I highly recommend pot and container gardeners use grow bags. Actually, any gardener should look into grow bags as it is, in many ways, superior to traditional plastic or composite pots.
In this article, I will discuss 4 advantages of grow bags. I will also show you how to make your own grow bags for considerably less than buying pots, containers (or grow bags). You will find a written step-by-step guide with photos as well as a “How to make grow bags” video tutorial below.
For me, I have to admit, starting to use grow bags for our plants was initially all about cost. And I was at the time unaware of the other benefits grow bags deliver.
If you came here for instructions on how to make grow bags at home, feel free to skip ahead to the DIY grow bag tutorial with photos. Or if you prefer, watch the instructional YouTube video Beginners guide to making DIY grow bags at home below. But if you have a few minutes to spare, I recommend you read on. You will learn a lot about the advantages of using grow bags when reading about my journey to using grow bags for my plants and vegetables.
- Plastic and composite pots get expensive with size
- Starting to use grow bags
- Cost + 3 additional advantages of grow bags
- Beginners guide to making DIY grow bags at home
- Frequently asked questions
Plastic and composite pots get expensive with size
I grow many larger types of vegetables in our garden. And it was really hard to find inexpensive larger-size pots.
But when a pot hits a certain size it seems to be the norm that the manufacturers focus on design over functionality. The pots will look really great but often come without drainage holes. And even if I want my garden to look nice, the function is often more important than design.
I do not want to pay for an outdoor cachepot or planter. I want a functional pot to grow my plants and vegetables.
And where I live there seems to be an unspoken rule that all pots larger than 30 centimeters (12 inches or about 1 square foot) need to look great.
Starting to use grow bags
Last year we bought a Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) for our garden. The tree was delivered in a grow bag.
This simple incident made me go back and revisit grow bags and I bought a couple at an online retailer.
It worked great and I could get the size I wanted for a reasonable cost.
I ended up growing tomatoes and chilis in my new grow bags. Not long after my wife confidently stated that she could make homemade grow bags using her Singer sewing machine that would be at least as good as the ones I had purchased.
To make a long story short, I now know how to make my own grow bags. Yes, even I can do it. DIY grow bags are not that difficult to make as it turns out.
It is pure mechanics and the hardest part is setting up the machine and threading that *beep* needle. And that is more fiddly than difficult, to be honest.
Cost + 3 additional advantages of grow bags
Cost is of course a major advantage of grow bags – especially when you make your own.
But besides cost, grow bags offer 3 additional advantages over plastic or composite pots.
- grow bags promote healthier root systems
- as a grow bag is made from breathable fabric it helps control water levels
- grow bags are versatile (use them for any plant) and light (easy to move around)
1. Grow bags promote healthier root systems
When you move plants from plastic pots you will sometimes find a root system that seems to grow in circles. The root system follows the side of the plastic pot perfectly.
When you grow plants in plastic pots that do not breathe the roots will continue to grow when they hit the side of the pot.
And as they cannot go back or through the side, the roots simply follow the sides of your plastic pots. You have probably heard the expression pot or root bound.
After all, as a plastic pot does not breathe, the soil will be moist and the roots will consequently continue to grow in their search for water and nutrition.
And there is nothing else to do but to follow the container and around we go. This will stifle the growth of the plant. The plants will use a lot of energy to grow long roots in search of better soil that simply is not there.
When you use DIY grow bags this will never happen.
The magic of breathable fabric grow bags
As grow bags are made from breathable fabric the roots will reach drier soil towards the edge of the grow bag. The roots will get the message and stop growing in that direction and instead focus energy on growing new feeder roots inside the grow bag.
This result is a healthier and more efficient root system that will help your plants grow and thrive.
The phenomenon is referred to as air pruning. The roots stop growing when they reach the soil in contact with air through the grow bag fabric.
Do not use any material you have at home to make your DIY grow bags. The fabric must breath.
2. Fabric that breathes helps control water levels
Grow bags are made from breathable material. And as the fabric is breathable, excess water can evaporate. This also eliminates the need for drainage holes.
It is so easy to overwater plants. Overwatering is often the result of a well-meaning gardener who wants a healthier plant and instantly reacts to dry surface soil.
But the surface does not tell you anything conclusive about the level of moisture in your pot, container, or grow bag.
When you use grow bags the whole container is made from a fabric that breathes.
Grow bags help reduce the risk of root rot due to a plant sitting in a pot full of water due to overwatering or blocked drain holes.
3. Grow bags are versatile and light
Grow bags are extremely light. With homemade grow bags you are basically carrying the soil and the plant itself.
This is useful when you need to protect your plants from wind, rail, or even sun during extreme periods of the year.
And you can arrange your bags any way you like. Arrange 12 grow bags in rows of fours and you have created the illusion of a raised garden bed. Looks great and can just as easily be re-arranged.
Are you growing plants or flowers that need to spend time inside during the cooler months of the year? Simply carry your grow bags into a more sheltered location.
If you are short of space, cover them with fabric, wrap the grow bag in bubble wrap and raise them from the ground and let them overwinter outside.
And when you are done with your grow bags for the season you simply rinse them off, fold them and store them for future use.
Couldn’t be easier.
Beginners guide to making DIY grow bags at home
When you grow a lot of larger types of plants and vegetables, cost does become an issue.
You always need good soil mixes and seeds or seedlings.
But larger size pots do get expensive. And even if you only want them to serve a function, you often end up paying for design when it comes to larger-sized outdoors cachepots or planters.
You can save money when you use grow bags. Especially when you make your own grow bags at home.
Materials needed for making your own grow bags:
- Sewing machine (optional if you prefer to sew grow bags by hand)
- Pair of scissors
- Chalk or pen to mark
- Rules or measuring tape
- Landscape fabric (breathable material)
- Thread (outdoor durable thread)
If you own a machine you should have all the material at home with the exception of the landscape fabric.
Landscape fabric and outdoor thread can be bought online or at most Home Improvement Stores.
I usually buy a roll of black landscape fabric measuring 10 meters x 1 meter (roughly 3ft x 21ft). This black landscape fabric is the same fabric I use for weed and plant control when for example growing horseradish.
I have found that 10 x 1 meters (roughly 3ft x 21ft) will make 10 medium-sized (1 square foot) grow bags. The medium-sized grow bags we make hold 27 liters (7 US gallons / 6 Imperial gallons)
Whatever size you buy, make sure you use all the fabric. Even if you make different size grow bags.
In this guide I am using a white thread as it makes everything clearer. I do recommend using black thread for your brow bags as it is “invisible” and a lot more forgiving.
Also, you can click all images below for a larger-sized image to open in a separate tab or window on your mobile or computer.
Making grow bags at home – step by step with photos
1. Cut fabric to size
Cut 4 squares measuring 50 x 50 centimeters (roughly 20 x 20 inches). These measurements will give you a medium size bag with a diameter and depth of 30 centimeters (12 inches). Or about a 1 square foot grow bag if you prefer. Volume: 27 litres (7 US gallons / 6 Imperial gallons) Remember to move the cat before moving on.
2. Place the sheets of fabric on top of each other
Grab the materials by the corners and stretch them to make them fit on top of each other.
3. Pin 2 sides together
Pin two opposite sides together. 3 pins per side works fine to secure the fabric. Seam allowance, place the pins roughly 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) from the edge of the fabric.
4. Sew the pinned sides
Now sew the pinned sides together along the top edge. Use a straight stitch. To reinforce the seam, sew a zigzag seam on top of the straight seam for larger type bags.
When sides are sewn together your bag will look like this. As you see you do not have to worry about perfectly straight stitching. Try your best and you will be fine.
5. Grab the center of the fabric to line up the stitched seams
Separate the sheets and gently pull the fabric to position the stitched seams in the center of the fabric. Place the fabric back on the table and make sure that the stitched seams are in the middle of the fabric and that the stitched seams overlap.
6. Pin one of the open sides
Pin one of the open sides together using 3-5 pins.
7. Sew the pinned side
Sew the pinned side using a straight stitch. Reinforce with a zigzag seam for larger type bags.
8. Place the sheets back to their original position
Separate the sheets (open side) and hold two sheets in each hand. Now turn the sheets to place the original seams back to their original position. You will now have two triangle type shapes forming. Press the fabric with your hands to make sure that all looks symmetrical.
9. Fold the tip of the triangle to the centerline
Grab the tip of one of the triangle shapes and fold it back to the center. The tip of the triangle should touch the center line of the grow bag. Press down to create a fold in the fabric. Use your pen or marker to draw a line in the fold and pin across your marking. Repeat the process for the second triangle shape.
10. Sew along the marked lines of the grow bag
Use a straight stitch to sew along the marked and pinned line. Make sure to remove the pins to avoid breaking your needle. Do this for both lines and triangle shapes. As you can see it does not need to be perfectly straight to work.
11. Pin and stitch around the open side
You can now see your bag taking form. We now need to sew the edge of the top of the grow bag.
Pin the sides together. Place the pins about 3 centimeters (1 inch) from the edge of the fabric. You can place the pins 6 centimeters (2 inches) apart.
Now sew around the edge with a straight seam.
12. Fold the edge over and pin in place
Final step. We will now create a nice smooth finish to the edge of our grow bag. Fold the edge over itself and pin in place. Fold as much or as little fabric as you want but it is easier if you use more fabric. Secure the pins all around and then sew along the top of the fabric to join the pieces together.
And you are done!
All you need to do now is to turn the grow bag “inside out” to get all the seams on the inside of the bag.
As you turn the grow bag “inside out” you gently push the corners out to create an “inner square” at the bottom of your grow bag.
Push the triangles you created down to cover the bottom of your grow bag. Use your fingers to get all the way into the corners.
Making grow bags is not difficult. Try it. When the first one is done you will be making grow bags with ease and you will thank me for it.
Frequently asked questions
Can you grow chillies in grow bags?
Grow bags are a great alternative for growing chillies.
I recommend using a grow bag measuring 30 centimeters (12 inches) in diameter and a depth of at least 50 centimeters (20 inches).
But start your plants in small pots and then gradually increase the pot size as the plant develops. Chillies like a “cramped” growing environment to develop a healthy root system.
Is it difficult to make grow bags at home?
It is not difficult to make grow bags at home.
It is, however, recommended to use a sewing machine as it is hard to sew everything by hand.
Can I sew grow bags by hand?
It is a lot easier if you have a machine. Sewing grow bags by hand is a lot of work.
If you do not have a machine, you can try to staple the fabric instead of sewing.
Which vegetables can I grow in grow bags?
You can basically grow any plant in grow bags. But grow bags are better suited for some plants and vegetables than others.
You can grow all types of herbs and leafy vegetables, as well as tomatoes, eggplants, chillies, lemongrass, and cucumbers in grow bags. You can even grow potatoes in grow bags, but I am sure you agree that there are easier ways.
Do grow bags need drainage holes?
Grow bags do not need drainage holes when made from porous breathable materials.
Any excess water will drain off. But depending on the fabric used, excess water may drain off slower than pots with drainage holes.
How long does DIY grow bags last?
This DIY Grow bag guide was originally written in August 2021. Today is 22 August 2023, and I am still using the grow bag made in the photos.
And based on other grow bags I have made, I would confidently say 3-5 years and maybe even longer.