Grow bags used to be the underdog of container gardening until their popularity boomed in recent years. Today, many gardeners embrace grow bags because of their simplicity and cheap price.
But grow bags come with their own set of challenges. Therefore, it’s important for gardeners to understand why grow bags aren’t a perfect replacement for traditional containers and pots.
Below I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 big disadvantages grow bags can bring to your garden. If you’re unsure whether you should invest in grow bags or not, consider these cons before going all in.
If you want to learn more about planting in grow bags, see my full guide on the right grow bags to use for each vegetable.
1. Rethink Drainage With Grow Bags
Many grow bags will advertise having a porous fabric that allows water to seep out of the sides and bottom. On the one hand, this may seem like an advantage because good drainage is key to container gardening. However, a porous container such as grow bags can be a double edged sword. During periods of heavy rainfall, it’s unlikely the dense fabric will allow water to drain quickly. And all of a sudden, your handy bags have become swampy buckets.
It’s suggested to add a couple of drainage holes to the bottom of your grow bag, as well as an inch from the bottom around the sides. This allows you to avoid standing water in your container. However, this means water will move more quickly through the bag, even during day to day watering.
2. Grow Bags Don’t Last Very Long
Proponents of grow bags often claim they’re a great alternative to plastic containers. Assuming they’re made out of natural fibers or some eco friendly material (like these fabric bags from T4U), it’s easy to see why grow bags appear to be a more environmentally friendly option.
But there’s one thing plastic pots have over grow bags that makes this point mute: Grow bags don’t last nearly as long as plastic containers.
Obviously, fabric made from natural fibers is designed to eventually decompose. It’s also prone to tearing and puncturing. The amount of seasons you can get out of one grow bag will vary greatly based on the brand and materials used. But after a couple years of heavy use, you’ll likely be buying replacements.
That said, there are grow bags made from plastic and synthetic materials that are more durable. But that defeats the purpose of being an eco friendly alternative to plastic containers.
3. Not Aesthetically Pleasing
Some people garden not only to provide for themselves and their family, but also to appreciate the beauty of nature. If you’re a gardener who cares about looks, or likes to use plants for more ornamental purposes, you probably won’t like grow bags.
Most grow bags on the market are only sold in black. Often, they don’t have any structure or decorative features. This is because most manufacturers design grow bags to be as utilitarian and cheap as possible.
As their popularity has grown, a handful of more aesthetic options have popped up on the market. I especially love the natural look of the VIVOSUN Heavy Duty Grow Bags in tan, and the Coolaroo Planter Pot Bags in desert sand and brick. Of course, prettier bags tend to come at a higher price. And unless grow bags offer some kind of advantage, you might just want to spend the money on normal pots.
4. Hard to Clean
Grow bags are made from plastic or natural fibers that are sewn together in layers. The seams between these layers can trap dirt and moisture, making it hard to get clean after use. Additionally, each nook and cranny created by fibers overlapping and intertwining with one another can be a great place for fungus and bacteria to hide.
If you notice some mold or mildew on your bag, it’s best to just throw it away and start over with a new one. You can’t attack grow bags with a hose or pressure washer like you can a standard container. And even if you decide to clean it by hand, you’re unlikely to reach every corner of the bag where disease or mold may hide.
5. Insulation Issues
The porous nature of grow bags means they don’t provide the same level of insulation as traditional containers.
For instance, if you live in a cold climate and don’t have insulation around the base of your grow bag, the sides may not protect your roots from cold temperatures. Getting a little frost burn on your leaves can be dangerous. But getting frost on your roots? Most common garden produce can’t handle it.
On the flip side, in warmer climates with intense sun and heat, a black grow bag can get so hot that moisture is difficult to maintain in the soil. When they dry out, grow bags can develop a hard crust that can clog the soil and hinder the movement of water. You might be encouraged to water more frequently with grow bags, which can flush important nutrients out of your soil.
So, when should you use grow bags?
Grow bags are still a good choice for growing plants in small spaces. Especially if you are novice gardener, grow bags such as this JERIA 12-Pack offer a cheap and easy way to get started with container gardening. And the sooner you get your feet wet, the sooner you’ll learn what works best for you.
Suffice to say, whether you should use grow bags is entirely up to your preferences and the available space you have to garden in.
Although they have a handful of disadvantages, grow bags can still be a good choice for your gardening needs. If you want to be successful with them, be sure to do your research.