Seed starting is the process of growing plants from seeds. Once the seeds have grown into seedlings, they are transplanted to the garden. This technique enables gardeners to grow crops early in the season, allowing heat-loving plants to mature and bear fruits for a longer period of time. Seed starting is also perfect for growers faced with a short growing season; the process allows crops to mature before the weather changes.
Do note that not all crops are suitable for seed starting. There are crops that prefer to be planted directly into the ground because they cannot survive as transplants. In addition, different seeds have different growing habits so they must not be treated the same. Before setting off your seed-starting journey, you have to consider the types of seeds to sow, learn how to care for certain seeds, and what methods of growing to utilize.
Types of Seeds to Sow
When it comes to seeds, these are divided into two broad categories: warm and cool weather seeds.
Warm Weather Seeds
As the name implies, these seeds do well in a warm growing environment. These seeds prefer warmer soil and cannot tolerate frost. Some of the most popular types of warm weather seeds are summer vegetables and flowers: cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, beans, tomatillos, eggplant, peppers, basil, coleus, marigolds, zinnias, and nasturtiums.
Cold Weather Seeds
These seeds are quite hardy; they prefer the cooler climate and many can tolerate light frost. Many cold weather seeds are unable to germinate during the warm season so these are best sown just as the climate transitions to the cooler months. Some of the most popular types of cold weather seeds are: lettuce, kale, broccoli, beets, radishes, peas, carrots, spinach, kohlrabi, parsley, cilantro, and cabbage.
Seed Starting Methods
There are two types of seed starting method: indoor seed starting and direct sowing.
• Indoor Seed Starting
This method involves sowing the seeds indoors using a growing medium. Indoor seed starting is a great choice for growers who would like to grow crops early in the season. Since the seeds are grown in a controlled environment, the germinating seeds are protected from harsh weather climate. That said, indoor seed starting can be time-consuming and it will take more space in your home. Generally, summer crops, slow-growing seeds, and hardy vegetables are best suited for indoor seed starting.
• Direct Sowing
This method involves planting the seeds directly into the soil. This is an easy way of sowing seeds because the seeds do not require much monitoring. Just plant the seeds to the ground and that's it. No need to fuss with the lighting, transplanting, potting, etc. There is no need to think about transplanting shock once the seedlings sprout.
However, the seeds are exposed to the elements so they should be planted only when the season is right. In addition, the soil must be ready to encourage germination. Cold hardy seeds, fast-growing warm weather crops, as well as plants that do not survive transplantation well are best for direct sowing.
Containers and Growing Mediums for Seed Starting
Any type of container can be used for seed starting. But if you want to take this project up a notch, you can also buy a variety of seed starting containers and growing mediums. Here are just a few of the many to consider:
Cell packs are compact, lightweight, and portable seed containers. These soil containers come in 4 to 6 cells but some cell packs come with more sections for growing seeds. Usually, cell packs can be joined together to fit into a plastic flat. Since cell packs are quite compact, they are perfect for a small-scale home environment.
Seedling flats are a high-density system that allows gardeners to grow more seedlings in a small container. Usually, the flat comes with a tray that holds excess water and prevents soil from draining away. Seedling flats are best used in nursery or greenhouse applications and not for a small-scale home environment.
Soil blockers are made by compressing seed starting soil in the form of blocks or cubes. Just plant the seed in the middle of a soil blocker and then transplant the soil blocker directly into the ground once the seedlings are ready. Soil blockers come in different sizes, some are perfect for small greenhouses, others are big enough for large-scale greenhouses. Because these growing mediums are made of dirt, you'll need a special mat to protect the soil from moisture loss.
Biodegradable pots are typically made from cardboard pulp, dried coconut husks, paper, even cow manure (aptly called cow pots). These pots break down into the ground, which minimizes transplanting shock. The pots come in different sizes to accommodate a variety of growing environments. Biodegradable pots are more expensive than other growing mediums, which is something to keep in mind if you are seed starting for the first time. However, they are quite eco-friendly.
These are compact pots made from plastic. Since the pots come in different sizes, you can custom select the pot size and shape that suits your needs. Seedling pots are quite versatile, you can scale it up or down, depending on the size of the plant and the number of plants you are growing. You can pop the pots on a water mat to regulate the soil moisture.
Factors to Consider Before Sowing the Seeds
Ready to grow plants from seeds? Before you begin, there are certain factors that you should keep in mind. These are:
The Quality of the Seeds
The quality of the seeds you will sow matters. You must choose high-quality seeds and varieties that are best suited for your region’s climate. High-quality seeds will germinate faster and at a much higher rate. These seeds will transform into strong seedlings and eventually provide the best yield. You can buy seeds from reputable suppliers. Our advice is to choose a supplier that conducts its own germination test.
Your Region’s Weather Condition
When choosing the best seeds to grow, choose those that are native to your region or seeds that are well adapted to the local weather condition. These seeds have a higher chance of survival because they have adjusted to the local climate. Again, look for sellers that conduct their own germination tests and field trials to determine what types of seeds to get.
Timing is Everything
The timing is a critical part of seed starting. If you sow the seeds too soon, you could end up with sickly, leggy seedlings that will not survive the frost. If you start too late, the plants might not have enough time to mature before the weather changes! Check the seed packs for general guidelines. Generally, seeds can be planted 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date in the spring for indoor seed starting. For direct sowing, the seeds should be planted 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost date. As long as the ground is workable, you can start planting the seeds.
Step by Step Guide to Seed Starting
Now that you know the basics of seed starting, here is a step by step guide on growing plants from seeds:
Prepare Your Seed-Starting Tools
Start by choosing the right components for seed starting. That includes choosing the best containers to use, conditioning the soil for proper plant growth, and nurturing the seeds for faster germination. Always start with a clean seed-starting container, preferably about 2 to 3 inches deep with drainage holes.
We have already outlined some of the most popular seed-starting containers above, so choose for one that works for your needs and budget. Or, you can make your own seed-starting containers using yogurt cups, newspaper, fruit peels, or eggshells to save money and/or reduce your carbon footprint. If the budget allows, you can also buy a seed-starting kit although we recommend the more eco-friendly route. One thing to keep in mind when choosing the right containers for your seeds, you will transplant the seedlings into larger pots if you used small containers initially.
Preparing the Seed Starting Mix
Sow the seeds in sterile, bagged seed starting mix. The starting mix is typically loose and slightly moist. You can buy the seed starting mix or make your own using organic compost. Never use garden soil because plant seeds need nutrient-dense soil. If the potting mix is dry, moisten it with warm water before adding it into the seed-starting container.
Check the back of the seed packet for the recommended depth for sowing seeds. Generally, you want to cover the seeds with soil that’s equal to three times their thickness point. But again, different seeds have different growing needs. For instance, lettuce seeds and snapdragons prefer to rest on the soil surface as opposed to being completely buried in the soil for maximum exposure to light. After sowing the seeds, give the soil a light spritz of water.
Nurturing the Seeds
At this point, you want to water the seeds carefully so they won’t drown. Always use room temperature water when hydrating the seedlings, these are quite temperature sensitive. The soil should be moist, never soggy or wet. Once the seeds have germinated and sprouts appear, water the seedlings carefully. This way, the moisture will not reach the leaves and cause rot or diseases to set in. Keep the soil moisture consistent. At some point, you might need to use plant covers or plastic wrap to retain the soil moisture.
Keep the soil temperature consistent as well. Seeds love warm soil but not damp air so keep the soil temperature at a constant 78° Fahrenheit and the air temperature below 70° Fahrenheit. Exposure to sunlight will affect the air and soil temperature. If the seedlings are not getting enough light, they will become leggy.
Seedlings require about 14 to 16 hours of direct sunlight. A sign that the seedlings are not getting enough light is when they start to bend towards the light source. If this happens, you have to relocate the seedlings to a spot that gets maximum sunlight. You can also use heat maps, artificial lights, and other tools to regulate heat and light. To keep the air movement steady, you can run a fan near the seedlings. This promotes proper air circulation, which inhibits the spread of diseases while also promoting stronger, more resilient stems.
You can apply fertilizer once the seedlings have developed their second set of true leaves. We recommend using a half-strength solution on a weekly basis. After the 4th week, you can go ahead and apply the full-strength fertilizer every other week until the seedlings are ready for transplanting.
To protect the growing seeds from excessive moisture and humidity, add a half an inch layer of light color sphagnum moss on top of the seed starting mix. The sphagnum moss will protect the seedlings from damping off and other types of fungal disease.
Transplanting the Seedlings
You can’t just transplant the seedlings once they grow big enough. You have to conduct a process called “hardening off” to acclimatize the seedlings to their new surroundings. If you skip this step, the seedlings may die because they could not adjust fast enough to their harsher environment.
To start hardening off seedlings, gradually expose them to the outdoors for a longer period of time. Place the plants in a sheltered or shady spot in the garden, perhaps, under a tree or near the bushes. Leave the seedlings exposed to the elements for 3 to 4 hours and then gradually increase the time they spend outdoors to 1 to 2 hours. Bring the plants indoors every night. Do this for a week or two and the seedlings should be ready for transplanting by day 10.
You can also use a cold frame to prep the seedlings for transplanting. Move the plants to a cold frame about 7 to 10 days before the transplanting date. Make sure the temperature does not drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit or above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the seedlings daily, making sure the soil remains moist. Within 7 to 10 days, the plants should be ready for transplanting.
As a grower, you want to prioritize on the health of your crops, which is not easy especially if the growing conditions aren’t ideal. That’s the beauty of using a greenhouse. It shields the crops from pests, harsh weather conditions, and other hazards. Greenhouses have become increasingly popular among growers, but maintaining one is by no means an easy feat. Using a variety of tools should ease your gardening load.
When it comes to plant coverage, nothing beats the protection that greenhouse plastic sheets provide. So what is a greenhouse plastic sheet and what advantages can you expect from this product, especially when compared to conventional greenhouse sheets? Let’s take a look at the many benefits of using ECO Gardener greenhouse clear plastic film:
The Benefits of Using ECO Gardener Greenhouse Clear Plastic Film
Better Heat Insulation
Clear plastic sheeting is so handy when it comes to maintaining the ideal temperature of a greenhouse. This goes especially for greenhouse clear plastic films made with polycarbonate material. The product insulates plants much more efficiently! Compared to glass sheets, plastic sheets retain heat better. Less heat is also lost when using plastic films as opposed to glass sheets. In addition, plastic sheets could handle average temperature better than some sheeting materials so these products are less likely to fail or break. In the end, you will save more money on insulation using greenhouse clear plastic film.
Durability and Safety
Unlike some greenhouse sheeting materials, plastic films are not only cheaper, they are also more durable than traditional greenhouse sheeting. Plastic sheets are pliant by nature, never brittle. The material is shatterproof and safer to use in places that are prone to extreme weather conditions (excessive heat, hailstorms, etc.) This material is also the better choice if say, your greenhouse is situated near a football field.
The same thing cannot be said for glass sheets, which are bulky, heavy, expensive, and hard to replace. Glass sheets are more delicate than they look. The material is brittle so it cannot withstand impacts from hailstorms, falling rocks, etc. Glass sheets are not designed for harsh weather conditions because the material could crack under extreme heat or sudden weather changes.
Plastic materials are much lighter than glass materials. This makes plastic films much easier to handle and fit. Since plastic sheets are flexible, they can take on more abuse, which means these products do not require frequent replacements. Replacing plastic films is also easy as long as you got the dimensions right. The material is able to adjust to any greenhouse setting without breaking.
Replacing glass sheets in a greenhouse will require professional installation. The component is just too delicate and it’s not the best sheeting material to get if you like doing the installation or repairs yourself.
Efficient Light Diffusion and UV Protection
The ideal amount of sunlight is critical to the survival of plants in a greenhouse. Plastic sheets are clear, durable, and resilient. The material provides efficient light diffusion and UV protection, more so than standard glass sheets. Glass sheets tend to be thinner than plastic sheets, which mean the material is delicate. Some growers agree that plastic sheets provide better protection from radiation than glass sheets because the material is UV treated. UV-treated greenhouse plastic film have the ability to manipulate the transmission of particular sun wavelengths to boost plant growth.
Greenhouse plastic films are not only cheaper than traditional glass sheets, these products could also reduce maintenance costs while lightening your garden loads. If say, you want to build an eco-friendly greenhouse, using greenhouse plastic films will come in handy. Plastic films eliminate the need for artificial lighting when growing the plants. This will save electric consumption tremendously!
On top of that, plastic sheets eliminate the need to move plants in different parts of the greenhouse. Moving plants higher up is a backbreaking chore especially for growers with mobility issues. Because the plastic sheets neutralize damaging ultraviolet rays, the plants will not burn from radiation. Hence, there is no need to move the plants to other places when the sun gets too intense.
Prolonged Growing Season
Want to maximize your yield every growing season? You’d be surprised how effective plastic films are in terms of extending the growing season! If say, you want to grow your own food or you are growing fruits and vegetables to sell, you can expect a steady supply of produce all year round using plastic greenhouse films.
Extending a growing season often require more artificial heating because the weather becomes less than ideal for growing certain vegetables. Plastic sheets minimize the need for artificial heating. The plastic films could increase your yield in any season, allowing you to harvest more fruits and vegetables frequently without spending a small fortune on energy.
Say you finally made the decision to switch to greenhouse plastic films, what are the features that you should expect from this product? Continue reading below to find out:
• Customizable Shapes and Sizes
Plastic sheets come in an array of designs and shapes to choose from. You can also ask your local retailers for a customized size or design so the plastic sheet fits your greenhouse to a T. Even better, you can order a smaller or larger sheet to achieve the design that you want or to meet the specific needs of your greenhouse.
• Easy Installation
If you live for easy, DIY assembly, you simply cannot go wrong with greenhouse plastic film. Traditional glass sheets are too heavy and cumbersome to install on your own. This product will require professional installation, which might not be a good thing if you have a limited budget. If you are a hardcore DIY-er, plastic sheeting is perfect for you. These sheets are lighter, easier to install. The installation is simple, quick, and easy too.
Since plastic sheets are much lighter than glass sheets, these products do not require steel frames. Steel frames are expensive to put together and even more expensive to maintain. You can use a wooden frame instead of a steel frame for your greenhouse. Wooden frames are lightweight, easy to install, and even easier to maintain. You can paint and treat the wood yourself or have this done professionally, it’s your call!
Types of Greenhouse Plastic Films
As the name implies, plastic films are made from plastic. However, these products are made from different types of plastic materials! That's why it pays to check the product features before shopping for greenhouse plastic films. Here are the four different types of greenhouse plastic films that you can find at your local vendor:
• Polyethylene Plastic
Greenhouse plastic made from polyethylene plastic is available in two types: commercial grade and utility grade plastic films. Commercial grade plastic films are designed for heavy-duty applications and large-scale farming. On the other hand, utility grade plastic films are designed for small-scale farming or personal use. Generally, greenhouse films made from polyethylene plastic will last for 2 years if taken care of properly. Every day wear and tear could be repaired using a poly repair kit, which is often bought separately from the greenhouse film.
Copolymer plastic is more resilient than standard polyethylene plastic so this product will do well in heavy-duty applications. Since copolymer plastic is more durable than polyethylene plastic, it’s more expensive. Some copolymer plastic sheets are so hardy; they rival glass sheets in performance. However, this plastic sheet tends to become brittle after a few years of use. Exposure to harsh weather conditions will also cause the copolymer plastic to become brittle over time.
• Polyvinyl Plastic
Compared to polyethylene and copolymer plastic, polyvinyl is a more expensive material because it’s thicker and hardier than the other plastic films. Polyvinyl plastic films will last for years thanks to its strength and resilience. This product doesn't require replacement for up to 5 years. As long as you use polyvinyl plastic film with care and it gets regular cleaning and inspection, it will remain useful for years to come.
• Polycarbonate Plastic
Polycarbonate plastic film is the most durable out of all the gardening plastic films on this list. That’s because the material features two layers of polyethylene plastic. The twin wall of polyethylene plastic makes the material hardier and more resistant to heat exposure and humidity. It won’t crack or break as easily. When used correctly and maintained regularly, polycarbonate plastic film will last for at least a decade!
You can get greenhouse plastic film at your local gardening or hardware store. You can also shop for this product online. ECO Gardener greenhouse plastic film is available on our official store or at Amazon.com!
Whether you are a gardening newbie or a veteran grower, you should be familiar with different gardening essentials, such as grow bags. Now, some gardeners think that grow bags are some things that they can do without but make no mistake, grow bags present plenty of benefits for your plants and your garden, as a whole.
Grow bags, as the name implies, are bags designed to grow a variety of plants. Most growers use plastic or terracotta pots to grow plants and are more familiar with these planters. Grow bags are different because the material is lighter and more versatile than plastic or clay. These products come in an array of sizes and heights to choose from. Small grow bags could be used to grow petite houseplants and crops while larger, hardier grow bags can be used for bigger plants, even fruit-bearing dwarf trees, and some shrubs.
Grow bags could be used on their own or arranged in a raised bed. You can also incorporate grow bags into your planting system to create a small or large garden. Adding more plants to your garden is easier with grow bags too. Just grow the plants in a grow bag and add the grow bags into your garden whenever you need them!
Grow bags are best used for growing a variety of crops, particularly vegetables and herbs. Since planting the crops requires no digging, grow bags are also perfect for growers with mobility issues. Terracotta pots, in particular, are hard to move around. Grow bags are made from lightweight fabric so they are much easier to move around the garden. Since these are easier to move around, you can update the layout of your garden without breaking your back!
Grow bags became popular in the late 80s when most greenhouses were damaged after a hurricane. If you live in a place that’s prone to severe weather conditions, you’ll find that grow bags yield superior crops on the cheap. Garden cleanup and maintenance is also much easier if you use grow bags. Since the bags inhibit weed growth, you can maintain a pristine garden with the littlest of effort. This makes grow bags perfect for an urban garden or a container garden.
Want to grow your own food? Grow bags are also ideal for mini vegetable patches. The bags allow you to grow several plant varieties in one bag so space is never an issue. In fact, you won’t need a yard to grow your favorite herbs and veggies.
Types of Grow Bags
There are two types of grow bags, fabric and plastic grow bags. Which type of grow bag materials are suitable for your needs? Continue reading below:
• Fabric Grow Bags
Fabric grow bags, like the ones we sell on our online store, are designed for plants that hate standing water. These bags are made from lightweight, breathable material that drains water well. Fabric grow bags come in various sizes and the thickness of the material varies too.
Some materials are thinner so the grow bags cannot stand on their own unless they are filled with soil. These bags are best for smaller plants or delicate greeneries. Fabric grow bags made from heavy-duty fabric can stand on their own even when the bags are not filled with soil. These bags are best for medium to large sized plants.
There are grow bags that are made specifically for certain crops. For instance, there are potato grow bags, which are optimized for growing potatoes. Mushroom grow bags, on the other hand, are suitable for growing a variety of mushrooms.
Potatoes have their own grow bags because planting spuds requires hilling to get the potatoes to grow. A specialized grow bag is tall enough to let the spud's roots spread while also making harvesting a breeze. The same thing can be said for mushroom grows bags. These bags come with special features that improve and accelerate shroom growth.
If you are growing a variety of crops, opt for universal fabric grow bags. These bags come in simple designs and are suitable for most types of plants.
• Plastic Grow Bags
Plastic grow bags are typically seen in nurseries. These bags are made from a thin plastic material that’s often black in color. Plastic grow bags are designed to grow a variety of plants although these aren’t as versatile as fabric grow bags. These bags are used the same way as fabric grow bags but the bags aren’t eco-friendly because of the plastic material used. There is also a tendency for the material to crumble over time. Plastic grow bags have to be pierced to drain the water well. Between the two types of grow bags, plastic grow bags tend to be more affordable but these products deteriorate much more quickly.
• Grow Bag Sizes
Grow bags come in various sizes and the kind that is perfect for your garden will depend on the type of plants you want to grow. Small grow bags can accommodate up to 5 gallons while large grow bags could accommodate 150 gallons. Small grow bags are perfect for small plants while larger grow bags are suitable for flowerbeds. You can use multiple grow bags and arrange them in rows if your plants require different types of soil.
Since using grow bags are more popular than ever before, these products have become widely available anywhere, even online. You can buy grow bags at your local gardening vendor or online at popular eMarketplaces like eBay or Amazon. If you are looking for eco-friendly fabric grow bags then you do not have to look far, you can shop at our online store for round and square grow bags. Our grow bags are made from breathable yet sturdy material so you can use and abuse these grow bags for years!
Are Grow Bags More Expensive than Regular Planters?
One might think that grow bags are more expensive than regular planters. After all, clay, terracotta, metal, and plastic planters seem cheaper at a glance compared to grow bag prices. But unlike conventional planters, grow bags are versatile, durable, and space-efficient. These products do not crack under intense heat nor do these break when dropped. You can use and reuse the grow bags from one growing season to another. When not in use, you can simply clean, fold and store the grow bags until the next growing season starts!
The material of the grow bag is also a factor that enhances its ability to enhance plant growth. Conventional planters tend to trap heat that affects the crops’ root systems. Grow bags do not conduct heat. The permeable material disperses heat evenly while improving airflow, all of which are beneficial to plant growth.
Pots and planters made from traditional materials such as plastic, terracotta, and metal, are a staple in the garden. This goes especially for people who are either building or growing a container garden. When it comes to planters and pots, you probably do not spend much of your time thinking about the material at all. These products look the same and they serve the same purpose after all, regardless of what they are made of.
But if you are an eco-gardener who wants to use the best products for your crops, then you’ll find that fabric grow bags may be the best choice for your garden. What are fabric grow bags and how are these different from your regular planters and pots? In today’s post, let’s take a look at the many benefits of using fabric grow bags compared to regular planters and why you should make a switch, right now:
Before we get into the pros of using fabric grow bags, it’s important to get to know more about the bag culture. The bag culture became popular in the late 70s to early 80s after a massive hurricane damaged most greenhouses in the US. Grow bags became popular simply because they are much more practical than maintaining a greenhouse, not to mention, more resilient to severe weather changes. This term simply describes the process of growing a plant out of a bag, much like how you’d use a regular pot to grow a plant. This method is used to extend or expand the available growing media to a plant’s root system.
At some point, a plant will outgrow a regular planter. When this happens, you need to either use a bigger pot to accommodate the plant’s growing root system or plant it directly into the ground. In some cases, an already potted plant has to be placed inside or on top of a grow bag filled with new grow media to promote root growth. This is the reason why most greenhouse and indoor gardeners prefer to use grow bags to expand the crops’ root zone volume.
Some growers may think that fabric grow bags are just a temporary solution or an optional product that they can live without. Not true at all. Grow bags could also work as standalone planters for individual or multiple plants. This goes especially for indoor gardens or hydroponic gardens, fabric grow bags serve many purposes!
Fabric grow bags are made from a permeable, breathable non-woven polypropylene material. Usually, these products come in tan or black shades. Because the material promotes air circulation and proper drainage, it is hard to over-water the plants grown in grow bags.
4 Benefits of Fabric Grow Bags
Healthier Plant Roots
Potted plants tend to develop tangled root systems. As the roots grow and expand, they form circles that eventually lead to a ball of tightly packed roots that inhibit plant growth. When a plant’s root system is tangled in circles, it is unable to harness oxygen, water, and nutrients from the soil. Eventually, the roots begin to encircle the pot, which leads to structural damage to the plant. In some cases, rot sets in due to poor drainage. This is why it is so important to check and trim the plant roots regularly to avoid girdling roots and promote air pruning! Unfortunately, plastic planters are notorious for inhibiting air pruning.
Air pruning is a process that burns off the plant roots naturally. As the roots burn off naturally, healthier branching roots will grow. With the new feeder roots, the plant is able to absorb more nutrients and water from the soil, accelerating plant growth.
You won’t have the same problem when you are using grow bags. Grow bags promote proper root growth and air pruning. The overall root structure and mass of the plant improve too! Unlike plastic planters, grow bags won’t constrict nutrient uptake, these products allow dominant roots to grow without causing girdling.
Did you know that the kind of planters you use could affect the soil temperature? Certain planter materials, like plastic, and metal, retain more heat from the sun. Most plants are quite sensitive to temperature changes. Pots made from non-breathable materials tend to trap heat, which “cooks” the plant’s delicate roots from the inside, causing the plant to wilt and die.
Fabric growth bags are made from breathable, permeable material that does not retain heat. These products promote proper air circulation that cools the soil down and let heat escape from all sides. This ensures that the plant is never exposed to excessive heat.
Minimizes the Risk of Over-Watering
Some plants hate standing water while others are overly thirsty. Standing water can cause rot to set in, leading to mold or fungus growth as well as diseases. If you are growing plants that are sensitive to excessive moisture, we highly recommend using fabric grow bags. Fabric grow bags’ breathable material allows water to drain away, leaving the soil moist, never wet. It is hard to over-water plants if you are using fabric grow bags! Traditional planters, especially those with small drain holes, retain excess water. When the plant roots are exposed to excess water, the plant could drown or become diseased.
If you do not have much room to spare for regular pots, which could take a lot of space, try investing in fabric grow bags instead. Fabric grow bags are just as sturdy and useful as regular planters and pots, but they are so space efficient. These products do not crack under the intense heat nor do these break when accidentally dropped. Fabric grow bags are easy to move around because these products are made from a lightweight material.
In addition, fabric grow bags can be folded and stored neatly without taking much space. You can reuse fabric grow bags season after season without worrying about where to store these planters once the growing season is over. Some types of grow bags could be planted directly into the ground. These products are not as durable as those made from non-woven polypropylene material because the material is biodegradable. However, biodegradable grow bags will be useful when planting delicate crops that are prone to transplanting shock.
Are fabric grow bags the better choice for growers? Traditional planters have their own advantages; these products are sturdy and efficient. However, fabric grow bags are just as hardy and useful. Of course, your choice boils down to what’s best for your garden and your plants.
Grow bags can be used for small scale and large scale gardening. These are an excellent option for gardeners who grow individual plants and herbs. Grow bags could be used to fill a raised bed too. If the grow bag is large enough, you can use a single fabric grow bag to grow several plants!
ECO gardener grow bags come in different shapes to accommodate small to large plants. These heavy-duty grow bags are durable so these will last you years of use! Tune in for more gardening tips and other resources by signing to our mailing list.
For most gardeners, growing plants is best done during the spring and summer season. Most plants cannot survive the cold season; other plants grow dormant until the ground warms up again. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to continue growing plants in the fall and winter season. You can also take advantage of the cooler months to prepare your garden for the next growing season. Don’t worry too much about the cold, here are our favorite gardening tips for weatherproofing your garden for fall and winter:
Preparing Your Vegetable Garden for the Fall and Winter Season
Most vegetables cannot stand the cold so you have to protect your crops from the dropping temperature. If you get forecasts of frost, cover your vegetables with bedspreads, old sheets, and other protective row covers during the night. You can also use old newspaper, straw, and evergreen branches to cover your vegetables. These insulate heat effectively while keeping frost at bay. By mid-morning, you have to remove all the coverings you installed so the vegetables can take advantage of the sunlight.
Frost-resistant crops like carrots, turnips, beets, parsnips, and rutabagas can survive the dropping temperature. Parsnips, in particular, will taste better when left to mature near freezing temperature. But don’t wait until you’re deep in the winter season before digging these crops out. Dig and store them before the ground freezes!
Some crops are quite sensitive to temperature changes, like potatoes, which has to be dug and stored as soon as the cooler climate sets in. But before digging the potatoes, you have to toughen the skins up prior to storage. Do this by drying the freshly dug potatoes for two weeks in a dry, warm area that’s away from direct sunlight. Turn the potatoes regularly for even drying. As the skins of the potatoes dry up, they will store beautifully all winter long.
Frost resistant greens like cabbages and Swiss chard have tough leaves so they can withstand light frost. In case the leaves are damaged, just peel some of the layers away and they should be good. Kale, collards, and other greens turn sweeter when exposed to a light frost so they should be fine on a frosty night too. Delicate greens, like lettuces, cannot withstand the frost and will need more protection from the cold. Other veggies, such as tomato, squash, pea, beans, etc., cannot tolerate the cold at all so compost the healthy ones and discard the diseased plants separately.
Do all your gardening tasks, like watering, weeding, and raking, before the ground freezes and gets too hard to work with. Watch out for insects, pests, and diseases during the start of the fall season. Till the soil gently to expose burrowing bugs and avoid an infestation come spring and summer season. Add a layer of organic compost to the tilled soil to prepare it for the next growing season. For patches of soil overtaken by weeds, use a high-quality landscape fabric to kill the weeds in one go. Just set the landscaping fabric on the weed-ridden soil, secure the covering with landscape staples and within several days to a few weeks, the weeds will die.
Preparing Your Herb Garden for the Fall and Winter Season
Herbs are surprisingly resilient to cold climate and some do not require special prep at all. However, there are herbs that are greatly affected by frost so it’s important to prepare your herb garden before the winter season. Sage, which is a type of perennial plant, requires no coddling for the winter. If some of its branches dry out due to the cold, cut the dried branches and use them in cooking.
Thyme is surprisingly resistant to the cold although it will go dormant in the fall season. You can always revive this herb once the weather warms up. Parsley is also resistant to light frost but it will require a cover-up on cold nights. Do note that this herb has a long taproot so it is prone to transplant shocks. Chives are quite hardy but you have to dig them up and plant them in a pot so you can harvest the chives throughout the winter season. Expect the leaves to brown or freeze for several weeks. It helps if you can set the pots in a sunny spot.
Rosemary is more fragile and will require shelter for the winter. If it’s potted, take your rosemary inside until the weather warms up again. If the herb is planted in the ground, you can use a protective cover to keep the cold away.
Preparing Your Berry Garden for the Fall and Winter Season
Most berries are resilient; they will survive the cold climate. However, extra prep is always a good idea to ensure a bountiful yield even in the winter season. Summer berries like raspberries require pruning during the mid-fall.
Late in the fall, bend the young canes gently into the ground. Mound 3 inches of soil over the young canes to insulate the plants and protect the canes from winter frost. As the climate warms up, gradually remove the soil. We also recommend cutting down all the canes each year after harvest. This will promote the growth of new canes every spring. Yes, this method means sacrificing your summer yield but you can expect a bigger crop in the fall season.
Blackberries will also benefit from proper protection and insulation as the cold season sets in. Again, gently bend the young canes into the ground. Mound 3 inches of soil over the young canes to insulate the plants and protect the canes from the winter cold. For strawberries, use hay or straws to insulate and protect the plants from hard frosts.
We recommend planting blueberries in late winter to ensure an excellent yield. Of course, don't forget to prepare your soil first. The soil must have an acidity of 4.8. Use a soil test to check the acidity of the soil. If the acidity is too low, you can use sulfur to bring the acidity up.
Preparing Your Perennial Plants and Flowering Plants for the Fall and Winter Season
Most perennials and flowering plants can withstand the cold climate so they are best grown before the winter season sets in. They are easy to maintain too. Perennials and flowering plants tend to go dormant during the winter season. During this period, the plants will lose their leaves and flowers but they will sprout new foliage as the spring season approaches.
We recommend watering your perennials and flowering shrubs deeply during the fall season. Don’t do the watering if the ground has become hard from the cold. Perennials will also benefit from regular pruning. Remove all the wilted leaves, decaying plants, and unwanted debris to prep your perennials for the cold season. Regular maintenance will prevent pests or diseases from harming the plants.
Do note, however, that some perennials should never be trimmed in the fall. Evergreen perennials, for instance, do not require regular trimming. You can trim these perennials right after blooming. Leave the lower leaves alone in the fall season and continue the trimming in the spring. Don't trim woody perennials either. You can continue with the pruning in the spring.
We recommend mulching your perennials with a generous layer of straw, hay, peat moss, or leaves. Wait until the ground freezes before you add the mulch. If you are preparing a new flower bed for spring, the fall season is the best time to protect the plot with landscape fabric or mulch. This method will protect the new flowerbed from emergent growth.
For perennials that are blackened with hard frost, gently dig them up and leave them to dry indoors. Lay the freshly dug perennials on newspaper for several days. Then, pack the plants in Styrofoam peanuts, shredded newspaper or dry peat moss. Store the plants in a dark, humid spot until spring season and replant.
Preparing Your Trees and Shrubs for the Fall and Winter Season
Small trees and tiny shrubs are quite vulnerable to the cold so they need all the protection they can get for proper insulation. In case of extreme cold, surround small trees and tiny shrubs with a cylinder of snow fencing and packing straws. You can also pack the cylinder with shredded leaves to keep the cold from seeping in.
Regular maintenance is a must to ensure the survival of young trees and small shrubs during the cold season. Always check the trees and shrubs, remove broken branches, and make a clean cut close to the trunk. Remove unwanted debris that could pave the way for pests and diseases.
Continue to water your shrubs and trees during the fall season then quit watering once the soil freezes. To protect the shrubs from sunscald and animal damage during the winter season, use a type of insulating blanket or additional mulch. To prevent evergreens from browned needles and desiccation, you can use burlap as a windscreen or plant cover-ups to shield the plants from the harsh winter sun and wind.
As for multi-stemmed deciduous trees like upright evergreens and birch, you want to protect their branches from breakage brought on by heavy snow and ice. You can use horticultural tape, nylon strings, or strong cloth strips to secure the branches and prevent the trunks from bending or breaking. Remove the tree protectors you used as soon as the climate warms up.
Your Garden Activities Before the Winter Season
Apart from preparing your plants for the cold season, you have to complete a list of gardening activities to protect your garden from extreme weather changes. These gardening tasks include:
Organize and Store Your Tools Properly
Go through all your outdoor containers and make sure they are empty. These containers tend to crack during the winter season so store these upside down before the climate gets too cold. Store your metal buckets over a hook in your shed or garage. Roll your hoses neatly and hang them. Store hose nozzles and sprinkle attachments to prevent winter damage. We recommend running your garden hose up over a railing or the shed to remove all the water on a mild day. Then, roll the hose again for storage.
Drain your lawn mower’s fuel tank and check the owner’s manual to winter-proof your power equipment. Keep your garden tools rust-free by scrubbing oil on your tools.
Prep the Lawn
Do not wait until the last second before you prepare your lawn for the winter season. Mow the lawn late in the fall just as the grass begins to grow. Leaving the grass to grow for far too long will lead to unsightly brown patches in the spring.
Using a rake, remove all the fallen leaves, twigs, and other garden debris then pile them up on a tarp or large sheet. Drag the sheet to your compost pile and add in thin layers mixed with old hay and other organic matter. You can also use the fallen leaves as mulch for your perennial plants. Cover your compost pile with a thick layer of hay or a plastic sheet to protect it from snow.
Gather Compost Materials
Keep your garden tidy by raking all the fallen leaves and removing all the dead vegetation. Healthy dead plant materials of all kinds will be useful as compost material. You can also use shredded leaves as mulch to suppress weeds, enrich the soil, and encourage the growth of beneficial soil organisms.
If you live in a place with mild winters, make a habit out of tilling the soil to get a head start on your garden maintenance. Just gently turn the soil and till organic matter. Tilling the soil helps break hard clumps and aerate the soil for the next growing season. The dying weeds, plant debris, and organic matter will be converted into natural compost once they have been exposed to the elements. This tip will not work if you live in a place that gets bitter winters or if the ground is sloped, however.
Unprotected soil tends to lose more moisture during the cold season. Keep your soil moist and warm all winter long by adding a healthy layer of mulch. Organic matter also insulates plants, keeping them alive even in their dormant state during the cold months.
Thinking of building a vegetable garden? Growing your own crops is not only rewarding, it’s also a great way to save money on food. Imagine enjoying fresh vegetables all season long, thanks to your hard work! Of course, successful vegetable gardening demands commitment. There is more to this activity than simply planting a few seeds into the ground and waiting for the crops to grow. In fact, planting the vegetables is just the first step to successful vegetable gardening. In today’s guide, let’s take a look at the basics of building a vegetable garden as well as all the other factors you need to know before growing your own crops:
Factors to Consider Before Building a Vegetable Garden
The first step to successful vegetable gardening is to plan your garden and plan it well. You do not need a massive yard to build a vegetable plot. A small space will do if you live in a small apartment. In fact, starting small is probably the best if you are new to vegetable gardening.
What’s important is that the space itself is suitable for growing vegetables. Exposure to light is one of the most important elements of growing most types of crops. Most vegetables need at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. However, there are crops that thrive in shady environments such as leaf and root vegetables.
Generally, south-side spaces get maximum sun exposure while north side spaces are usually shady, plan your garden setup accordingly. If the space gets a lot of sunlight, then congratulations, you have more options in terms of the kinds of crops you can grow. On the other hand, if the space is shady then do your own research, get to know what types of plants thrive in this kind of environment.
Plant According to Your Zone
After knowing more about the growing habits of certain vegetables, learning what vegetables are suitable for your garden, zone, and microclimate then it’s time to make a list of all the plants you’d like to grow in your garden. At this point, you can start planning the setup of your vegetable garden.
Choose a spot that’s nearest to a water source. This seems like a small thing but it will reduce your gardening load significantly. Easy access to water will not put too much strain on your back during periods of little rainfall! Most vegetables hate standing water so good drainage is important in a vegetable garden. The drainage will depend on your garden's soil composition and slope. Steep or sharp slopes are prone to soil erosion so you have to find ways to retain the soil moisture and nutrients.
Orientation and Garden Layout
After all these are taken care of, you can start planning the layout of the garden. You can either use raised beds to grow your vegetables, set the crops in rows or set the plants in certain parts of your outdoor space. The choice is up to you.
Planting in Rows
If say, you'd like to grow your crops in a row, make sure the vegetables are getting maximum sunlight. Tall vegetables could shade shorter plants so building trellises are your best bet. In addition, try planting the veggies in parallel lines so the crops are much easier to maintain. If say, you are planting in a sloped plot and the risk of runoff is high, plant the vegetables across the slope. This way, the runoff will flow along the length of the row rather than downhill. If the runoff is still an issue, you can also dig a swale, which is a shallow ditch with sloping sides. The swale will help soak the water in. It can be used to grow perennial plants too.
Using a Raised Bed
Raised beds are the perfect choice for growers who want to maximize their garden space. Since the plants are elevated a few inches from the ground, raised beds deter pests, particularly burrowing critters. In addition, raised beds allow you to amend the soil with less effort. Raised beds aerate the soil, prevent compaction, and improve the health of the vegetables. Weeding becomes much less of a hassle too since the vegetables are planted in a contained space. That being said, raised beds come in different dimensions so make sure your garden has room for these before getting them. Measure your garden to get the dimensions right. Raised beds are quite the investment so proper installation and setup is a must.
If you don't have much room for a garden, we highly recommend building a garden spot. Just plant the vegetables in containers and then set the crops on sunny spots. Spot gardening does not deliver an impressive yield, but it requires less planning and easier maintenance. It’s a great option for newbie gardeners who’d like to try their hand at growing vegetables for the first time.
Preparing the Soil for a Vegetable Garden
Soil prep is the foundation on which any garden is built. You cannot expect to grow a variety of crops if the soil isn't providing enough nutrients to the vegetables!
If you can, start your soil prep early in the fall season so it'll be ready just in time for spring planting. You want to make sure the soil is workable before amending it. Clear the plot of weeds and garden debris using a rake. Using a soil tester, check your soil’s pH just to see if it’s suitable for vegetables. Different vegetables thrive in different pH levels so you may have to bring the acidity level up or down, depending on the types of vegetables you’d like to grow.
If the soil is too acidic, try adding limestone or dolomitic limestone to the soil. Wood ash also works to bring the soil's acidity down. If the soil is too alkaline, add ammonium sulfate, urea, or ammonium nitrate to the soil. You can also add pine needles, shredded leaves, sawdust, and peat moss to the soil to improve its acidity level.
After adjusting the pH of the soil, gently turn the soil to a depth of 12 to 14 inches, then add 3 to 4-inch layer of organic compost. Rake the soil to loosen the clumps and allow water and oxygen to penetrate the ground. Once that’s done, you are ready to start planting your crops. If your soil quality is not the best, we recommend using a raised bed. A raised bed allows you to control the quality of the soil.
Choosing the Vegetables to Plant
Always keep an eye on the weather, the growing conditions, as well as pest problems and amendments before planting your crops. Once the crops are planted, you need to track the watering and fertilizing schedules too.
Vegetable varieties are divided into two categories: warm and cool season vegetables. Warm season vegetables could be tender or very tender vegetables while cool season veggies can be semi-hardy or hardy.
Generally, very tender crops cannot tolerate frost so these vegetables should never be planted in cold environments with temperatures below 55˚F. Tender vegetables can survive a light frost, but they will not thrive in the bitter cold. Half-hardy vegetables will do well in cool temperatures; they can also survive light frosts. However, they cannot tolerate hard freezes and heavy frosts. Hardy crops could survive frost but never freezing winters.
10 of the Easiest Crops to Grow
If you are new to gardening, it’s best to start with crops that are easiest to grow. Crops that are easier to grow provide a better yield with minimal maintenance on your part. Here are some of the best vegetables to grow for newbie gardeners:
Tomatoes do not require much coddling and coaxing to bear fruits. Some varieties will thrive even when neglected. Tomatoes could grow virtually anywhere and the plants do not grow too big so these are ideal for a small garden, a container garden, even a vertical garden. You can hang tomato plants in baskets; plant them in-ground, or in pots. Cherry tomatoes, in particular, are so easy to grow. Since tomatoes' plant stems are quite soft, they will need a bit of support.
Cucumbers are best grown in a warm, sunny spot but generally, this vegetable spreads like weeds. Cucumber plants usually bear a lot of fruits so don't be surprised if you end up having more cucumbers than you can handle, just share some with the neighbors. Just like tomatoes, cucumbers are best suited for small gardens, container gardens, and vertical gardens. These are climbing plants so you have to provide a structure for the cucumber plants to climb on.
Carrots are the best vegetable to grow for new gardeners. Carrots thrive in both sunny and semi-shady environments, the veggies require minimal maintenance, and these plants will thrive in less than ideal soil conditions. Carrots will grow best in well-drained soil, although they’ve been known to grow in heavy soil too. What’s more, planting carrots is fun; you can round up the kids and turn gardening into a family affair. Harvesting carrots are equally fun and if you want your children to take up gardening as a hobby, this is a great vegetable to plant.
Love radish? It's a good thing this vegetable is easy to grow. Radishes add a delectable crunch to green salads or appetizers and a delicate flavor to soups and stews. Growing radishes is easy, even when the plants are grown from seed. Once the seedlings are large enough to sow, you can plant radishes in a container garden, a raised garden bed, or directly into the ground. Radishes love sunny to partially sunny environments. They don't require daily watering but the soil has to remain moist all the time.
From string beans to snap beans, all types of green beans are ridiculously easy to grow. Green beans come in different varieties to choose from so make sure to check which varieties are suitable for your zone and space (some varieties are climbing plants, others are bush types). Generally, green beans grow easily from seeds. These plants prefer the full sun and well-drained soil. Green beans are best grown in home gardens.
Zucchini and all types of summer squash grow like weeds, especially during the warm season. They can be grown in containers or in-ground. Just like beans and radishes, zucchinis are so easy to grow from seeds and the plants bear a lot of fruits + edible blossoms. Zucchinis prefer good moisture so water these veggies regularly. These vegetables also love warm soil so plant zucchini later in the warm season for a maximum yield.
Most types of herbs are easy to grow, including basil. Basil is a fast-growing plant that can be grown from seeds or from transplants. What's more, basil pairs so well with tomato plants. When planted near tomatoes, basil will keep pests away!
If you want to give your vegetable garden a look of lushness and fast, try growing lettuce and other types of loose-leaf vegetables. Lettuce matures every 3 to 4 weeks. You can plant different lettuce varieties to ensure a steady supply of yummy, crunchy greens all season long! And don't think lettuces thrive only in traditional gardens, these veggies will do well in container gardens too.
From sweet bell pepper to hot chili peppers, all pepper varieties are so easy to grow. Just like most vegetables on this list, peppers grow like weeds. Just grow peppers straight from seeds and they will grow with minimal effort. Peppers mature quickly too, particularly the miniature varieties. If you want fast-ripening hot peppers, we highly recommend planting jalapeños!
Rounding up our list of the easiest crops to grow is Swiss chard. Swiss chard is a dark, green leafy vegetable that grows easily and beautifully, it makes any garden look good. We recommend growing the bright lights and the ruby varieties due to their vividly colored stems. If you live somewhere warm, you cannot go wrong with the Lucullus variety. Swiss chard thrives in light, well-drained soil and is best planted in rows. However, this vegetable is ideal for container gardening too! This vegetable needs an even, regular watering, especially during dry spells.
Growing a vegetable garden is not only an eco-friendly hobby; it’s a terrific way of accessing fresh, delicious vegetables all season long! Of course, there are certain factors that you have to consider before building a vegetable garden so use our guide as a reference.
Organizing a milestone event like a wedding is truly nerve-wracking. Every detail must be perfect! A wedding is, after all, a once in a lifetime experience for most couples. It’s a special gathering for all people involved, including friends and loved ones. A wedding is also the perfect opportunity to highlight the importance of utilizing eco-friendly practices.
Using disposable plates like EcoGardener disposable wood plates, for instance, is a terrific way to save money and time while also caring for the environment. Is it strange using disposable dinnerware for parties? Not at all! Contemporary disposable wedding plates come in elegant designs, some look just like real fancy dinnerware! Still not convinced? Here are the top reasons why we think using disposable wedding plates should be a part of your wedding party:
Gone are the days when disposable plates only came in tacky designs. These days, disposable dinner plates come in beautiful designs to choose from. And yes, there are designs that suit formal events and extravagant parties. EcoGardener disposable wood plates feature a sleek design, which is perfect for people who appreciate the understated style of minimalism and clean lines.
Since these wooden plates are in neutral shades, they are versatile. You can use these plates for any social gathering other than weddings such as family reunions, cocktail parties, and so on.
The elegant design and neutral colorway of the EcoGardener disposable wood plates also mean they will suit any theme, color scheme, and table setting. Whatever color scheme or wedding theme you have, these plates will look perfectly coordinated with the rest of the decors.
As far as performance goes, disposable plates used to pale in comparison with standard dinnerware. Most are made with thin, flimsy material so the disposable plates have the tendency to break up while in use. Not anymore. Contemporary disposable plates like EcoGardener disposable wood plates are surprisingly durable. These plates are made for large parties like weddings, large parties, and special occasions.
The material is thick and robust so it is strong enough to handle indoor and outdoor events. Each plate can hold a lot without breaking down thanks to a special non-toxic wax coating that’s bleach-free, pesticide-free, chlorine, and dye-free. The materials are pressed densely so the plates will not crack under pressure. These plates are, hands down, the better alternative, especially when compared to Styrofoam plates!
Did you know that renting formal dinnerware costs about $4 per person? This might seem like a small price to pay but if you have more than 200 wedding guests, the cost will add up. You could be paying almost $1,000 on plates that you cannot even take home! So why spend a thousand grand on rental dinnerware when you can maximize your budget with EcoGardener disposable wood plates?
These plates are not only elegant and eco-friendly; they are also affordable. You can buy as many packs as you like and not worry about overspending! The best part? You get to impress your guests with unique dinner plates that are conscientiously made to protect the environment and encourage everyone in your party to do the same at their next event.
#4 Easy Cleanup
Organizing a wedding is hard enough, think about the massive cleanup later. With piles of dirty dishes on the sink, it will take forever to tidy up. You won’t deal with the same problem if you use disposable plates.
EcoGardener disposable wood plates allow you to enjoy your special day without worrying about the cleanup later. As soon as the wedding guests are done eating, they can simply discard the plates in the trash. Clean up is that easy. Since the plates are biodegradable, they will not end up in landfills. The plates will simply break down into the ground within 4 to 6 weeks.
Cleaning up piles of dirty dishes after an event requires a lot of water and elbow grease. Using Styrofoam or plastic plates may be a great option if you are trying to avoid the massive cleanup after the wedding but these products will only contribute to the worsening waste problem. Using biodegradable plates and cutlery is not only eco-friendly; it’s guilt-free too. These products are made from renewable materials so these won’t make a negative impact on the environment.
Using disposable plates on special events may be unusual for some but the practice is fast becoming more popular, especially among millennial couples. Discover the beauty of being eco-friendly, use disposable plates for your next event and wow your guests. Check out our selection of wooden disposable paper plates here.
As temperature drops, all activities in the garden seize, turning the land a dull gray. The plants are starting to prepare themselves for dormancy and not a lot is going on in your garden once the soil freezes. The transition from fall to winter season leads to unpredictable rains that could damage your plants. That’s why it’s important to prepare your garden before the winter season. So how do you protect your plants from the frigid cold? Consider these gardening tips:
Winter Prep for Perennial Plants
Perennial plants grow back each year, even in the bitterest winter season. As the weather transitions to winter, perennials will hibernate, turning dormant at a constant temperature until the warm weather comes around again. It’s a good thing that perennial plants are much easier to prep for winter than annual plants. Although perennial plants have different growing habits, they just need a little cutting back and mulching before the winter season.
In places that get warm-winters, the fall season is the best time to plant perennial plants. But since perennials grow slowly during the cold, wet season, the plants are vulnerable to diseases and rot. Always check the plants for signs of disease and pests.
Perennials have to be cut back to keep the plants neat as well as to remove diseased leaves or pest eggs. You can use the plant cuttings as hot compost materials (the active piles will kill pathogens and weed seeds). When cutting back the perennials, avoid cutting the stems with attractive seed heads.
The fall season is the best time to enrich the soil using compost. You want to add a 4 to 6-inch layer of organic compost around the beds. As the organic compost breaks down, the nutrients are released to the soil, improving the soil’s structure and nutrient profile. The slow release of nutrients prevents burns while also ensuring that the soil is nutrient-rich all winter long.
Mulching is a terrific way to prepare perennials for the bitter cold. This method protects the plants' root systems and the soil from the freezing temps. You can use shrub beds with chopped leaves, grass clippings, or pine needles for mulching. Mulching may attract nibbling rodents so to keep unwanted critters at bay, we recommend waiting until the ground freezes before adding a 6-inch layer of organic winter mulch.
For warm climate perennials, continue checking for pests and diseases during the winter season. Clean up the plant beds and borders then maintain or build new beds so you have room for new plants. For cool-climate perennials, mulch over the bare soil after the ground freezes. After the frost, clean the plant beds and borders then remove dead plants and weeds. You should also use cold frames to protect your hardy perennials from the chilly air.
Winter Prep for Annual Plants
Annuals need more TLC during the winter season because they cannot survive the cold. You should dig up your summer plants and use them for composting. For both warm and cool climate annuals, you should cover your plants with poly-spun garden fabric if there is a warning for a light frost. We also recommend collecting the seeds of your favorite plants that breed true to type.
Mulch your cool-climate annual plant beds with a 3 to 4 inches layer of chopped leaves, grass cuttings, and other compost materials. For self-sown seeds that will germinate in the spring, keep the mulch layer at 2 inches only. Then, label your annuals for next spring. Replace decomposed organic mulch. Finally, watch out for pests then continue removing the weeds and watering the plants.
Winter Prep for Bulbs
You want to dig up and clean the bulbs before the winter season sets in. Mulch your bulb beds with evergreen or in the case of shallowly planted bulbs; heave them to the surface of the soil. Store your bulbs in a breathable container to prevent rot. Use a cardboard box layered with newspaper. Make sure the bulbs are not touching one another then stow them away in a cool, dry place.
Winter Prep for Trees and Shrubs
For cool climate trees and shrubs, make sure to water them regularly and deeply before the ground freezes. This goes especially for evergreens. Young trees and shrubs need all the nutrients they can get so work the fertilizer to the ground. You may have to transfer young trees and shrubs to another location during the early fall.
Older trees and shrubs do not need the added fertilizer especially if they are mulched. Still, you want to shelter your shrubs with a burlap screen and other sturdy barriers to protect them from the elements. Once the ground freezes, add a 6-inch layer of organic mulch to your trees and shrubs.
Warm climate trees and shrubs become dormant as the winter season nears so stop feeding them to give them time to harden off during this period. Some types of warm climate trees are prone to fruit splitting such as citrus fruits and avocados. You can prevent this by watering the trees deeply especially if rain is sparse.
Some flowering shrubs, like camellias, could turn a dull brown as the cold season hits so disbud and water your flowering plants. Non-tropical trees and shrubs may require transplanting to other parts of the property. Prune your trees and shrubs regularly to keep your garden neat as the weather cools down.
More Gardening Tips for the Winter Season
Make a point to nourish the soil beginning October to November. If your lawn is still growing, continue cutting to lower the blades. This will help inhibit mold growth that could spread all over your garden during the winter months.
Want to lighten your gardening tasks for spring? Always keep your perennial beds neat and clean. Prune your plants, remove the dead leaves, and get rid of any unwanted garden debris, etc. You could also apply fresh mulch at this period.
Some plants need more coddling as the weather cools, such as roses. You need to trim the roses, getting rid of the tallest stems during the autumn season. For climbing roses, no need to trim these plants. Just remove the climbing stems off the trellis, lay them on the ground and then cover with mulch. After the ground freezes, you can cover the roses with a layer of mulch. Some low maintenance rose varieties need a warm base to keep them healthy during the winter season so use mulch or compost. For delicate rose varieties, you’ll need some covering – such as cloches or plant cones – for shelter.
Sometimes the last weeks of fall are extraordinarily dry, leaving shrubs and perennial plants thirsty. You need to water these plant varieties deeply or they will die over the winter. High winds and salt build-up could also cause damage to the plants. Use burlap screens to protect your plants from the elements.
Got newly planted evergreens, shrubs, trees, and perennials? You need to mulch them after the ground freezes as mulching protects delicate plant roots from frost and freezing weather.
Make a habit out of adding compost to your vegetable garden and keeping the plots neat and tidy before the winter season. This ensures excellent bounty come springtime. If your garden is decorated with potted plants and garden statues, you need to bring them indoors during the winter season.
Improving Soil Condition during the Winter Season
When the temperature drops below 45°F, most biological activities in the garden slow down. Everything from the plants to critters buried into the ground prepares to hibernate through the winter. Although the soil structure will not change for the better during the cold season, you can do something about it to ensure the survival of your plants even in the bitterest of cold.
Digging and Turning the Garden Beds
It's normal for the soil to become loose and crumbly at the end of the season. You can restore the texture of the soil by digging and turning the beds. This is best done if you are planning to prepare the beds for an early spring vegetable garden. During the fall season, you can mulch over vacant beds without cultivating them first. We also recommend digging out perennial weeds to retain your garden soil’s structure.
Always Use Winter Mulch
Fall and winter mulches work as an insulating barrier between the dry, frigid air and the soil. Winter mulch is perfect for protecting the delicate plant roots from the changing soil temperature. Soil temperature will fluctuate as the weather transitions to the winter months. When this happens, the plants could heave out of the soil, exposing their upper root systems, which cannot tolerate the cold. Winter mulches protect the plants’ root systems from soil erosion and compaction from heavy rains.
Grow Cool-Climate Plants
As the season changes and temperature drops, soil erosion becomes a serious threat to your garden. To prevent soil from eroding, consider growing cool-climate hardy plants. From carrots to cabbages, Brussels sprouts to winter peas, cool-climate hardy plants protect from soil erosion by growing massive root systems. These root systems will hold onto the soil while also increasing the ground’s organic matter content.
Cover Your Compost
Got several garden beds that are vacant until spring season? Make good use of these vacant plots by loading them with compost without cultivating them first. Then, cover the compost with an old blanket or a low row cover tunnel. The cover helps reduce soil compaction caused by heavy rains while also retaining the compost’s moisture level.
Refreshing Your Garden Setup for the Winter Months
Now that your garden is winter-proof, let’s talk about the many ways you can dress up your garden setup during the dreary winter months.
Give your garden a pop of color to offset the starkness of winter by adding plants with a soothing palette of bright green, white or burgundy. You can also plant miniature deep green conifers after the holidays to give your garden setup some color.
Make your outdoor setting appear warm and inviting by dressing up the patio with colorful cushions, pillows, and throws. You can also stick to neutrals and whites if you want to highlight your garden’s frosty foliage.
The winter season can make your surroundings appear stark or dull during the night and you can create an inviting garden set up by improving the lighting. Set the mood with string lights, wrap the string lights on tree trunks and branches to create a soft glow at night. You can also use portable patio lights, or hang icicle lights to create a shimmering backdrop. Light up your pathways or define walkways with portable ground lights or LED ground driveway lights.
Give your garden a full look of lushness by combining different types of potted plants. You can define the in-ground plant beds by setting a row of potted plants along its borders. You can also use plants that yield white blooms – like white cyclamen – to enhance your raised border’s low brick wall and accentuate this area. You can also highlight the front entry by grouping more potted plants together. You can also use potted, winter-friendly plants to dress up the patio or deck.
It is possible to grow a container garden to enhance the look of your yard during the winter season as long as you are using cool climate plants. When creating a container garden, always pay close attention to the kind of plants that you are using as well as the condition of the soil. Do note that plants grow slowly during the winter season so use light, well-drained soil or a soilless mix. As for the best cool-season plants to plant, there are so many to choose from. Some of the best plants to get for a winter container garden include red-twig dogwood, Rheingold arborvitae, blue rug juniper, and blue star juniper.
Banish lifelessness during the winter season by attracting birds and friendly critters to your garden. Start by planting native flowering plants, shrubs, and trees, to give birds shelter during winter. You can set up bird feeders and bird baths so your feathered friends have a safe place to eat and rest! You can also leave bowls of water all over the property so shy birds could come in for a drink.
Winter season is just around the corner so it pays to prepare your garden weeks, even months before the weather changes. Keep these useful gardening tips in mind when you are winter-proofing your garden. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to enjoy our freshest gardening resources + amazing deals on our bestselling products!
Thinking about building your own indoor garden? Soil-less gardening is not a new concept, the idea has been around since the 7th century BC. However, it was only in the 1950s when soil-less gardening became popular. Building a hydroponic garden is easier than you think! But before we get into that, let's talk about the finer details of hydroponics and how you can incorporate this concept into your garden!
What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a form of gardening method that does not use soil at all. Instead, the plants are grown using a mix of mineral nutrient solutions and water. This method involves circulating the water and providing an aerated environment to grow the plants. The nutrient levels of the solutions must be closely monitored to ensure the survival of the plants.
While hydroponics garden comes in a variety of systems, all these are rooted in the same method, which is using solutions in place of soil for growing plants or crops. When it comes to delivering nutrients to the plants, the solution is applied to the roots using different methods. All the essential elements that play a critical role in plant growth and photosynthesis must be provided to the plants. These elements include the proper amount of light, temperature, and so on.
Apart from using a mix of mineral nutrient solutions and water to grow plants, this gardening technique also utilizes a variety of mediums such as expanded clay, rock wool, perlite, vermiculite, sand, and gravel. These mediums are popular for hydroponic growing because of their ability to hold more moisture for longer periods. That said, there are hydroponic gardens that do not utilize any growing medium at all.
Since hydroponics isn't your ordinary, run-of-the-mill garden, it's best suited for veteran gardeners. This gardening method requires a certain level of expertise and commitment; it’s not something that you can simply walk away from.
What is Hydroponics Used For?
Traditionally, hydroponics is used for growing crops when traditional farming is no longer an option. This technique is often used in large cities with limited to zero access to agriculturally viable lands. In addition, hydroponics can also be used to increase the local food supply. It can replace commercial farming, providing fresh produce on a large scale or feed a small household too.
Hydroponic farming is commonly paired with vertical farming in urban areas. Usually, farmers would buy and convert unused buildings, empty warehouses, and old shipping containers into hydroponic farms. That said, even small rooms can be used for hydroponic farming.
Hydroponic gardening is also gaining in popularity among experienced gardeners.
With this technique, a gardener can grow a variety of indoor plants despite the limited space. Small-scale hydroponic gardening is not as messy as traditional soil gardening and it suits small spaces common in urban areas. Growing plants indoors can also reduce plant diseases and pests. This technique can also rid the indoor air of pathogens, toxins, and allergens that cause sickness.
Factors to Consider Before Building a Hydroponic Garden
The Plants You Want to Grow
As we mentioned earlier in this guide, hydroponic gardening can be done using different systems. The system you will choose depends on the varieties of plants you want to grow. By matching the right types of plants to the proper hydroponic system, you will save more time and money. The perfect pairing of plant varieties and proper hydroponic system means there is no need to upgrade your system for a long time.
The Cost and Additional Expenses
This gardening method is more complex than soil gardening. You have to buy certain equipment and systems to build a hydroponic garden. The best thing to do is to plan your expenses well and then choose the right hydroponic system that suits your budget. You have to factor in the additional expenses to the overall cost of building a hydroponic garden. Thankfully, there are affordable hydroponic system options out there; it's just a matter of knowing the right places to look for these deals.
The amount of space you can spare for a hydroponic garden is also an important factor that you have to consider. Yes, this gardening method doesn't necessitate a sizable space but you'll use different tools and equipment to complete the setup. Hence, the system should suit your space requirements. Don't forget about sparing space for maintenance. Water changes, draining the reservoir, refilling the reservoir and maintaining the entire system are other factors that will come into play when determining the amount of space needed for the hydroponic garden.
How much time do you have for gardening? Again, a hydroponic garden is no ordinary garden; it will take a while to establish the system. Sure, soil-less gardening does not require much weeding but apart from setting up the system, you have to monitor your hydroponic garden's pH, temperature, etc. This means you should have ample time to maintain the garden. If you are busy and you cannot spend at least a couple of hours maintaining a garden, building a hydroponic garden might not be the best idea for you.
Pros and Cons of Hydroponic Gardening
Growing plants without using soil may sound like an odd concept but it’s really a great way to grow a variety of plants and put more food on the table. Below are just a few of the many benefits and some drawbacks to building a hydroponic garden:
The Advantages of Hydroponic Gardening
Faster Plant Growth
Plants in hydroponic gardens grow 20% faster compared to plants grown in the ground. Since the plants in a hydroponic garden absorb nutrients directly from the mineral-rich solutions, they grow rapidly. Building a hydroponic garden minimizes the wait time in between crop harvesting, allowing you to enjoy your crops quickly.
Double the Yield
Crops that are grown indoors are not subjected to growing seasons. You can plant a variety of crops year round and enjoy more yields with less waiting time! In fact, growing crops in a hydroponic garden lead to double the production yield of soil-based farming. Since the growth cycle is constantly restarting, you can harvest more crops and maintain the quality of the crops at the same time. Research shows that growing crops indoors increase yields by at least 20%.
A hydroponic garden is perfect for people who live in urban areas where limited space is always a problem. You do not need a large space to set up an indoor garden. As long as your hydroponic system is all set up, space won’t be an issue at all. No need to make room for clunky planters and plant stands. Since a hydroponic garden does not require soil for growing plants, you can pack more plants in a small space.
Save More Water
Gardening is inherently eco-friendly but you can make your gardening activity even friendlier to the environment if you conserve water. Water conservation is easy with hydroponic gardening; you can save 90% of your water with this setup. A typical hydroponic garden setup requires the installation of water reservoirs. The reservoirs are kept sealed to prevent evaporation. The water released is just enough to grow the plants, no spills or wasted water to worry about. All the water that remains in the reservoirs can be re-used too.
Lighter Gardening Tasks
If you want to lighten your gardening load then consider setting up a hydroponic garden. Yes, the setup will require time to complete but once the garden has been established, your gardening load becomes much lighter. For one thing, weeds will not grow in a hydroponic garden. Plants grown indoors are not vulnerable to soil-borne diseases and pests. No need to drag heavy loads all over the garden, an indoor garden allows you to grow plants in the easiest way possible, less bending needed!
The Drawbacks of Hydroponic Gardening
The pros of hydroponic gardening outweigh the cons but there are certain drawbacks that you should keep in mind before building an indoor garden:
The initial cost of setting up a hydroponic garden is steep, especially when compared to soil-based gardening. The cost is much higher if you are setting up a large-scale hydroponic garden. The setup will also require a variety of specialized equipment and a deep understanding on how to utilize these tools. This is the reason why a hydroponic garden is best suited for experienced gardeners as opposed to newbie gardeners.
Again, if you don’t have a lot of time to spare maintaining a hydroponic garden, this is not the best setup for you. Maintaining a hydroponic garden requires constant monitoring and supervision. You have to keep a close watch at the nutrient solution; the oxygen and temperature level as well as the lighting to ensure the health of the plants. Power outages are also a problem if you are maintaining a hydroponic garden; you will need backup power so you won’t lose your crops.
Because hydroponic gardening requires a variety of electric equipment, expect your electricity bill to go up. This goes especially for large-scale hydroponic farms that depend on artificial lighting at certain seasons. To save more money on electricity, try exploring eco-friendly solutions.
4 Methods of Hydroponic Gardening
There are 4 different types of hydroponic grow systems that are popular on the market. These systems can be applied to large-scale hydroponic farms or a small hydroponic garden. Some of these systems can be made on your own using basic materials; others will require specialized tools and materials:
Ebb and Flow Systems
Also known as flood and drain systems, these systems are comprised of a flood root system and nutrient-dense solution that drain away. These systems feature a grow bed or a tray and a water reservoir beneath it. A drain prevents the water from overflowing, ensuring that the water gets only to a few inches below the top of the growing medium. A pump is also installed to control the flow of the water while a timer is used to time the water draining.
The water is either drained away as waste or drained back into the water reservoir to be reused. Most gardeners prefer to recycle the nutrient solution several times before being replaced with fresh water and nutrients. The trays are flooded with nutrient solution two to three times per day for a few minutes, depending on the plants’ stage of growth. Ebb and Flow systems utilize a variety of growing mediums for the plants. The most popular are netted pots, which can be filled with hardened expanded clay (HEC) or clay pebbles. Of all hydroponics systems, the ebb and flow systems are the easiest to use.
Top-Feed Drip or Spray-Emitter Systems
Top-Feed drip systems are some of the most common hydroponic systems for indoor gardening and indoor farming. These systems are popular among growers because of the added control over the exact amounts of nutrient solutions fed to individual plant sites.
The drip systems are versatile; they are suitable for indoor and outdoor applications. The setups could vary depending on the builder but generally, a reservoir holds the nutrient solution, which runs through the main water line. Smaller lines lead the nutrient solution to the base of the plant sites. Drip systems feature timed operation, allowing growers to feed the plants at specific times of the day. Water can be reused several times or run to waste.
On the other hand, the spray-emitter systems are typically used with either Rockwool or soilless mixtures placed inside trays to collect the runoff. The Rockwool medium is available in different formats including long slabs, large cubes, etc. Soil-less mixtures are often stored in container pots or bags.
Spray-emitter systems utilize small lines to carry the nutrient solution to the plant sites. The nutrient solution is dispensed using fine spray nozzles staked in the medium. The solution is distributed at a specific schedule to keep the plant roots moist all the time. Because the nutrient solution is released as a fine mist, these systems will require higher water pressure, resilient lines, and powerful pumps. The systems’ spray nozzles are prone to clogging so regular maintenance is needed to keep the systems in tip-top shape.
Deep Water Culture Systems
Also known as DWC systems or Bucket systems, Deep Water Culture systems are built using a system of buckets that are hooked to the main reservoir using hoses. The plants may be rooted in peat plugs or Rockwool as seedlings and then transplanted into netted pots that are suspended in a hole cut in the lid of the bucket. Air stones are added to ensure proper root oxygenation.
The main reservoir holds the majority of the nutrient solution. The nutrient solution circulates into each attached bucket and into the plants. The reservoir floods the buckets while a submersible pump works to fill the buckets with water and nutrients at different intervals. When the pump stops, the nutrient solution drains back into the main reservoir to be used in the next feeding.
Nutrient Film Technique Systems
Also known as NFT systems, these user-friendly hydroponic systems are best used for indoor horticulture. NFT systems feature a long grow chamber – usually a channel or PVC pipe – with holes that contain either collars or baskets where the plants are held. The plant roots hang down into the hole so the root tips are in contact with a shallow stream of water.
A pump is installed in the main reservoir to move the water around the plant sites. The goal of the growers is to provide oxygenated water to the plant roots. Most growers conduct several feeding cycles per day, some lasting half an hour at a time. Constant monitoring is needed to ensure that the plant roots stay bright white, not brown, which could be a sign of oxygen deprivation.
Building a hydroponic garden has a lot of benefits. However, this is the kind of project that requires a lot of time and effort so arm yourself with information first. Just keep all the tips we’ve outlined above in mind before building a hydroponic garden. For more gardening tips and useful resources, sign up for our newsletter!
We've said it time and again, there is absolutely no need for a large yard to build a garden. Growing different types of vegetables will only require a small space. If you’d like to start your own vegetable garden but you are unsure what vegetables to grow, you cannot go wrong with spinach. Spinach is loaded with essential nutrients and antioxidants. This is the perfect crop to grow if you’d like to try growing your own food. This vegetable is high in vitamin A and C, which minimizes the risk of cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers. What's more, spinach is a versatile vegetable; it can be prepared in many ways.
When it comes to growing spinach, this crop is easy to sow and fast to mature. You don’t have to wait too long before harvesting spinach. You can enjoy the fruits of your labor within a few short weeks! Best of all, spinach does not grow too big. It will thrive in a pot, which is perfect if you are short on garden space. Below is a step by step guide on how to plant spinach in pots:
Growing Spinach from Seeds
There are two ways to grow spinach, you can sow the seeds or regrow the crop from roots. If you are growing the spinach from seeds, you can either plant the seeds directly into the pot or use a seed tray first. Choose a wide-mouthed pot that is about 6 to 8 inches deep. You can also use a garden box, wooden box, even a crate as a planter for the spinach.
Sow the seeds in ½-inch deep soil. After planting the seeds, they should germinate within 5 to 14 days. However, the time it takes to germinate the spinach seeds will depend on the growing conditions and the variety of the crop.
If you are using a seed tray, you have to wait until 2 to 3 days until the crop’s true leaves grow. Once the true leaves have grown, the spinach is ready for transplanting. Spinach loves bright light although it will do well in partial shade too. To avoid burning, protect the spinach from the afternoon sun.
We recommend growing spinach from seeds early in the summer season because it is a fast-growing plant. This way, you can simply re-plant the spinach seedlings with the rest of your heat-loving hardy crops. Spinach will grow in different types of soil but it prefers moist, well-draining loamy soil that’s enriched with organic compost.
Spinach in Pots: Caring and Growing Tips
Spacing the crops is important because you want to give the spinach enough room to grow. Since the spinach has larger leaves, you want to give each plant about 3 to 5 inches of space in between. Of course, you can leave a smaller space if you prefer to harvest the spinach at a young age. If you are planning on an early harvest, you can go ahead and plant the spinach along with other vegetables in a single planter. Spinach will not require much room to grow.
If you planted spinach in the autumn season, you want to set the plant in a sunny spot. In mild climates, the days are shorter and the sunlight is less intense so the bright light won’t burn the spinach. On the other hand, if you planted the spinach in the spring or summer season, you want to set the plant in a partially shady spot.
Since the spinach is planted in a pot, you can move the vegetable around easily. You can also set the potted spinach in a sunny spot in the mornings and then set it in a shady spot during the afternoons. In a subtropical or tropical climate, place the potted spinach in a semi-shady spot.
Enriching the soil with organic compost is equally important when growing spinach. The texture of the soil should remain loamy and crumbly. Spinach hates dense soil that is waterlogged so use well-draining soil for optimal growth. Keep the soil moist, never wet. To maintain the soil’s moistness and protect the spinach from excessive heat, add mulching. This goes even for spinach that’s grown in pots. Use organic matter for the mulch.
When it comes to watering potted spinach, do not wet the leaves. Water only the soil because wetting the foliage could cause rot or fungal disease to set in. Make sure the planters you are using drain water well because spinach hates standing water. Water the spinach regularly using the light shower setting. This goes especially for newly planted seedlings or seeds, a strong setting could wash the planted seeds away.
Generally, spinach seeds germinate in temperatures below 40 Fahrenheit or 4 degrees Celsius. This vegetable will also germinate in high temperatures but excessive heat could lead to burning. The ideal soil temperature to germinate spinach seeds is between 50 to 80 Fahrenheit or 10 to 27 Celsius.
Spinach is surprisingly resilient, it can withstand frost. Mature spinach leaves will not freeze until the temperature drops to 20 Fahrenheit. If the temperature reaches beyond 80 Fahrenheit, spinach will need protection from the heat. You can also add mulch to bring the soil temperature down during the summer season.
Ideal Soil pH
The pH of the soil should be neutral or from 6 to 7. If the soil pH is below 6, the spinach leaves will wilt and turn yellow. A soil pH that’s above 7.5 may lead to slow growth.
Growing spinach loves nitrogen so enrich your soil with this nutrient before sowing the seeds. Just mix organic compost or well-rotted manure with the potting soil. You can also use time-based fertilizer or liquid fertilizer; just make sure the nutrient is released slowly into the soil. In the middle of the spinach’s growth, enrich your soil with fish emulsion, cottonseed meal, organic compost, or manure tea.
If you’re using time-based or liquid fertilizer, add the fertilizer at regular intervals to ensure steady growth. Spread the fertilizer around the base of the spinach then work the fertilizer gently into the soil. Do this carefully because spinach has shallow roots. Disturbing the soil may cause damage to the delicate root system that could lead to die-offs.
Harvesting Spinach in Pots
37 to 50 days after germination, the spinach is ready for harvest. Generally, as long as the spinach has grown at least 4 inches in height and have at least 6 healthy leaves, you can start harvesting. You can harvest the leaves using a pair of scissors. Cut the outer leaves first and leave the new inner leaves alone to grow some more. You can also cut the whole plant from the base. The plant will re-grow again.
You want to start harvesting the spinach leaves before the plant starts growing flowers or the leaves will become too bitter to be eaten. Flowers are likely to sprout when the weather is hot and humid. The spinach plant will develop an erect stem that sprouts yellow or green flowers. As the spinach grows flowers, the leaves will thicken and it will develop a bitter taste. This is called bolting.
As you can see, growing spinach in pots is surprisingly easy. But to enjoy a bountiful yield, keep all the gardening tips we’ve outlined above in mind. For more gardening tips and resources, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter!
Think all planters are created equally? While all planters work the same way, any eco-gardener knows that some planters are better than others. The most common planters are those made with plastic material. Plastic planters may be durable and weatherproof, but they’re not exactly eco-friendly. Manufacturing plastic planters contribute to soil and air pollution. A better, more environmentally sound alternative to plastic planters are fabric pots. What are fabric pots or fabric grow bags and why should you make the switch? Continue reading our guide to find out:
Fabric pots are planters made from a type of BPA-free, breathable material, usually double-layer polypropylene. These products have a soft, felt-like texture. They are quite similar to landscaping fabric. Fabric pots are available in two types: one for growing seedlings or young plants called fabric grow bags and fabric planters, which are used as containers for fully-grown plants.
Although lightweight, fabric pots and fabric grow bags are ideal for growing a variety of plants. The material works as a physical barrier that protects fragile root systems from diseases, pests, and harsh weather conditions.
Just like regular planters, fabric grow bags and fabric planters are easy to use and washable. These products are also reusable, which adds to the eco-friendliness of fabric planters. Fabric grow bags and fabric planters are best used for growing most types of vegetables and they come in different sizes too. We recommend these products for growing tomatoes, cucumbers, hot or sweet chili peppers, and green beans!
Fabric Grow Bags vs. Plastic Planters
Plastic planters are a standard in gardening simply because these products are more widely available. But the fact is, growing plants in plastic bags or plastic planters can be quite tricky especially when it comes to watering the plants. If the planters have too-large drainage holes, the soil is washed away along with the excess water as you water your plants, causing a mess. As the soil drains away, so do the precious nutrients that your plants need to grow.
Exposure to standing water could also stunt plant growth. Standing water could cause rot to set in because plant roots are quite sensitive to excess moisture. Excess moisture could also cause the soil to warm up uncontrollably.
You won’t come across the same problems with fabric grow bags or fabric planters.
Fabric grow bags allow the excess water to pass through the material without washing away the soil. This feature minimizes soil erosion that could affect plant growth while also protecting the plants’ delicate root systems from rot.
Since the material is made from a breathable fabric, standing water is eliminated, ensuring the ideal soil temperature needed to grow healthy plants. Fabric pots have minuscule holes that promote proper air circulation too.
Benefits of Using Fabric Grow Bags
Fabric pots are not just some trendy gardening tools. They are beneficial to your garden and the environment. Below are just a few of the many benefits of switching to fabric pots and fabric grow bags:
Air pruning occurs naturally when fragile root systems are exposed to air in the absence of high humidity. The constant exposure to air naturally burns off the roots, which causes the plants to produce new and healthy branching roots. As the plant continues to grow new branching roots, its overall root structure and mass improves too. With its new feeder roots, the plant is able to absorb more nutrients and water from the soil, accelerating plant growth.
If the plant container is inhibiting air pruning, however, the roots do not gain much feeder roots. What’s more, the few roots that grow will start circling into themselves, causing the root system to turn into a tangled mess. This inhibits the absorption of nutrients and cuts off root circulation that leads to stunted growth and sometimes, die-offs.
If you’ve been trying your hand at indoor gardening, you'll find fabric planters quite handy especially if you are utilizing the ebb-and-flow systems. Fabric planters can be used as a filter, which allows the oxygenation of plant roots. Used in hydro systems, fabric planters minimize the occurrence of clogging of the tubes and other components, which could compromise the entire system.
Soil and Root Oxygenation
Air circulation is important when growing delicate roots. Oxygen helps contribute to the ideal rhizosphere of the root zone. Aerating the soil keeps the temperature low, which enhances the breathability of the root system’s living environment. In addition, proper air circulation allows beneficial microbes to thrive in the soil, which helps the root systems grow stronger and more resilient to harsh climates.
Fabric planter bags are made from a permeable material that promotes proper air circulation. The lightweight material allows the plant roots to absorb more nutrients and oxygen from the soil that leads to bigger yields!
Proper drainage is key to growing healthy plants, especially vegetables. If the plant roots are exposed to standing water, rot could set in. Excessive watering and poor drainage could cause plants to drown and die. These factors could also lead to mold growth, diseases, or pest infestations. Unfortunately, clay and plastic planters are prone to poor drainage. Even plastic or clay pots with drain holes at the bottom aren’t impervious to moisture buildup so plant watering should be done carefully to avoid standing water.
It’s nearly impossible to overwater plants using fabric planter bags. Planter bags are made from lightweight materials that drain excess water at the bottom of the pot while preventing soil from being washed away. The fabric wicks moisture from the sides and bottom of the pot, keeping the soil perfectly moist, never wet.
Think fabric planters aren’t as long-lasting as regular planters? Think again. Just like plastic and clay planters, high-quality fabric planter bags are sturdy, portable, and reusable. You can easily move the planters around the yard when needed. These planters can be folded up and then stored when not in use. Fabric planter pots are resilient, they can withstand and adapt to climate changes and unlike clay pots, they don’t crack under extreme heat.
Some fabric planter bags are UV-protected so they don’t break apart during extended exposure to the sun. They may be more expensive than regular fabric planter bags but you’ll get a lot of use out of these fabric planter bags. When shopping around for fabric planter bags, always choose those made with food-grade materials.
Reduced Heat Stress
Just like human beings, plants need to regulate heat, otherwise, the plant roots become vulnerable to heat stress. Heat stress occurs when the plant root systems are exposed to heat buildup and poor drainage. During the hot summer months when the unforgiving heat is beating down on the plants, the soil temperature rises. As the soil temperature rises, the plant roots heat up. If the plants are potted and the planter material is not allowing heat to escape, the plant roots will literally “cook” from the inside and out.
Heat stress is much less of a problem when you are using fabric planter bags. Since the material allows excess water to drain off and the air to circulate, heat won’t build up in the soil. These planters retain the ideal root zone so delicate roots will not cook at extreme levels, which is a common occurrence in greeneries planted in plastic pots. Fabric planter pots keep the soil moist and cool, which allow roots to become healthy and resilient.
What are the important factors that you should consider when buying fabric planters or fabric grow bags? Keep these tips in mind:
The material of fabric bags will vary greatly. Some are made from recycled materials, others are biodegradable. The raw material of fabric planters made from recycled materials could be textile, cotton fabric, even bottled water. Fabric planters made from biodegradable materials can be planted directly into the ground so these cannot be re-used.
Some fabric bags come with extra components – like zippers, handles, Velcro straps, etc. – others are designed simply to hold plants. If you prefer fabric bags with all the bells and whistles, you are spoiled with options. But just make sure you’re using the right products because certain components could affect the performance of the fabric bags. For instance, Velcro straps may cause soil clogging.
Our advice is to stick to fabric bags with simple designs. A quality fabric bag with handles is a great choice if you frequently move plants around the yard. Opt for fabric bags made with enduring materials to get the most out of your money.
Some fabric pots are chemically treated, others are not. Treated fabric pots may be more resistant to the elements but they can affect the quality of the soil. If you are concerned about chemicals and dyes finding their way into the soil, avoid chemically treated fabric pots. These products contain traces of chemicals that could leach into the soil or kill beneficial critters. Choose fabric pots that are 100% BPA-free.
Fabric grow bags are often used to grow plants with shallow root systems. These grow bags are also perfect for balcony or urban gardens because they do not take a lot of space. Using a fabric grow bag is easy, here’s a step by step guide how:
When choosing the right fabric grow bags for your garden, always keep the size of the bags and the scale of your garden in mind. Make sure your garden has enough room for the number of fabric grow bags that you'll use. If you are using a type of potting mix that is quite dense, it will need proper drainage so line the fabric grow bag with a layer of pebbles or chunky perlite.
Add a layer of compost or gardening soil to fill the bag almost all the way. Leave about 2 inches of space at the top of the bag. Give the fabric grow bag a good shake and knead the soil a bit so the soil is nice and level. Puncture the bottom of the bag with scissors for extra drainage.
At this point, you are ready to use the fabric grow bags to plant different crops. To make room for the plant, just scoop the soil out with a trowel until the hole is big enough to fit the entire root of the plant. Place the root ball into the soil then cover the root ball with soil. Make sure the root ball is not exposed in any way. Small fabric pots are best for small veggies, such as eggplants, zucchinis, and herbs. Larger grow bags are best for fruit-bearing trees and sizable greeneries.
After planting your choice of crops or greeneries into the grow bags, you can start with the regular watering. You can either water the plants directly on a daily basis or install a self-watering system - such as a drip system - to make plant watering even easier. Whichever way you’d like to water your plants, make sure the excess water is drained away to avoid standing water.
After growing and harvesting your crops, you can reuse the fabric planters and the soil for 2 to 3 growing seasons. If say, you’d like to store the grow bags until the next growing season, just remove the potting soil, give the grow bags a good wash and then leave them to dry completely. Fold and stow away in the shed until you are ready to grow more plants!
Fabric grow bags are widely available in stores that sell gardening supplies online and offline. We offer two types of premium quality grow bags, round and square. Our grow bags are made from black felt-like material that promotes proper drainage and air pruning. These fabric grow bags are guaranteed easy to install and relocate! Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest gardening resources straight to your inbox. By subscribing to our newsletter, you will also enjoy amazing deals on our bestselling products!
Most of our Pennsylvania summers lately have been so wet that plants which require well-drained conditions are doomed from the start. About the only way to keep their “feet” out of the water is to place them in containers, so I was happy to be discover that the porous fabric sides of grow bags offer excellent drainage.
Having garnered some unusual flower seeds from an online seed trade last year, I especially wanted to get the blue-eyed African daisy (Arctotis venusta) and Namaqualand daisy (Dimorphotheca sinuata) off the ground. I knew from past experience that those plants were liable to turn to mush if I set them in our soggy clay soil. Granted, I could avoid such issues by only growing species native to my area instead of to an entirely different continent, but where’s the fun in that?
So I filled a grow bag with a light potting mix and placed the seedlings in that instead. Namaqualand daisy, which generally blooms during winter in Africa, seemed to prefer the cooler temperatures of early summer and performed enthusiastically for a while before beginning to fade out after the weather heated up. Its flowers only opened on sunny mornings, which were rarer than a day in June this summer!
Fortunately, the silvery and scalloped foliage of the blue-eyed daisy eventually shot up to a height of about 36 inches, even taller than the size the plant reportedly achieves in the sandier soils of Africa. I’m guessing, though, that it may have had to reach for the light here more than it does there.
Although foliage that tall did appear gangly in the bag, the flowers are an exquisite mix of blue, mauve, yellow, and white. They also close up shop early, often folding in late afternoon even on sunny days or only partially opening on cloudy ones, but their hues are divine enough to make up for that deficiency.
Since heliotropes hail from the mountains of South America, they too prefer gritty conditions. Although the ones I’d tried previously usually survived in the ground, they didn’t attain much size. However, planted in grow bags, this years’ specimens quickly rose to the occasion, with the tallest having reached 33 inches already—and the season isn’t over yet.
That caused them to tower over the also fragrant petunia and pinks I planted in the bag with the heliotropes. (Perhaps I should have gone with a dwarf heliotrope instead of the original arborescens.) However, the purchased Supertunia ‘Latte’ has spread enough to appear more than the solo plant that it is. And the annual dianthus ‘Black and White Minstrels’ managed to raise its ruffles in the middle.
In yet another grow bag, I placed the Mexican Cuphea ignea and Portulaca umbraticola ‘Toucan Scarlet,’ (probably also originating in Central or South America). Both produced orange-red flowers, though of very different form—separated by the contrasting green and white of the purchased Petunia Ray ‘Pistachio Cream.’ Although the petunia is beginning to get crowded out by the other plants, it was a beautiful friendship while it lasted.
Due to my success with those plants, I definitely have more items that I want to try in the grow bags next summer. Salpiglossis, also a South American native, seldom does well here except in dry summers, and Icelandic poppies—actually native to the tundra of sub polar regions other than Iceland—tend to rot in the ground.
So I’m hoping that the grow bags will make as big a difference for them as they did for the daisies. After all, it seems we Pennsylvania gardeners are going to have to deal with a loves-us-not weather pattern for at least a while longer!