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Member Name: sandemp
Wilkinsons Herb Grow Bag
Advantages: Makes maximum use of small space (even a balcony), can be reused year after year.
Disadvantages: Little heavy when full
In the Sandemp household we love our freshly cooked meals, but we don't like adding salt to our food, so we use lots of fresh herbs to add flavour. Although it's perfectly feasible to buy those little pots of herbs in the supermarket, I find that these quickly wilt and I can never find the more unusual varieties. So instead of buying in herbs I grow them myself and to save space I use a Wilkinsons Herb Grow bag, that cost me a very reasonable £3.28. This 45l reusable grow bag is made of a fairly thick, green, plastic tarpaulin material and features a total of eight pockets for planting herbs in along with the top. This means that it makes the ultimate use of what is, in reality a very small amount of space (40cm diameter and 40cm height, approx). I wouldn't say that the bag looks particularly attractive, but at the same time it doesn't look ugly and when filled with herbs it does transform into a feature that doesn't look out of place by a door.
When first removed from the packaging the herb bag needs to be shaken open and although it does have a number of drainage holes, it's best to add something to the bottom to further prevent water-logging. In my case I put some broken pieces of polystyrene at the bottom so as to reduce weight, but you could equally use stones or broken pots. After adding the drainage, compost also needs to be added and I really would recommend initially only half filling the bag and then planting herbs in each of the four lower pockets, as it is rather difficult to plant them when the bag is full. Personally I would also recommend mixing some sort of slow release plant food and water retention crystals into the compost as it becomes difficult to add food that will reach the lower plants once the planter is filled. After filling the lower pouches, you can then add compost almost to the top of the bag and fill the upper level of four pouches before finally planting the top of the bag. When it comes to watering the herbs within the bag, I do find that I need to use quite a lot of water for it to reach the lower plants and that the best way is to thoroughly soak the top, wait ten minutes or so and then add some more water.
I would recommend filling the bag in-situ, although there are a pair of handles, when filled the bag is comparatively heavy and the weight of 40+ litres of compost does put quite a strain on them. If you do need to carry the bag (for example to protect your herbs from a sharp frost), I would definitely recommend supporting the bottom as when I attempted to lift from the handles it made a rather ominous noise as if the handles were about to rip off. Of course the fact that you can move the bag under cover if cold weather is forecast is just one of the many advantages of using a herb bag over simply planting in the garden bed and means that you can grow some of the less hardy herbs. Another advantage is that you can contain those herbs that are prodigious spreaders such as mints, in fact I've just bought a second bag solely for growing various varieties of mint. Yet another advantage is that you can place the bag right next to an exterior door and so easily pick herbs to add flavour to almost any meal.
I think these herb bags are a fantastic buy and love the way they allow me to make the most of such a small space. They are durable enough to last for a number of years (mine is in it's second year) and allow me to grow a variety of the more unusual herbs. As well as herbs the bags are also perfectly suited to growing strawberries (Wilkinsons do sell a strawberry bag as well), and I actually have a mix of herbs and strawberries in one of my bags. In fact I have two alpine strawberry plants, a curry plant, variegated sage, lemon thyme, variegated lemon balm, variegated marjoram, pine thyme, garlic chives and Corsican mint in my original bag and not only does it provide me with lots of different flavours to add to my food, but it also makes a lovely displayed with all the yellow/green leaves and various flowers. If it wasn't for this bag I wouldn't be able to grow half as many herbs and wouldn't get the pleasure of simply running my hand over one of the plants to release their scent as I walk past my front door.
So the ultimate question is whether or not I would recommend these bags and the answer is a resounding yes, otherwise I wouldn't have bought another for myself. The whole range of Wilkinsons reusable grow bags is an affordable way of making the most of any spare space in the garden and they are all well made and able to survive several years use. So I would recommend this bag to anyone that uses herbs in their cooking, has a suitable place to put it (doorstep/patio,/path/ balcony with natural light) and would like to be able to grow their own herbs (which have far more flavour than the mass produced pots you can get in a supermarket), whether those herbs be of the common or more unusual varieties.
Summary: A great way to grow a multitude of herbs in a small space
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