Tomato Grow Bags: The Easy Way To Grow Tomatoes

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ripe tomatoes, tomato grow bags

If you have only a small space for growing your tomatoes, tomato grow bags offer a great solution. They are easy-to-use and inexpensive containers so you can use them instead of pots.

In this post, we will show you how to grow tomatoes in grow bags, which is in fact a form of container gardening, going through all the things you should know to be able to develop a successful crop in the end.

Now you’re on your way to growing your healthy and tasty tomatoes in your limited garden space, on your deck, balcony, or patio!

What Is A Tomato Grow Bag?

A tomato grow bag is a container that allows you to plant tomato seeds or seedlings directly into it and grow your plants throughout the season.

It’s mostly made from plastic-based fabric or felt which allows proper air circulation and adequate drainage while keeping out soil-borne diseases as well as pests such as snails and slugs.

Grow bags come in various sizes and shapes, but most commonly have a round or square base and a round top.

If you don’t like plastic, there are some other types made from organic materials, e.g. hemp or canvas.

Grow Bags For Tomatoes We Recommend

Best Grow Bags For Tomatoes: Comparison Table

Below you can see the top 5 grow bag brands that we recommend for growing tomatoes.

All of them are BPA-free or AZO-free, which makes them suitable for organic growing.

BrandCapacityMaterialColorsHandlesBPA/AZO-free
Wraxly5, 7 gal.Fabric, plastic (inside liner)Two-tone: black + burgundy, gray, tan, sand, greenYESYES
Smart Pots1–1,000 gal. Black, blue, orange, violet, greenYES/NOYES
Vivosun Pot1–30 gal. BlackYESYES
Jeria1–30 gal.FabricBlackYESYES
BohoFarm (RC SLL)5, 7 gal.Fabric, plasticTanYESYES

Are Grow Bags Good For Growing Tomatoes?

Sure they are! Nowadays many people pick grow bags over pots for growing tomatoes.

The only concern is size: they must meet the minimum size for growing tomato plants. They should be at least 12 in (30 cm) in diameter and 10 in (25 cm) deep, which is basically a 5-gallon (20-liter) grow bag.

The main advantage of using these containers is that they take up very little space, therefore you can place them anywhere you wish. There are a number of other pros as well.

 

What Are The Advantages Of Tomato Grow Bags?

  • They can be used anywhere – You can put your grow bag basically anywhere, but don’t forget that tomatoes need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, so keep that in mind when you find a space for your tomato.
  • They can be used in areas with bad soil – If your garden soil is of poor quality, grow bags are an excellent choice to overcome that problem. Since you can fill up your bags with a fertile growing mix, ideal for tomatoes, you don’t need to bother with your poor garden soil.
  • Ease of use – Grow bags are light and usually have handles, which makes it super easy to move them—e.g. to a sunnier spot or inside the house or garage if there’s a risk of frost during the night.
  • Grow bags are breathable – Fabric grow bags (not the ones made of plastic sheets) provide superior aeration, providing roots and beneficial bacteria with more oxygen as well as preventing them from circling around and getting root-bound.
  • Excellent drainage – Grow bags are mainly made of felt, covered with micro drainage holes all around, and therefore they don’t need additional drainage holes. Your tomato plants won’t drown even after heavy rains because water drains away quickly.
  • They won’t heat up – On hot sunny days plastic pots may warm up considerably trapping the heat inside, while fabric grow bags allow excess heat to be released protecting roots.
  • Easy to clean – When cleaning your grow bags, just wash off any dirt and debris with warm water and soap. Don’t worry about washing too much since the material itself doesn’t absorb moisture.

What Size Grow Bag Is Best For Tomatoes?

We’ve already mentioned that a minimum size of 5 gallons (20 liters) is needed. However, an 8-10 gallon (30-40 liter) tomato bag works better in which a tomato plant can grow a healthy root system.

The only exception from the 5-gallon limit may be small dwarf or micro tomato plants that can actually be grown in smaller, 1-3 gallon bags as well. Such varieties include Baby, Micro Tom, Micro Tina, Micro Gemma, Micro Gold, and Yellow Canary.

Is It Better To Grow Tomatoes In Grow Bags Instead Of Pots?

Many growers prefer grow bags over regular or plastic pots due to several reasons:

  • Healthy root system – Many times the roots of the tomato plant get root-bound in pots, especially if they are not large enough. In fabric tomato bags roots get “air-pruned” as they reach the edge of the bag where dryer soil and more air are present. This means that the root system grows healthier and stronger.
  • Easy to move around – Most grow bags have handles so it makes it super easy to move them if necessary. Larger and heavier bags filled with potting mix can be carried by two people. It’s not that easy with pots.
  • Light and easy to store – After you’ve emptied your grow bag, just spray it off, let it dry, and fold it up. You can store your lightweight grow bags easily on any shelf. Ceramic or cement pots are heavy, occupy a lot more space, and are more expensive.
  • Look good and inexpensive – Tomato bags come in different sizes and colors (e.g. black, white, tan, red, green) and they look great when placed next to each other on the patio or balcony. They’re also inexpensive compared to ceramic pots.

How To Use Grow Bags For Tomatoes?

Grow bags are easy to use once you get the hang of them. If you’re a beginner, however, there are several things you should take care of.

But don’t worry, we’re here to help you. Here’s everything you need to know about growing your tasty tomatoes in grow bags.

Steps For Successful Planting

It’s best to plant seedlings into your grow bags because they will more likely develop into strong and healthy plants than the ones sown directly.

  1. Put 3-4 inches (7-10 cm) of potting mix (don’t use garden soil) in the grow bag and press the mix around the base.
  2. Place the plant into the bag. Tomatoes will grow stronger if you plant them deeper in the mix since the stems will grow roots.
  3. When the bag is half full of potting mix, add water and then add more potting mix around the plant until you’ve filled up the bag almost completely, leaving 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) from the top.
  4. Add a layer of mulching (e.g. straw or leaves) to protect the growing medium from drying out too fast and also to protect the plant from soil-borne diseases.
  5. Water the plant regularly for keeping the potting soil moist at all times.

When To Put Tomato Plants In Grow Bags?

The grow bag will be the final home for your tomato plants. Transplant your seedlings into the grow bags after the last spring frost date. Put the bags in a sunny spot, preferably protected from high winds.

Note: The seedlings need to be hardened off before they are transplanted and moved outside to the “real world”. It’s a simple process: take the seedlings outside (in their small containers or seedling trays) for a couple of hours per day when the weather is nice, for 7-10 days. Don’t expose them to direct sunlight for the first 5 days or so.

Can I Plant Tomato Seeds Straight Into A Grow Bag?

You can sow your tomato seeds directly into the grow bag, but we don’t recommend doing so.

Here’s why: it’s better to plant a strong seedling deep into the grow bag so that it will produce additional roots on its buried stem. Thus your plant will be more vigorous.

However, if you want to plant seeds directly anyway, then follow these steps:

  1. Fill the grow bag with potting mix leaving 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) from the top.
  2. Sow 3-4 seeds in the center on top of the mix.
  3. Cover the seeds with a 0.25-0.5 in (0.5–1 cm) layer of potting mix.
  4. Sprinkle water onto the top of the potting soil. Be careful not to wash out the seeds. Make sure the mix is always moist, otherwise the seeds won’t germinate. The ideal temperature for seed germination is 70-80°F (21-26°C).
  5. If there is more than one seed that started to sprout, you need to thin the tiny shoots. This means removing weaker plants by cutting them with a pair of scissors to leave only the strongest one per container.

What Kind Of Potting Mix Should I Use In Tomato Bags?

Basically, any soil mix recommended for growing vegetables will work fine. They usually contain a mixture of peat moss, coconut coir, vermiculite, perlite, and either organic or chemical fertilizers, or compost.

This kind of mixture retains moisture, drains well, and it is also loose enough to give the roots some breathing space.

We prefer using compost or some kind of organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion, worm castings, seaweed, bonemeal, or guano.

Chemical fertilizers are not environmentally friendly because they kill a lot of the biomass (fungi and bacteria) in the soil and release hydrochloric acid that pollutes the soil and waters.

It’s best to use fertilizers that are richer in phosphorus and potassium than in nitrogen, an NPK proportion of 5-10-10 is recommended.

Don’t put garden soil in your grow bag. It compacts easily, drains poorly, dries out fast, may contain weed seeds, and there is also a considerable risk of soil-borne diseases.

How Many Tomato Plants Can You Put In A Grow Bag?

Mostly one normal size or large tomato plant per grow bag. The reason is that the root system of a large tomato plant needs lots of room to develop.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders, so if you place too many plants in one grow bag, they will compete for nutrients and space. This could result in stunted growth, poor fruit set, and even death.

However, it’s still possible to have three micro or two determinate tomato plants in a grow bag of 5-10 gallons. Just make sure they get enough nutrients and water all the time.

What Is The Best Size Grow Bag For Tomatoes?

It depends on the tomato type and variety. This table summarizes what you need to know.

Type Of TomatoHeight Of PlantSize Of Grow Bag
Indeterminate tomatoes6-10 ft (1.8-2.5 m)10-15 gallons
Determinate tomatoes3-4 ft (0.9-1.2 m)5-7 gallons
Semi-determinate tomatoes3-4 ft (0.9-1.2 m)5-7 gallons
Larger dwarf tomatoes3-4 ft / 0.9-1.2 m5-7 gallons
Micro or smaller dwarf tomatoes12-18 in (30-45 cm)1-3 gallons

Can You Grow Tomatoes In A 5 Gallon Grow Bag?

Yes, you can. As we’ve mentioned above, you can basically grow all types of tomatoes in a 5-gallon grow bag, but for indeterminate (vining) varieties, a 10 or 15-gallon tomato bag would be more suitable since vining plants grow all season long and therefore need more root space and nutrients.

100+ Gallon Grow Bags?

These huge containers are called raised bed bags or fabric raised beds. They allow you to grow several tomato plants having a surface area over 10 sq ft (1 sq m) and a depth of 12-25 in (30-60 cm).

You can even buy grow bags of a capacity of 1,000 gallons. These “monsters” have a diameter of around 100 in (250 cm) and a surface area of approx. 65 sq ft (6 sq m).

What About Watering Tomato Grow Bags?

You should water the grow bag every day during the first week after planting. After that, you can water every other day if it’s not very hot and there is no rain.

If weather conditions are dry, water daily, and if they are extremely hot and dry you may water twice a day, in the morning and in the evening.

You can check soil moisture levels very simply: stick your index finger into the dirt. If it comes out clean, it means the soil is dry so watering is needed. If it comes out dirty, the soil is damp (you can even feel it) so there’s no need to water.

There’s very little risk of over-watering your plants, since excess water easily runs away. However, the growing medium in grow bags tend to dry out faster than in regular plastic pots so you’ll probably need to water your plants more often.

 Tip 1: You can put a tray, plant saucer, or some other type of water container under the grow bag and fill it up with water regularly. This will ensure ideal moisture levels even for several days in the soil if you use a deeper tray of several inches.

Tip 2: If you’re away from home a lot, it’s worth considering applying an automatic drip irrigation system.

How Long Do Grow Bags Last?

Grow bags typically last between 2 and 8 years depending on their materials and care. They usually last longer when they’re kept clean, moved frequently, and stored carefully.

A good quality, sturdy felt or non-woven fabric grow bag normally lasts 7-8 seasons. However, it depends on the climate where you live, most importantly the amount of sunshine and rainfall.

We definitely recommend using top-quality grow bags: they’re much more durable, weather and UV resistant, and look way better than low-quality, cheap tomato bags.

Avoid bags that are made of flimsy plastic if you plan to grow your tomatoes for several seasons. They won’t last more than one or two seasons.

Do Grow Bags Require Special Care?

No, they don’t. It’s best to empty them at the end of the season, wash them thoroughly with a sprinkler, let them dry, and store them folded up.

If you want them to be even cleaner, follow these steps:

  1. Empty the bag completely.
  2. If there’s anything hard stuck to the side of the container, gently shake or tap the container until the material loosens up enough so that you can easily brush off the soil with a soft brush.
  3. Wash out the bag thoroughly using a high-pressure nozzle to remove any remaining dirt.
  4. Fill up a plastic tub with water, add one tablespoon of baking soda and one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid, and stir thoroughly (don’t add any vinegar).
  5. Submerge your bags completely and let them soak for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Wash the bags, rinse them well, and let them air-dry completely (don’t put them in the dyer).

If you plan to grow tomatoes (or other plants that belong to the nightshade family, e.g. peppers, eggplants, potatoes) in the same bag the following season, or it’s obvious that your plant grown in it had some kind of disease, it’s best to sterilize your grow bags:

  1. After cleaning the bags, as described above, just before drying them, soak them for 20-25 minutes in a solution of 1/4 cup (60 ml) hydrogen peroxide to 1 quart (1 liter) of water. (Hydrogen peroxide is a non-toxic substance; it’s not an agro-chemical.)
  2. Rinse the bags well and let them dry completely (don’t store damp bags).

Won’t Tomato Grow Bags Rip?

They might rip, especially if they are of low quality or made of sheet plastic.

We recommend investing in high-quality (even double-layer), strong fabric grow bags. They usually have stitched corners and reinforcement seams.

If you notice any signs of ripping as the seasons pass, you can repair them by sewing them back together instead of getting rid of them.

Staking and Caging Tomatoes in Grow Bags

Using A Stake

You can stake your tomatoes in two ways:

  • Driving the stake in the grow bag – If your tomato bag is deep enough, and you grow determinate (bush) or dwarf tomatoes, this can work. Just drive the 3-4 ft (60-90 cm) tall stake in the potting mix (make sure it’s not wobbly) and tie the main stem to it as it grows.
  • Driving the stake in the ground outside the grow bag – It is a better idea, especially if you grow large indeterminate tomato varieties. Drive the stake about 2 ft (60 cm) deep into the ground. For indeterminate tomatoes, you’ll need a 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4) tall stake from ground level.

Using A Trellis Or Cage

You can use cages or trellises in your grow bag. Here are some ideas:

For determinate or dwarf tomatoes up to a height of 3-4 ft (0.9-1.2 m):

  • A tepee made of 3 or 4 bamboo stakes, driven down into the grow bag along the inside wall, tied together at the top.
  • A tomato circular or rectangular metal cage with legs stuck deep in the potting soil.

For tall indeterminate tomatoes:

  • You can set up a cage, made of mesh, around the grow bag from the outside.
  • You can place the bag next to a trellis, fence, or rail and tie the vines to them.

The Bottom Line

Tomato grow bags are great for beginners and experienced gardeners alike. They come in various sizes allowing you to grow a lot of varieties of tomatoes wherever you want, even if you have only a couple of square feet available on your balcony or patio.

Good quality fabric tomato bags are durable, easy to move and store, help the plants develop a healthy root system, and look great.

The only downside may be that most of them are not bio-degradable, made of poly plastics. So when your grow bags need to be discarded it’s best to find a way that they can be recycled.

On the other hand, there are some that are made from recycled materials and some that are biodegradable. The latter ones may not last that long but can be a nice option when environmental care is a major concern.

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AUTHOR

I'm a keen hobby gardener. I love growing fruits and vegetables, especially tomatoes. I'm also a certified instructor of the Square Foot Gardening Foundation.

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