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Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

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Grow Bag Watering

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Grow Bag Watering Empty Grow Bag Watering

Post  Frank207 3/22/2022, 4:05 pm

I plan to use a number of grow bags this season for the first time and I'm looking for the best way to water the plants.  As i understand it, it's best to water plants from the bottom.  Based on this, I was wondering if I can use saucers/pans under the grow bags and water them that way assuming i use something sufficiently deep enough to hold at least a days worth of water?  I plan on using 5 & 10 gallon bags and a few walmart bags.
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Post  Soose 3/22/2022, 5:17 pm

Plant Abundance channel on Youtube is using grow bags out of "sand bags" (like feed bags) and he bottom waters them
by setting the bags down in a homemade wicking container, which he made out of a cardboard box and a contractor's
garbage bag.  He even creates the overflow hole and waterproofs it. The overflow can be adjusted so that the bags
wouldn't stand in water. Or only as much water as you want.  At 7 seconds in you can see the results.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ff3803qInY

He has a lot of projects where he creates containers really inexpensively to help people get started with less up front investment.
Like creating your bed edges out of cardboard wrapped with chicken wire. Or T-posts and chicken wire.
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Post  sanderson 3/25/2022, 3:56 am

Frank, Will you be building SFG beds, also?

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Post  Frank207 3/25/2022, 3:45 pm

I built a 3x5 raised bed last year but  I'm not planning on building any this year. The only area that gets enough sun is hilly and digging to level off is not going to work for me.  My DW has all the good spots taken, I can't complain this is only my 2nd year gardening and last year I didn't start until July 29th,  so I figured this year I would try grow bags. I'm trying to insert a pic of my raised bed I hope it works.
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Post  sanderson 3/29/2022, 3:52 am

Frank, Have you considered using 5-gallon buckets? Each one is equivalent to a 1 sq ft with 6" of Mel's Mix if you fill the buckets up to the lower reinforcing ring. Anything that can be grown in 1 sq ft of the raised bed can be grown in a bucket. It may even be reasonably easy to notch out a little level spot in the hillside for each bucket. A bucket brigade!


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Post  sanderson 3/29/2022, 3:56 am

Frank, I should have mentioned that I tried "watering from the bottom" in a sense as I had saucers under large pots. All I did was create septic Mel's Mix in the bottom of the pots and breed mosquitoes!! Shocked

With SFG, we water from the top and let any excess drain away at the bottom. I know some folks have the fancier, more intricate wicking set ups, but I'm guessing 99% of us don't.

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Post  Soose 3/29/2022, 7:00 am

Frank, I should have added to my post (previous in the thread) that I am an inexperienced and previously failed gardener. You just reminded me of the video I had seen. So I offered it. Better listen to the experienced gardeners.

My son is trying to use grow bags (actually feed bags) for potatoes this year. It was just too expensive to buy as many tubs or buckets as he needed. We are considering each bag as a sq ft and setting them in a grid.

So we have the same issue there as you... Whether to bottom water the grow bags. We are planning to set the grow bags into an outer tub. So we could bottom water. Easier than a drip line or hand watering.

For our other new Sq Ft garden beds, we will make them self wicking, with a closed water reservoir on bottom. We have had good luck with our wicking tubs. (18gal bins, constructed like Earth Boxes.) No mosquitoes can get in. I guess the barrier between the bottom of the soil and water reservoir keeps those from going anaerobic?

We were going to put the potato bags set right down into the tub and just water them above. So they won't set in water long?

We'll have to be careful. Sanderson, thanks for the warning. Sure hope he doesn't have problems.
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Post  OhioGardener 3/29/2022, 9:38 am

One thing to keep in mind regarding bottom watering is that soilless mixtures, such as Mel's Mix, have a considerable amount of peat in it.  One of the reasons for frequent watering of these soilless mixtures is to keep the peat hydrated. If peat dries out it tends to repel water. In fact, dry peat would rather float on water than to soak it up. Bottom watering can result in peat near the top becoming very dry and not able to soak up the water - the bottom standing in water, and top completely dry. It is important to test the soil moisture near the top to ensure plants are getting the moisture they need.

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Post  Soose 3/29/2022, 10:26 am

Ty Sanderson.  Learning.  Wondering if I should get a moisture meter.
Need to look at compost thermometers.

And really want a tumbling composter.

There's still the option of not using MM in my son's potato grow bags.
I'll read this to him.
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Post  Frank207 3/29/2022, 2:47 pm

Thank you everyone for your input and I did not know about the hydration issue with Peat, thanks OhioGardener.  Sanderson, thank you for the link to post pics and I'm going to try again and yes I used 5 gal. buckets last year but people on the internet using grow bags say they are better so I'll give them a try.  I just have to figure how to water them.  If things go according to my plan I should have about 40 grow bags to maintain.  Soose, I'd be interested in seeing a pic of your wicking tubs. Will you be using grow bags?

I finally got the pics in and I will probably construct something on the left side of the raised bed like I did on the right side.  Lay down some cinder blocks and level some 2x4's across and put the grow bags/planters on top of the 2x4's.   I'll still have to rig some sort of trellis system for the tomatoes.

[img]https://i.servimg.com/u/f12/20/41/58/01/img

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Post  Soose 3/29/2022, 3:41 pm

Ah, ty about the peat from me as well, Ohiogardener.  I will confer with my son, and let him make choices on MM and or whatever for potatoes.  I have some sweet potato slips...  But potatoes are his.

Frank, I am out of pocket but if you look for a Soose from North Alabama thread you might see pics.  Essentially we are creating Earth Box look alikes on steroids.  (Not good at watering, like the assurance that wicking beds give me. I am not yet skilled at juggling gardening tasks. And it gets hot here. )

But I really don't want to over water, either.

Sq ft gardening has always made sense to me.  I was torn all sorts of ways until I sat back down and read my copy of the original book.  

Wicking beds do need top watering until the roots get established, a couple of weeks. I read that.
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Post  sanderson 3/29/2022, 5:48 pm

Frank, I'm wondering why you are not going with 2 pieces of wood cut in half and screwed together, and lined with weed fabric. That would give you 16 sq ft. thinking All this work and expensive of containers. The plants still need to be watered one way or the other.

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Post  Frank207 3/30/2022, 2:46 pm

Sanderson, I agree making the SFG out of wood  would be the easier way to go, but the area that gets the sun all day is hilly and not really diggable particularly at my age and back.
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Post  sanderson 3/30/2022, 5:55 pm

Totally understand about age and back. That's why my beds are up in the air.

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