it within a day or so rather than to go into detail here.
Thanks for the tips on the sweet potatoes. Very useful information. I grew them for the first time last year — so I don’t know much about them.
I think you’ll enjoy the grow bags. They’re not for everything of course, but I’ve really found them helpful. Keep me posted Gayle.
Good hearing from you. Been wondering how you’re doing.
I just found you in “The New Pioneer Magazine” and your website has so much valuable information and would like to know where to purchase the “Grow Bags” that you mentioned.
Dawn, as I mentioned in the article, I told more about the grow bags in a previous post:https://tendingmygarden.com/eggplant-and-grow-bags-a-great-combination/
The first ones I got were from Gardener’s Supply Company. The ones they have now are similar.
The exact ones I bought first are sometimes called Smart Bags. Wood Prairie Farm has them. I’ve gotten them from WP and they seem identical to the ones I originally purchased.
Thanks for letting me know where you heard of TMG.
I am new to using grow bags. I have the double almost felt like bags. I am wondering if I have to put a landscaping cloth under the bags. I am putting the bags in my garden which has poor soil and I have not been successful at growing anything for years. I noticed in my garden I have a lot of bees – the kind that live in the grown and are single pollinators. I hate the thought of covering up the ground and not have the bees around the garden.
So I guess my question is do you have to have landscaping cloth under your cloth grow bags.
Carol, under no circumstances would I have landscaping cloth on my property! Would take to long to give you all the details, but using landscaping cloth is just looking for problems.
Hope you have the kind of bags I described in the post.
My garden soil is excellent and that what I use in the grow bags.
If you have poor soil and use that in the grow bags you will still get poor results.
Improving your soil is your best solution.
Hope this helps.