Tomatoes are grown in more home gardens than any other plant. What if you don’t have room to grow tomatoes? Consider using grow bags.
Are Grow Bags A Good Way To Grow Tomato Plants?
Grow bags are a great way to grow tomato plants if the grow bag is large enough. Tomato plants have extensive root systems, so need plenty of room to grow.
Fabric grow bags are very well-drained, so you don’t have to worry about your tomato plant’s roots rotting. Plastic grow bags are not as well drained but should be okay if they have drainage holes.
Starts Disease Free
If you grow lots of tomato plants, you know soil-borne diseases can make life difficult. New grow bags are sterile and disease-free. As long as you fill them with sterile potting mix, you won’t have to worry about soil-borne diseases. Grow bags are especially good if you are growing heirloom tomatoes that do not have a lot of resistance to soil-borne diseases.
Tomato plants in most containers can have problems with roots circling in the pot and girdling the plant. In fabric pots, the larger volume of air near the edge of the fabric tends to air-prune the roots so they branch more heavily and grow thicker in the center of the pot. The effect is like pinching a plant’s growth tips to make it branch out more.
Grow bags have very good aeration, so you don’t have to worry about rotting roots. Good air circulation helps keep disease from attacking your tomato plants.
Cheaper Than Pots
Grow bags are generally cheaper than traditional pots. They are cheap enough to be used for one season and discarded. The grow bags will last several seasons if you want to reuse them.
Grow bags are not as heavy as pots of the same size, so they are easier to move. Many grow bags have handles to make this easier.
Need More Water
Tomato plants in grow bags need more water than tomato plants in the ground or in raised beds. The volume of soil is less, and the great air circulation dries it out faster. The heat also dries the soil faster. Expect to water your tomato plant as often as twice a day to keep the soil evenly moist.
Need Constant Fertilizer
Tomato plants grown in grow bags, like all container tomatoes, need nutrients every two weeks or so because they quickly exhaust the nutrients in the soil inside the grow bag. Many people water the tomato plant with a dilute solution of fertilizer every week.
Grow bags wear out faster than ceramic or clay pots. The fabric eventually rips and stops holding the dirt inside.
Can’t Be Sterilized
Grow bags cannot be sterilized like ceramic or clay pots. Reusing grow bags can spread disease to the next generation of tomato plants, especially if you reuse the potting mix inside them. Many people only use grow bags once for this reason.
Even though grow bags do not weigh as much as pots of the same size, they still get heavy. Even with handles, a full grow bag with a large tomato vine in it is hard to move.
Grow bags are not as attractive as pots. If aesthetics are important to you, grow bags may not meet your standards.
Fabric bags are messy when watered. The water comes out of the whole bag and can make a mess on the patio or in the house. It is not easy to catch the water in a saucer-like with a pot.
What Size Grow Bag Should I Use To Grow Tomatoes?
The size of the grow bag you pick is crucial to the success of your harvest. The needs of different types of tomatoes are discussed.
Determinate Tomato Plants
Determinate tomato plants grow a certain size, then stop and have their tomatoes all at once. The minimum size for a tomato grow bag is twenty inches around and fifteen inches deep. Smaller grow bags do not allow the roots to grow as extensively, and you will not get as many tomatoes. In addition, I use a trellis even for a determinate tomato plant because it increases my harvest. The trellis can be three feet tall, or a small tomato cage, but the plant does better with one.
Indeterminate Tomato Plants
Indeterminate tomato plants continue to grow all season and have tomatoes until they die. They should have a large bag that is at least 15-25 gallons. Otherwise, the root system cannot expand enough to support the large plant that grows. I err on the side of more room, so use a 25-gallon bag for a determinate tomato plant. You must have a trellis that will support a fully laden six-ten-foot tomato plant in the pot with the tomato. It is a good idea to anchor the pot well to keep the plant from turning over in a wind or storm.
Cherry and Grape Tomato Plants
Some cherry and grape tomato plants are indeterminate, and some are determinate. Even the indeterminate plants do not usually get as big as indeterminate full-size tomato plants, so a twenty-inch pot with a depth of fifteen inches should be adequate for them. Use a trellis to increase the yield of the tomato plant and keep the fruit clean.
What Other Things Should I Consider When Choosing A Grow Bag For My Tomato Plants?
In addition to size, the material of the grow bag is important.
Woven Versus Non-Woven Fabric
Woven fabric grow bags are not as sturdy as non-woven fabric grow bags. However, woven fabric is more environmentally friendly. I pick non-woven fabric grow bags because I know they will last all season.
Some grow bags are plastic, but if you use a plastic bag, you lose the drainage and air circulation. Black plastic absorbs heat, so the tomato plant roots cook in the summer heat. I do not use plastic grow bags.
Some people lay a bag of compost on the ground and cut a hole in the plastic covering. They plant a tomato plant directly into the compost. I do not advise this. The bag is not big enough to really hold all the roots and has poor drainage and air circulation.
Pick a grow bag with handles so if you need to move the bag once it is full, you can. The handles can also be used to tie anchors to so the bag will not turn over when the tomato plant grows large.
The 5 Best Grow Bags for Tomatoes
Here are my picks for the best tomato grow bags.
1. FineGearPow 5-Pack 5/7/10 Gallon Grow Bags – Best Cherry and Grape Tomato Grow Bag
FineGearPow 5-Pack 5/7/10 Gallon Grow Bags in ten gallons is what I would consider the minimum size grow bag for cherry and grape tomato plants. It is 13.8 inches in diameter by 15.8 inches deep. The depth is large enough to let the tomato plant roots expand and grow extensively. The sturdy handles are stitched well into the bag so they will not tear off. The bag is thick, breathable felt that can be used for many seasons. You get five bags with your purchase, so you will have plenty of tomatoes. These bags are biodegradable and are made in China. They are black.
FineGearPow does not seem to have a website, so I do not know much about the company.
If you are growing cherry or grape tomatoes, these bags should work. Larger tomatoes will not have enough room in them, however. I like that you get five of them for a modest price. I would use each bag once since you cannot really sterilize the bags after each use. However, if you do not have disease problems, you can wash the bags out and reuse them for several years. When they wear out, felt is biodegradable.
I wish these bags came in a lighter color. In the Texas heat, black bags heat up the soil so much that the soil dries out quickly. I end up watering the tomato plants twice a day. I have to move them to the shade in the worst of the heat to keep the roots from cooking. However, the felt is thick enough to partially insulate the roots so they may not get too hot.
I use the sturdy handles to tie down the pots, so they do not turn over in the wind or in a storm. Even cherry and grape tomato plants can get large enough to be top-heavy.
These pots are small enough to be hung by the handles and turned into hanging baskets. You can hand one over to the sink by the kitchen window. The sink will catch any water that falls out of the bag when you water it. The branches can trail over the side, so you will not need a trellis. Inside, the black bag will not heat up so much, so your roots will stay cooler.
- Right size for cherry/grape tomato plants
- Too small for full-size tomato plants
- Black heats up in the sun
Two Good Choices For Determinate Grow Bags
2. Gardzen 10-Pack 15 Gallon Grow Bags
Gardzen 10-Pack 15 Gallon Grow Bags are made of a BPA-free and AZO-free plastic nonwoven fiber material. The bags are 17.5″ in diameter and 14.5″ deep. They provide good drainage and aeration. These bags can be washed and reused for several seasons. You get ten for a very reasonable price. The handles are double stitched, so they won’t come off when you move the grow bag. The bags only come in black and are made in China. The bag folds flat for storage between uses.
Gardzen is a company of gardeners making products for gardeners.
These grow bags are deep enough for good roots to develop. Good roots lead to a good harvest. Because they are black, the bags will have to be watered frequently to keep the soil evenly moist. I consider plastic bags less environmentally friendly than cloth bags, but these do not have BPA or AZO in them, so you do not have to worry about forever chemicals leaching into your soil.
For determinate tomato plants, I would use the handles to anchor the grow bag, so it doesn’t turn over when the tomato plant gets big. There is room in this bag for a short trellis or tomato cage. I have found that tomatoes grow better and bear more when they are trellised.
The handles on this grow bag are sturdy and can be used to lift up or drag the bag to a new position. However, the grow bag will be heavy with all the soil and plant material, so it would be better to place the grow bag where you want it before filling it with soil and transplanting your tomato plant.
There is no way to sterilize these bags. You can wash them out before reusing them, however. I use the grow bags once so that I don’t start having disease problems. The great thing about containers is that you start off disease-free in the first season. If you do not have any disease problems, you can reuse the grow bags, but the longer you use them, the more you are likely to start having soil borne diseases in your tomato plants.
These bags are not biodegradable. When you are through with them, you can wash them and recycle them like a plastic bag. That will keep them out of a landfill. I prefer biodegradable bags, but they are not as strong as bags with non-woven fabric.
- Reasonably priced
- Good handles
- Big enough for determinate plants
- Black so will heat up
3. Growpropel 15 US Gallon 4 Pack Tall Grow Bags for Vegetables
Growpropel 15 US Gallon 4 Pack Tall Grow Bags for Vegetables are made of thick, 320 g of non-woven fabric that is BHA free. These bags are taller than most bags, so the roots have plenty of room to grow. They are 15.75 inches in diameter and 17.70 inches deep. The sturdy handles make moving the grow bag easy even when it is full of soil and plants. These grow bags can be used over and over again and won’t crack in the sun. The black bags are made in China. They are washable and fold flat when not in use. These bags have a 1-year warranty. Even though they are thick, the bags are lightweight.
Growpropel doesn’t have a website, so I don’t know anything about them.
These grow bags look a little different. They are cylindrical and look like a big soup pot. The extra height will make it easier for the roots to grow big and healthy. The bag is still permeable, so water will drain, and air will get in. The air will air prune the roots to make them branch out more and become more dense.
These grow bags are more expensive than some others. You only get four bags for the same price that most manufacturers give you ten. I think the extra depth makes them more expensive. I am not sure the bags are better enough to make up for the extra cost. I would be more likely to reuse these bags because they are more expensive.
These taller bags are more likely to catch the wind, so you will have to anchor them to keep them from turning over. The grow bag handles will work to anchor the bag to a railing or the ground.
Once again, these bags are black. I don’t know why all the grow bags are black, but in Texas, they absorb too much heat. I have to water them twice a day to keep the soil moist. In a colder climate, the black color may be an advantage because they keep the roots warm in cooler weather.
This bag can be used for growing other vegetables. In fact, it can be used to hold plants in water gardening. The bag will hold up well in rainy weather and not disintegrate from the rain.
- BHA free
- Deeper bags for better roots
- More expensive
- Black so will be hot and need more water
Two Good Choices For Indeterminate Grow Bags
4. LotFancy Grow Bags 20 Gallon
LotFancy Grow Bags 20 Gallon are made of 260 g of heavy-duty woven fabric and can stand up on their own. The bags are BPA-free and environmentally friendly. This felt bag has heavy-duty PP handles that are padded and reinforced, so you can move a full bag if you need to. The bag is moderately permeable, and air can penetrate the material. Any excess water will drain out, keeping your roots from rotting. The bags are 19.7” in diameter by 15.7” deep. These bags are washable and will fold flat for storage. The bags are black and are made in China.
LotFancy doesn’t seem to have a website. They are headquartered in California.
These grow bags are a good deal. They are strong and do not crack in the sun. I like that they stand up by themselves, which makes them so much easier to plant. I don’t have problems with the bag flopping over when I am trying to fill it with soil.
The handles for this bag are padded and really strong. They are double-stitched and won’t tear off when you move the bag, even when it is full. They are more comfortable than the handles on most grow bags. They are plenty strong to use to anchor the grow bag, so it won’t turn over when your tomato plant gets large.
These grow bags are squat and sturdy. They don’t catch the wind a lot. The indeterminate tomato plant will have plenty of room to continue to grow all season in these bags.
I consider these grow bags inexpensive. I got five bags for a moderate price. I can afford to use the bags once and then discard them. I know most people will reuse the bags season after season, and these bags should stand up to that. They are washable, so you can clean them between uses.
I like that these bags are BHA-free, so forever chemicals won’t leach into the soil around my tomatoes. I really want to have clean soil when growing food plants.
This grow bag has room for a trellis or tomato cage to contain the indeterminate tomato plant. It is important to trellis indeterminate plants to keep air circulation good and prevent diseases. It also keeps your tomatoes from getting on the ground and rotting. Be careful not to puncture the bag with the bottom of the trellis or tomato cage. Those spikes can be sharp.
- Padded, sturdy handles
- Black color
5. JERIA 12-Pack 30 Gallon, Vegetable/Flower/Plant Grow Bags
JERIA 12-Pack 30 Gallon, Vegetable/Flower/Plant Grow Bags is the biggest bag I recommend. It is more expensive, but you get twelve bags and twelve plant labels. I think the bags come out to about the same as the 20-gallon grow bags. These bags have a drainage hole in addition to the permeable fabric that allows the water to drain out to protect the roots from root rot. These bags are 23.6 in diameter and 15.8 inches deep. Your indeterminate tomato plant should have plenty of room for its roots even when it grows very large. The bags are black and keep the soil warmer in cold weather and cooler in warm weather.
Jeria offers good gardening products at a moderate cost. They want to let anyone garden, even if they don’t have room for an in-ground garden.
I like that these bags are inexpensive. The handles are X shape stitched so they won’t come off. You can use them to move the bag or anchor it, so the bag doesn’t turn over when the plant gets big. The diameter of the bag is large, and I can get a heavy-duty tomato cage in the bag to support my tomato plant.
These grow bags are thinner than some of the more heavy-duty bags. This means they will wear out sooner. The bags are rated for indoor or outdoor use.
These bags are very heavy when they have soil in them. Make sure you fill them with soil when they are standing where you want them. It will be hard to move them after the soil and plants are in the grow bags. Make sure that you do not overload a balcony or elevated porch with too many grow bags full of heavy soil, or you can cause your balcony to fall.
The drainage hole in these bags helps make sure water travels throughout the soil in the bag. Water the bag until water comes out of the drainage hole when you water your tomato plant.
The plant labels included are handy to label your tomato plants, so you know what variety there is in each pot. This can be important if you have more success with one plant over another and want to know what to grow next year. You don’t want to forget what kind of tomato you planted.
- Large size good for large plants
- Free plant labels
- Thinner than some grow bags
Care Tips For Growing Tomato Plants In Grow Bags
Here are some tips on using grow bags to grow tomatoes.
- Use a soilless potting mixture intended for large containers. Garden soil will become too compacted.
- Fill the grow bag with the potting mixture and leave a two-inch lip on the bag. This gives the water somewhere to pool while it soaks in.
- An inexpensive moisture meter can help you make sure the soil stays evenly moist. Fluctuations in soil moisture can cause blossom end rot.
- Water as often as you need to so the soil doesn’t dry out. Bigger grow bags won’t need to be watered as much as smaller grow bags.
- Use fresh potting soil each season. It will cut down on diseases and keep the soil from getting too compacted.
Grow bags are a good solution to growing tomatoes if you do not have a yard. They will work on a patio or balcony. My pick for a grow bag for cherry or grape tomatoes is FineGearPow 5-Pack 5/7/10 Gallon Grow Bags in the ten-gallon size. Gardzen 10-Pack 15 Gallon Grow Bags and Growpropel 15 US Gallon 4 Pack Tall Grow Bags for Vegetables are good choices for determinate tomato plants. Two good choices for indeterminate tomato plants are LotFancy Grow Bags 20 Gallon and JERIA 12-Pack 30 Gallon, Vegetable/Flower/Plant Grow Bags.