Growing plants in pots, baskets, bags, etc. with holes

San Diego, CA(Zone 10b)

I don't have much space, but if I could use the grow bags, etc. to grow things the space problem would be greatly reduced. When I speak of pots, bags, baskets with holes I'm talking about the Mexican pots with little holes in the side, hanging bags with slits or holes to plant things, etc. Think of the way some people grow strawberries. Anyway, I'm skeptical. It seems to me that it would be difficult to maintain an even level of moisture throughout the pot, basket, or bag. Wouldn't the top layer dry out while the bottom layers are still saturated with water? In any event, this is only theorizing, and I'd like to hear from people who have grown things in the receptacles I have described. What was your experience, and what did you grow? Would you recommend this method to others? Anything special to look out for?

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I've planted a strawberry pot but used coleuses one year and lobelia another year. I keep all the plants the same so I won't have dry/wet issues with them - so far, so good. The bags have also worked very well and I've used impatiens in them with great success.

You might want to contact Al (Tapla on DG), send him a link to this thread, and ask him to drop in here so he could advise you with more detail.

I use a good mix that drains very well and feed them often since they'll lose nutrients faster with all the watering that must be done (unless you plan to grow succulents that don't need as much water as impatiens, lobelia or coleus).

Thumbnail by pirl
Lewisville, TX(Zone 7b)

I've grown succulents in strawberry pots with a lot of success. Succlents, once established are low maintaince & low water usage.

San Diego, CA(Zone 10b)


Thanks for your input. I had expected more replies, but I guess I chose the wrong title for my question. Anyway, I'm going ahead with more strawberries. There seems to be no dispute about them. Everyone says they do well in bags, so that's what I'll concentrate on my first year. This is a retreat from my first thoughts on the subject, but I guess I was being too ambitious. Incidentally, I did write to Tapla but never received a reply. However, I am expanding my planting in another direction. I'm going to be using Grow Bags. Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply has them in sizes from one quart ($0.15) to 30 gallons ($2.49). The wall thicknesses range from 3 mil to 5 mil. but they seem to be sturdy enough. I have already planted a number of them, and they're certainly cheap enough. The only thing I haven't yet done but will do is to surround them with wood. I have a little experience with that because I built two self-watering plant beds for my first construction project. They were fun to build and learn from, but I don't want to spend any more money on such projects, and I should be able to accomplish what I need with Peaceful Valley's Grow Bags. They're more flexible, too. I can't move my self-watering plant beds, but I could put Grow Bags on my roof if I wanted. A picture of my self-watering plant beds and four Grow Bags is shown below (If I did it right).

Thumbnail by snorkelpop
San Diego, CA(Zone 10b)


I wish this forum was set-up so that you'd be notified when postings have been made. Anyway, thanks for your advice. I'm going to Home Depot right now to buy some more strawberry plants. Thanks again.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Good luck and have fun, snorkelpop. Your raised beds look very practical and I'm sure you'll enjoy the strawberries. I hope you aren't plagued by slugs or snails!

You should automatically see an update on any thread where you have posted or where you have checked "watch". See if this post shows up. It is now 3/19/11 at 6:39 DST.

San Diego, CA(Zone 10b)


You were right. I'm here because I was notified that another posting had been made. That's the way it should be. I wish more such sites worked the same way. As it is, sometimes I forget where I posted something, and it's lost forever. As to the Grow Bags, I don't know if I made it clear that I intend to surround them with wooden boards just as I did with my self-watering box. The GrowBags are practical enough, but they just aren't very attractive; in fact, they're just plain ugly. Additionally--I'm falling in love with Grow Bags--I can move them around anywhere, anytime for any reason. Think of it, shifting of the sun, lack of space in some areas, development of open space in others. The list goes on. Unless the bags turn out to lack the strength and stability to last even one season, I'm sold on them. Oh, the boards will also serve a practical need. They should help to moderate too rapid temperature changes in the bags. One last thought: I got a great deal on pond liners at Home Depot. My self-watering boxes take full advantage of this. My water reservoirs are more than 12" high. Thing is, I'm sort of tired of using pond liner. It doesn't lay as flat as I would like, so the project wasn't completely satisfying because of that. No one can see it, but I know.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I did find the bags sturdy enough, just not sure if we should expect years out of them or not. Still, they make a lovely look and you can move them from shade to sun or in reverse, as needed. Once they're really growing I think they are attractive - certainly with fully grown impatiens they look very nice.

No experience here with pond liners, sorry. There must be a water feature forum on DG and maybe there you can find someone who has experience with it and can help you.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I hope this forum will be of help to you:

Pittsford, NY(Zone 6a)

Lovley raised gardens

San Diego, CA(Zone 10b)


Thanks, and I enjoyed doing it. I think it's the first construction project worth mentioning that I've ever done. Too bad I didn't start earlier. I built it about a year ago, and I'm now 73. My next project will be building wooden walls (no top, no bottom) around my Grow Bags. I have a bunch of them coming in 5, 10 and 15 gallon sizes, and I have three flats of seeds and seedlings, so I will be setting up something in the near future. I'm also trying to think of how I can best use the space on a fence I have in the backyard. Other than that, I'd like a little pond for turtles and fish. Oh, and something for the birds--dust bowls and small birdbaths with fountains--solar powered. I have a problem with adequate sunshine, so I was thinking of putting Grow Bags on the roof, but I know I wouldn't like to make a practice of climbing up and down a ladder to water. Maybe I could put in one of those small diameter plastic water line systems. And maybe not. With me, building castles in the air is almost as much fun as actually bringing the dreams to fruition.

Denville, NJ(Zone 6b)

did you see my old thread?

San Diego, CA(Zone 10b)


Not until now, but better late than never. There are probably quite a few threads that I could benefit from. However, since you seem to now have quite a bit of experience with growing plants in pots and bags of various types, I have to ask about watering. I just finished setting out 40+ strawberry plants in ten hanging grow bags. While doing that, I began to have serious thoughts about my future watering responsibilities. Do you have to water your plants in grow bags everyday? I enjoy gardening, but I don't want it to become an obsession. Everyday watering is not something I look forward to. If I had thought about it at the time, I would have mixed-in some plant gel, and maybe I'll inject some even now. It could make quite a difference.

Denville, NJ(Zone 6b)

I use polymer gels in every container... some people are leery about putting them with edibles ... some swear they are safe.. so I really don't know if they are or not... when the weather was really hot I did water every day.. when I had grow bags it seemed to be a real pain to keep it moist.. had to water slow so it would not pour out the top holes and let it soak in a little at a time.. to make sure it reached the bottom.. put a little water ... let it soak in.. put a little water.. let it soak in and on and on

you can see from my photo the top dried out quicker than the bottom... the plants did better at the lower levels.. being against my retaining wall they sort of cooked in there as well... I did have a bag of coleus that did great in the shade (can't find a photo right now)...

the large containers in the other thread.. I set up micro sprinklers in... seems to be the best time saver turn it on for a while in the AM let it go for an hour and everything gets watered slowly... when I was using the hose (make sure you leave room at the top of the container for water to be able to build up)... I would fill the top of the container and let it soak in... same as before just a bigger quantity... would take me 3 or 4 rounds to see it drip out the bottom.. but best bet would be water a couple times .. wait 10 mins... and do it again.. used to take me an hour and a half to go around watering my containers... and that was the reason for the micro system.. no fuss now and I can enjoy my garden instead of dragging around a hose every day

Thumbnail by onewish1
San Diego, CA(Zone 10b)


Yeah, I've sort of come to that conclusion: use micro sprinklers, if that's what you call them. Grow Bags are made in a way that guarantees rapid drying out: many holes. You need them to put in the plants, but they also create the need for frequent watering. It's either that or go through the tedious and boring procedure that you mention. I think I'll also put tape over the slits and holes that are not needed. That should help a bit. That, and mixing in plant gel the next time I set up the bags.

Harvard, IL(Zone 5a)

Containers will dry out faster because they're exposed to the elements on all sides, not just the top. It's going to entail more watering. However, you can mitigate your concerns about unequal moisture by using a well-draining container media. Polymer granules help, though they are not a cure-all; they can extend the time between waterings but aren't a substitute for eternal vigilance. Tapla's sticky about container soils is as good an explanation of how to keep your containers looking good as any I've read anywhere.

Thumbnail by FertiSorb
San Diego, CA(Zone 10b)

Much to my surprise, watering has not yet been a problem. I had settled on two ways of making the job easier, but the bags are not drying out as quickly as I had expected; in fact, my main concern now is to avoid overwatering. However, if and when they need frequent watering, there are two things that will minimize the time and effort: (1) instead of pouring a little into a bag, waiting for the water to settle, and then pouring some more, I just move down the line of bags, pouring in a little at each stop. Then, when I have finished with the last bag in the row, I just repeat the procedure. In other words, there's no waiting at individual bags. I just pour a little and move on to the next bag. I then repeat the circuit. (2) I use a moisture meter. It's much easier and faster to just stick the probe into the bags to check on the moisture. Just to be sure, I use two moisture meters to increase the reliability of the readings.

Watering would take even less time if I had thought to add plant gel when I was preparing the soil mix, but no problem so far. If necessary, I guess I could find a way to inject the crystals in later.

Denville, NJ(Zone 6b)

glad it is working out for you

San Diego, CA(Zone 10b)

There is one more improvement I think I'll make. I'm going to build a little handheld water injector. It will hold about two quarts and have a long nozzle I can stick into the bags. Something like the tools used to inject water into the soil around tree roots but obviously much more suited to plant bags.

This kind of thinking, and sometimes doing, is one of the joys of gardening for me. True, I do more dreaming than doing, but it's almost as much fun for me.

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