As many of my regular readers will know, I am a keen vegetable grower, both on allotments and in outdoor containers. Growing any kind of vegetable in containers is well worthwhile. The results are healthy, fresh and organic produce, not to mention the satisfaction you achieve from knowing you have grown the crop yourself.
The problem many people have is the sheer lack of space to grow in, and this is where container growing comes into its own. However, even if you find a few square feet to squeeze a handful of containers into, come the Winter you still need to have a place to store the empty containers until the following season. Now whilst a container full of healthy growing vegetables is truly an attractive display, a pile of stacked up empty containers is considerably less attractive. If you haven’t got the space for a garden shed, then a few other options are available to you. For this reason (amongst others I shall go into later), I am trying a new method this season. I am going to grow most of my container vegetables in ‘vegetable planter bags’ and ‘potato planter bags’, (also known as vegetable planters and potato planters). Essentially these are flexible, durable, reusable bags, with handles and drainage holes, that can be rinsed out at the end of the growing season, folded up and then put away, out of sight, in a cupboard or similar storage area until the following year.
Planter bags come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, which is great when you consider that some crops will need a deep container because of their root length e.g. carrots, parsnips, and beetroot, whilst others require less depth, such as lettuce, spring onions (scallions), radishes and shallots. By having the option to buy planter bags in variable depths, you can save a considerable amount of money on compost, which is frequently wasted filling up a tall pot or container simply to plant a shallow-rooted crop that doesn’t require the volume of compost provided.
Another advantage to planter bags is the fact they are flexible. This allows you to squeeze them into tight spaces where a rigid container would refuse to fit. You can plant multiple crops into different planters and then line them up in tightly packed ‘blocks’, (much like raised vegetable beds), made up of individual modules, or in this case vegetable planter bags. This reduces moisture loss and therefore saves time on watering, (as well as money if your water is metered).
When using potato planter bags, an added advantage is that you can ‘poke’ around the external surface of the bags and literally ‘feel’ when the tubers are of a decent size to harvest. When growing potatoes in dustbins or other rigid containers, it can be very much a case of ‘pot luck’ and nothing is more disappointing than emptying out your potatoes only to find very small tubers awaiting you. By the time the potatoes are lying on the ground, it is too late to plant them again and wait for them to get a bit bigger, so you are forced to wait until the following year and try again.
Planter bags are a lot less expensive than buying rigid containers, and in fact, the smaller planters start at just a couple of pounds or a few dollars. The larger sizes can be used as a complete raised vegetable bed in themselves, providing room for rows of different vegetables to be planted together. When you see that a wooden raised bed, or even the heavy-duty plastic ones, quickly cost well into three figures, whereas the same sized planter bags could be purchased for a tiny fraction of the price, it is not hard to see why using planters make growing vegetables at home far more financially viable for those of us on a low budget.
Another consideration is that if you plan to move house at any point in the future, a planter bag is going to be far easier to move with you. Imagine how difficult it would be to take apart a heavy-duty wooden raised vegetable bed, move it to your new home, and then reassemble it. My guess is you probably wouldn’t bother, quickly realizing that the best option was to simply leave the raised bed behind, and build a new one once you had moved, a costly exercise!
Planter bags can be left in place at the end of the season if you wish, and instead of emptying them out and storing them, you could simply plant a green manure in the compost or soil, allow it to overwinter, and then carefully fork the manure back into the compost in early spring ready for planting your vegetables in
to as the warmer weather arrives. If you don’t like the idea of forking manure in again, simply cover the green manure in the planters over with black polythene in late Winter, weigh it down, and by the time you need to plant up the bags again the green manure will have died back into the compost, rejuvenating it for the coming season (and the black polythene will have helped to warm the compost up for the seeds to germinate in).
Vegetable planter bags can be used in greenhouses too. This is great for when you want to grow vegetables such as to tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, chili peppers and any other crops that benefit from greenhouse cultivation. Bear in mind pretty much every vegetable you can think of will grow happily in the right sized planter bag, e.g. courgettes/zucchini, sweetcorn, runner beans, onions, leeks, beetroot, etc.
All in all vegetable planters seem to be an excellent alternative to the standard containers I have been used to using, plus they will look far tidier in my opinion (especially as a lot of us have a very varied range of shapes and colors of containers in our gardens). Because planter bags come in square, round or rectangular shapes I can line them up in blocks, leave paths where I need them and generally create an inexpensive container vegetable garden instantly for under £100 / $162, (plus compost of course).