"Bag" gardening? ?

Kingsville, TX(Zone 9b)

Yesterday I read an article from "Mother Earth News", via Facebook, about 'bag gardens'. Simplified, buy 40# bags of topsoil, lay them down, cut open, plant seeds or seedlings directly into the topsoil. Of course, you do poke holes through the bottom plastic for drainage. The plastic bags will smother out any weeds and/or grass under them, and in time, improve the soil. Supposedly, using this method, you can have a pretty good garden without having to do all the digging and adding amendments to improve the soil.

It sounds like it would be a good thing for me. I have an area in my back yard that is horrid soil, won't grow anything, hardly. While I do love to dig in the dirt, arthritis in my shoulders (and many other places) makes digging extremely painful, and often downright impossible. So I am seriously considering getting a few bags of topsoil and trying this out.

Has anyone here tried this method, or even anything similar? ? Whether you've tried this or not, what are your thoughts on this?

Thanks!
Vern

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

Should work. You may want to use some water soluble fertilizer now & then.
We raise strawberries in potting soil with no problems.

East Texas, United States(Zone 8a)

Vern, that would be a good strategy, given your arthritis but it will involve being more religious about watering b/c the plastic will heat up the dirt. Ok now but not ok in july, lol

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

If it gets hot I would put a thick layer of mulch over the bags of soil.

Kingsville, TX(Zone 9b)

Thank you for the replies.

There's not a lot of the plastic exposed to the sun, so I don't know how much it would heat up the soil. Nothing much survives the sun in July and August around here, anyhow. But I'd probably put some mulch around it, if for no other reason than to improve the appearance.

Country Gardens, what kind of soil do you use for your strawberries pictured? I've tried both tomatoes and peppers in pots with a commercial potting soil. Had beautiful plants, but they didn't produce anything at all.

This is a picture from the article I read about gardening in bags.

Vern

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

Just commercial potting soil. Some of it is one the 4th year. I'll scatter some 10-10-10 fertilizer over top & mix it in before I set the plants. I'll probably use 40 lbs on the entire deal. 2000 plants.
Then during the summer, I run a water soluble fertilizer in with the irrigation water. usually Miricle Grow for tomatoes. Thinking 15-30-15. Liquid every 3 weeks or so. Depends on the looks & size of the berries.

Magnolia, TX(Zone 9a)

Have used the bagged soil to clear a space for a bed, plastic degrades fast as well. Depends on what you are trying to cover- bermuda has been known to make its own way thru the plastic,

East Texas, United States(Zone 8a)

That is one thing to consider, some of those bags degrade super fast and you can then have an even bigger mess with plastic. But whatever makes it easier to enjoy your hobby, that is what you should do.

Kingsville, TX(Zone 9b)

Only thing to cover is Johnson grass. I figured I'd put a double thickness of cardboard under the bags. Hopefully that will slow it down. As far as mess from the plastic, I guess that's something I'll just have to figure out how to deal with when the time comes. At least it will be in my back yard where no one but me will see it.

But if I don't get cracking and do something more that sit here thinking about it, it's not going to happen this year!

Thanks for the encouragement, y'all! I appreciate it!

Vern

Lewisville, TX(Zone 7b)

I do bag gardening as I have a small yard. Right now I am growing potatoes & it looks like they are doing well...compared to last year's crop. Hope this helps.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

DH and I have similar problems and this sounds like a great idea. How important do you think the killer TX heat is to degrading the plastic? We have horrible builder's fill in our yard here, and pesticides and fertilizers washing downhill with every rain. A few bags of potting soil seems like a good addition. I wouldn't hesitate except for the idea of adding more plastic waste.

East Texas, United States(Zone 8a)

mulch, soil, compost bags are so thin I doubt they will last more than one season. And you would have a mess + plastic to clean up at end of season, What about a kiddie pool, those things can last up to 3 seasons easily. You'd have to poke holes for drainage, but other than that, maybe could be a better alternative than bag gardening and not that much more labor involved.

One of our very senior neighbors had two wood planters made, 4 x 8' with 3 ft tall legs, so she gardens waist high. She is there every single day weeding and fussing with her garden in 100% comfort. I think her son built the boxes and wood isn't cheap, but it think it is a great alternative. I don't know if she did it, but I would line the interior with black plastic, to slow down eventual wood rot.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

What I liked was the possibility of actually improving my soil. I think, vossner, you're right and it would look trashy.

The article lbarden linked to was great, though, and talked about straw bale, square foot, lasagna gardening and maybe other stuff I can't recall. It was a good reminder of all the great ideas l haven't tried!

Kingsville, TX(Zone 9b)

Improving the soil is definitely one of the reasons I'm interested in going this route. I've not had very good results growing vegetables in containers, and I'm thinking a kiddie pool would be just another version of container gardening. Putting mulch around the bags will cover the plastic bag edges, so I don't think it would look "trashy" at all! ! I will be using straw as a mulch, so it will help improve the soil, too, as it decomposes. I love the idea of raised beds, but living on a fairly low fixed income, (Social Security) makes a lot of things I love the idea of virtually impossible. Sigh. . . . .

Well, I think I'm going to give it a try with just a couple of bags, to see how it goes. I may even get really ambitious and take pictures to keep a record, and update here periodically.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Keep us posted, Vern.

Lewisville, TX(Zone 7b)

Actually my bags are made of a sturdy cloth material...I got them from Gardener's Supply website. So far so good....

(Joy) Hempstead, TX(Zone 8b)

I have done tomatoes, peppers, cabbages and broccoli in bags. We always just made an "I" in th top of the bag, then planted. Of course we put holes in the bottom as well. After the season was over, we just grabbed the bag top, pulled and rolled, dumping the dirt on top of the ground, then disposing the plastic bag. Next time we bought a new bag and place it on or near the original. The idea was to improve the current soil which is why we would dump the bag. I then had a bed of dead grass and weeds from a season of the bag garden, and yet had a good start on a regular bed. Worked really well for us.

Kingsville, TX(Zone 9b)

Joy, thank you so much for posting your experience with this! ! I feel more encouraged now. I was kind of reconsidering. I haven't bought any topsoil yet, we've had so much rain, I haven't been able to get out and do anything in the yard at all. What you describe is about how I expect it to work.

Cindy, the bags you use, do they hang? Or lay on the ground. I've seen (in pictures) the kind made of what appears to be burlap, and you hang them on a wall or fence, or whatever. I feel they would dry out way too fast for this climate. Good to know they are working well for you.

Vern

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Yes, if I were to do it, that is what I would hope for! That IS good to hear.

Fort Worth, TX

I bought some pond underlayment to make a really big bag garden, and a couple for my daughter with the eroding slope, and one for my daughter with moles, but so far mine hasn't gotten sewn, and when it does I'll need half a yard of dirt to fill it. Cost: $21 for the underlayment.

Saw some smaller ones selling at a rock yard for $30 each made with purple pond underlayment. The material is very tough should last several years, sews on a sewing machine

Lewisville, TX(Zone 7b)

Mine sit on the ground..I have them on stones or a slab...as I don't want to buy the trays that could be used. Look at Gardener's Supply website & there are plenty to chose from. They are reusable too as I am using one I bought last year! My pepper plant is doing a LOT better in this than in the actual garden!!

Fort Worth, TX

My daughter sewed hers (it is 10 feet in diameter and 2 feet deep). I ordered her 8 yards of dirt, not sure what it took to fill it up, but it got full today and the veggies are going in. I need to sew mine before my sweet potato slips come.

Lewisville, TX(Zone 7b)

Great Gypsi! Have fun!!

Kingsville, TX(Zone 9b)

Well, as the story of my life seems to go, nothing worked out as planned, and my 'bag garden' project fell by the wayside. Another bout with gout made walking very difficult so didn't even think about attempting to lift and tote bags of topsoil. And of course now it's way past planting time here, and much too hot. But, hopefully, I'll get to try it in the fall. I have not given up on this idea! We've also had so much rain, lots of gardens are drowning. So I'm thinking the bags, even with drainage holes poked in the bottom, would have been wa-a-a-a-y too wet anyhow.

Anyone else tried it this year?

Vern

Fort Worth, TX

cloth bag - yes, plastic, no.

(Joy) Hempstead, TX(Zone 8b)

Because of the rain I opened a bag and planted some heirloom dianthus so it wouldn't die on me.

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