Living in an apartment building unfortunately means that there are limited gardening options. On our balcony we use regular-sized plant pots for things like herbs, but it is hard to grow plants that require a lot of soil. Last year I wanted to grow okras (which require just that), so I decided to find a solution. One possible way of solving this is to buy very large pots, but I find these to be difficult to store when they are not in use. Large pots can be expensive as well.
A better option, in my opinion, is to use grow bags. Grow bags are bags that are filled with growing medium and used for growing plants. They contain a large volume of soil and are a great way to grow things like potatoes, tomatoes, okras, etc. In addition to that they also have the benefit of being able to be folded and stored when not in use. Because we still had some old IKEA bags I decided to upcycle those into grow bags. It is hard for me to skip an opportunity to both save money and save the planet at the same time.
The DIY grow bags are relatively easy to make. At the bottom of the FRAKTA bags drainage holes are created. The drainage holes allow excess water to drain from the soil and the roots to get sufficient oxygen. Without the added the holes the FRAKTA bags themselves do not have enough drainage capabilities. Without enough drainage the plants risk being over-watered and ultimately end up with root rot.
I used the large variant of the FRAKTA bags. The downside of using the large bags instead of the medium size bags is that the large bags sag under the weight of the high volume of soil. To combat this I made a frame that supports the outer walls of the bag. This process is described in part 2 of this article series. This step is not strictly necessary and can also be solved differently. For example with a simple strap tied around the grow bag.
To help you grow your own plants on the balcony, I have described below how to make the DIY grow bags, as well as the materials and tools that are required for the project.
I used the large IKEA FRAKTA bag, but the medium size should work well too. For the mesh I used standard window screen mesh. The sewing thread I recommend is polyester thread. It is more resistant against the weather and UV rays from the sun than ordinary cotton thread.
After adding the soil, the vegetables, fruits or even herbs of your choice can be planted. This upcycled grow bag is a great fit for potatoes, carrots, tomato or okra plants.
Because the large FRAKTA bag sagged a bit I decided to make a frame to support the bag. The advantages of the frame are that it not only keeps all soil in place over time, but it also restricts the dimensions of the bag along the length and width. This means the same volume of soil will have more height and thus plants with a deeper root structure can be planted. This was ideal for my purpose, okras, which have a deep taproot. In part 2 I continue this project with the building of the frame.
If you liked reading this article or have any questions about this project then feel free to leave a comment or check out some of my other projects linked on the all projects page.
Last update on 2019-11-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Affiliate Disclosure