Grow Lab Update – Growing in Fabric Bags

potatoes in bag

By: Tawnya Sawyer

If you’ve visited our grow lab anytime since last spring, you would have noticed that we have been doing a lot of experimenting with growing in fabric bags.  Our hypothesis was that they would be great for the following purposes:

potatoes in bag
potatoes in fabric bag
  1. Transplanting from dirt – we thought that the bags would make it much easier to take nursery grown plants directly from their pots and put them into a fabric bag, soil and all, then place them directly into a media based aquaponic grow bed.
  2. Growing subterranean plants – we thought that we could fill the bags with coconut fiber (coir), which is far more permeable than expanded clay media or gravel, and grow root crops such as carrots, potatoes, beets, and more.
  3. Restraining the roots of large plants – we thought that if we could grow larger plants, like cucumbers and tomatoes, in coir within the fabric bags, that not only would the beds stay healthier because there would be less root mass causing possible anaerobic zones, but cleanup after the plant is no longer productive would be a breeze!
  4. Moving plants – we thought this would facilitate being able to move the plants between grow beds with less trauma to the plant.

To our delight the results were as follows:

  1. carrots in fabric bagTransplanting from dirt – we found that we often experienced root rotting when we did this directly from the nursery pot into the fabric pot without removing any of the dirt.  But if we washed off most of the dirt and filled the rest of the bag with coir the plants grew great, and removing the plants from the beds when they were done was much easier. You could just pull the bag out of the media, invert the bag and dump the contents right into the compost pile.
  2. Growing subterranean plants – This has worked extremely well!  Essentially we are creating mini, portable wicking beds inside of our media beds.  We have successfully grown carrots, beets, shallots, and even potatoes!  Getting the potatoes right has taken a few rounds of trials, but we’ve learned that the key is to keep the bag as far up into the media as possible while still allowing the bottom to stay reliably wet.
  3. Restraining the roots of large plants – This has probably been our favorite benefit so far.  We’ve gone from it taking up to an hour to extract a large tomato plant from our media beds, and not being able to compost the root ball because of media clinging to the roots, to just pulling it out of the bed by the bag handles, then again dumping the whole thing out of the bag and into the compost pile.  The process has gone from up to an hour to minutes!  We will probably never again grow a tomato or cucumber plant in a media bed without a fabric bag how to quickly lose weight.
  4. Moving plants – We do this often, especially in our systems showroom. We have a wide variety of plants growing at different rates, and sometimes they start shading each other, or we just want to fill in an empty space.  With the bags we can do this quickly and with no damage to the plant roots.

Since last spring the fabric bags we’ve been using have become an integral part of our aquaponics regime.  In fact, we are so in love with them that we’ve decided to become distributors of a line of bags that we particularly like because they take discarded plastic bottles that would otherwise clog our landfills and oceans, and recycles them into plant pots that can be re-used for years.  Look for the AquaPouch line of bags soon!