Thursday, July 8, 2010

Experiment 3: "Grow Bag" Vegetables

In the spirit of "small space urban gardening", I am attempting another experiment in my kitchen garden- growing vegetables in 'grow bags'. 

Growing vegetables in 'grow bags' seems to be very popular in the UK. In fact, most of my internet research on the topic landed me on British sites.  They seem to manufacture bags of soil specifically labelled as, 'grow bags'.  I haven't seen such items around Halifax as yet, but surely a regular bag of my 'organic vegetable soil' would do the trick?

I've already touched on my grow bag potatoes (see potato experiment).  I'm also trying to grow tomatoes, zucchini and beans. 

I have 4 different indeterminate tomatoes in grow bags at the back of the garden, growing vertically up a make-shift trellis.  


There is tigerella, sweetie cherry,  red and yellow pear.  I generally followed the instructions i found on the bbc's website, 'gardenersworld.com':

http://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/projects/tomatoes-grow-bag/


The instructions indicate to plant 2-3 tomatoes in  a 60 L garden soil bag.  I couldn't find a 60L bag, so used my trusty "Nature Mix" organic vegetable mix, which is 30 L, and planted one tomato per bag.   You'll also notice, I used two 2-L milk cartons cut on top and bottom and inserted into the growing medium.  In one, I planted the tomato and filled it up with soil.  The other carton, I am using as a watering channel.  I used the following link as inspiration for this idea:

http://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/projects/tomatoes-grow-bags-beds/

I have also planted a 'row' of Blue Lake pole beans in a grow bag.  I still have to make up a trellis for them to climb, but only 2 weeks after planting, they seem to be doing well. 


I had a couple of other tomato seedlings that didn't make it into the main beds.  I simply ran out of space.  I had intended on planting them in cedar half-barrels, but I couldn't find any left in the stores.  Here's a tip:  if you're in the market for half-barrels, buy them when you see them in May- don't wait.  I   I found out that the big box stores usually do their main order for the containers in spring and when they're gone, they're gone.

As a solution for my extra tomato seedlings, I came up with an idea at the last minute to use a re-usable Sobey's bag as a grow bag!  They seem to be the same same size in volume as my old self-watering bucket, so I thought, why not give it a try?   So far the plants are doing wonderfully! 

The first picture, a "Cabot" tomato, is the 'little tomato that could".  Around the 2nd week of may, I dropped my little seedling on the basement floor while preparing to 'harden' it off.  All that was left was an inch or two of growth and roots.  I planted this back into the container and the thing kept on growing!  Now, it is as big as all the other, less abused tomatoes.  The second picture is "Longkeeper".

Finally, I also plopped  an extra zucchini plant into another sobey's bag.  I didn't have much hope for this as I have read that zucchini's need a lot of space and fertile soil.  Well to my surprise, this zucchini plant is doing much better than the the one in the ground!

The fact that a grow bag doesn't 'look' as good as other containers, doesn't really bother me too much.   I have been able to tuck the tomatoes and potatoes in the back of the garden, and they are for the most part hidden from sight.  The sobey's bags are up front and centre (where the sun shines the longest).  With their green/blue colouring, they actually kind of blend into the surroundings. 

I'm hoping that my 'growbag' experiment will be successful.  The bags themselves are relatively inexpensive and they are easy to tuck into the garden to maximize production in my small space.  As the British say, I need more "Veg". 

Need more inspiration?  Check out the grow bag gardening Flickr pool:

http://www.flickr.com/groups/1112006@N23/pool/

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