March 23, 2023
I have been trying to grow vegetables in my back yard for the last three summers. Every year I bemoan the lack of production from my plants and question whether or not to continue. I have read that planting in containers tends to reduce the size of the fruit and assumed that was my problem. Last year I tried larger pots and filled them higher to the top to increase the amount of dirt for the plants to use. Last year I even put tomatoes directly in the ground to augment my pots. Despite last year once more being a flop, I am still committed to container gardening as a way to grow vegetables without large tracts of land. My online gardening group all said they had the same problem and blamed it on cold late Spring temperatures jumping immediately into a hot, dry summer. The roots did not develop and could not save the plants from the heat. Melissa told me a friend of hers had a good crop of tomatoes last year, although it was less than she usually grew. She also used containers but had happened onto a form of container I had not heard of called a growbag.
When I looked online, I found a growbag is a planter filled with a growing medium and usually used for growing tomatoes or other salad crops. The bags were originally made of plastic, but modern growbags are also made from jute or fabric. Prior to the introduction of growbags, greenhouse soil had to be replaced or sterilized each season between crops to prevent a buildup of pests and diseases in the ground. Commercial growers could steam sterilize their ground, but this was not feasible for the amateur grower, so growbags were introduced. Nutrients can be added to the soil (I used potting soil) so only planting and watering are required throughout the season. Growbags were produced in the 1970’s for home use, but their use has since spread into market gardening and small farming. The bags come in different sizes and designs suited to specific crops. One of the sites I found advertised they had growbags ranging from 5 gallons to 400 gallons. That might be a bit of overkill for my tomatoes.
Prior to committing to using growbags I researched them online for several days. When it came to buying growbags, all the ads showed the bags set up on nice racks to make them easier to access. When I watched YouTube videos on how to use the growbags they all said the same thing, this is not a good idea. The growbags are porous which allows the air to circulate around the roots. This provides oxygen and air pruning for the roots and discourages the roots from balling by wrapping around the bottom of the pot. The porousness also allows water to run through the loosely packed soil in the pot. Each video commented on wasting water or water based fertilizer if the growbags were not placed in some sort of low container. If the container was too high, a big rain may fill it completely to the top, damaging or killing the roots. If the growbag was placed on the ground or a rack, the water would quickly drain, and the pot’s soil would not be sufficiently moist. Now I had another dilemma.
THOUGHTS: It took me several days to try and find a suitable container for my growbag. I decided on 20 gallon bags to ensure enough growing medium. These were about 20 inches (50 cm) in diameter at the base and most of what I found was either too small or too expensive (3x more than the bags). I decided to buy treated 2×4 boards screwed together in a 10×2 foot (3x.6 m) rectangle, line it with plastic (already had), and make my own. It appears to work, but we will see when the five growbags arrive on Friday. I guess I am committed to another year of container gardening. With two dogs they have taken over any green space on the back patio anyway. Humans have always been resilient and tend not to quit until we have resolved our problem. We should use this trait to address our current tensions. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.