Smart pot big bag bed

Container & Raised Bed Gardening

I’ve been gardening most of my life, well over fifty years, and about 12 years ago I started growing way more plants in containers then ever before. My driveway was the only spot that received lots of sun so that’s where I placed them. At one point I had approximately 150 large pots there, so many that I had to park my cars on the street. Hurricane “Sandy” solved my shade problem and opened up my back yard to the sun and I relocated my container garden to a nice, sunny, 30 x 15 foot plot.

About six years ago I added a number of raised beds to my container garden. From my viewpoint raised beds qualify as containers – only larger ones.

Over the years, container/raised bed gardening has become very popular and with good reasons. Many books and on-line articles have been written on the subject so all I will say is they are great where space is an issue. They can be located wherever one wants and they conveniently grow wonderful plants.

Containers and raised beds come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors and materials and I’ve tried many of them. Years ago, I settled on using “Smart Pots” and “Big Bag Beds”. Both of these containers are made of the same, porous, durable fabric. The only differences between the two are the sizes and shapes. “Smart Pots” are simply as the name states “pots”, sometimes called grow bags and “Big Bag Beds” are the brand’s version of raised beds. What’s great about the “Big Bag Beds” is that they require no construction, you just unfold them, fill with planting media and plant.

I have a number of the same containers that I’ve been using for 12 years and they are in perfect shape. I leave them out year round and ice and snow doesn’t bother them at all. They don’t break or fall apart after a tough winter. I’ve also found that their physics, the way water and air move through these containers, is so much better than hard-sided pots. Drainage isn’t an issue, they stay cooler in the summer and they air-root prune encouraging plants to develop more efficient root systems. All of this is due to the porous fabric.

to see a video about Smart Pots.

Smart Pots are available at Hicks Nurseries.

Written by guest blogger Marty Gottlieb, Smart Pots

Big Bag Bed: Product Review

The bed comes folded in in a cardboard sleeve. Photo courtesy of the manufacturer.Raised beds can be a wonderful addition to a garden, particularly when you’re looking at poor or rocky soil that doesn’t seem to support much in the way of plant life. But putting in a raised bed can be hard work involving carpentry skills, masonry, or heavy lifting.

So why not try something a little different? Like a fabric raised bed…

The Big Bag Bed is basically a large bag with a flat bottom made out of geotextile (you’ll often see it used as landscape fabric). Created by High Caliper Growing, the makers of Smart Pots, it’s intended for use as a container garden on any flat surface.

Related Review: Compost Sak (great for composting but you can also use it as a planter)

Assembling the Big Bag Bed

If you can put a fitted sheet onto a bed inside your home, you can use the Big Bag Bed out in your yard. Take it out of the cardboard sleeve it comes in, unfold it, and get ready to fill it.

Like a fitted sheet, the bag bed is made out of fibers. The difference is in the type of fibers; the Big Bag Bed is manufactured out of a custom, non-woven, geotextile material, rather than woven strands of cotton.

In Quebec, Canada I visited a rooftop garden that used the bag beds because they could easily be emptied and folded for winter storage.

Placement is Important

The Original Big Bag Bed is, well, big. Once unfolded in my yard it was bigger than I thought even though I had seen them in use on a rooftop garden in Quebec City, Canada.

The size was a problem for me because we live on a slope and finding a level area to lay the Big Bed out on was a challenge. I had to level a space for it. If you have a flat yard this should not be a problem.

Be sure you have the bed where you want it, because once it is full of soil you will not be able to easily move it. (It’s like a water bed that way.)

The bed has ample growing space for a large garden. Here I am not using it to it’s full potential.

Filling the Big Bag Bed

The manufacturer states right on the package the actual size, telling us that the bed is approximately 100 gallons and holds 13.7 cubic feet of mix. I had no clear idea of what that meant, and toddled off to the nursery to buy mix, forgetting to write down the the number of cubic feet needed. Two bags of container blend were a nice start, but it needed another trip to the store for two more – a total of four big bags of potting soil.

The fabric is stiff enough to hold it’s shape as long as it has enough soil in it.

Using the Bed

The Bag Bed works well for the Southwestern winter garden. I had arugula, sorrel, scallions, and a winter greens mix, all densely planted and growing quite well.

Then one night I heard a noise in the yard. A herd of javalina were positively delighted with my garden. I saw three of those critters in the Bag Bed fighting each other over the salad bar. I chased them away and the bed suffered no major harm, which is more than I can say for the two ceramic pots of kale they knocked over and broke in their nocturnal jaunt. If the Big Bag Bed is tough enough to withstand an onslaught of javelina, it can probably stand up to anything you can throw at it.

Javalina weigh around 75 pounds each and three of them dancing in the bed did not harm it.

Size Matters

The Bag Bed is available in three sizes; Original (50 inches in diameter), Junior (36 inches across) and Mini (24 inches in diameter). The Original and Junior are 12 inches tall, the Mini only 8 inches.

If I had it to do over again, I would opt for a Junior. Why? Well, I’m getting older and less flexible, and the center of the bed was just a tad out of easy reach. Also, a Junior should grow enough for our empty nest household.

It was a tad difficult for an aging back to reach for the center of the bed to harvest.

Additional Comments

It’s important to remember that fiber is porous. Moisture will weep out the sides of the Big Bag Bed and when you water it you’ll find that water seeps out the bottom.

In a humid environment, this could mean moss and liverworts might grow on the outside. Here in the Southwest it means that the calcium in the water will leach out the sides. Calcium leaching happens with ceramic posts as well, but if you are a neat freak this may bother you.

In the six months I used the Big Bag Bed the leaching was very little, but after two years it will be quite noticeable. Either way, these are surface issues and do not harm the plants inside the bed.

The porous fabric of the bag bed offers a foothold for moss in a humid environment.

The porous fabric of the bag bed will show a calcium build up over time from the water in the arid Southwest.

Calcium build-up is a common issue with hard water, even ceramic pots suffer.


The bag bed is ideal for the gardener that has poor growing conditions, such as clay or rocky soils, or a sloped yard.

like this raised planter, and I intend to continue using it – with a “but.”

Here in the arid Southwest my plants have issues growing in fabric containers in the heat of summer. The sides of the containers are black and get too hot, plus the fabric allows the moisture in the soil to evaporate too quickly in our single digit humidity.

That said, this is a dandy container for the winter garden in hot climates – from October to April. The vegetables we grow in the winter garden are primarily the shallow rooted leafy greens, just fine for the shallow bag bed. In the northern states and Canada they only use the bag beds in summer so I guess it balances out.

Editor’s Note: I’ve used the Big Bag Bed for several years in Connecticut where I left it outside during the winter filled with potting mix that froze solid. It was no worse for wear the next spring.

Where to Buy It

You can buy the Big Bag Bed directly from the manufacturer where the Original (large) Big Bag Bed is $39.95 plus shipping, the Junior is $24.95 (Big Bag Bed Junior also available at Gardener’s Supply for the same amount) and the Mini is $14.95. It’s also available in many neighborhood hardware stores and you can find it for about $2 less on Amazon.

You can also get the Big Bag Bed in a fun purple color for roughly 10 dollars more.

One thing you can’t have with the fabric sides are pot rim buddies.

And now over to you – Have you tried a raised outdoor planter? How did it work? Let us know in the comments below!

And if you liked this review, please sign up for our weekly newsletter with reviews and helpful articles.

Disclaimer – GPReview would like to thank High Caliper Growing for giving us a free Big Bag Bed to review. There was no expectation that it would be a positive review and we received no compensation for writing it. All opinions expressed here are those of the author based on personal experience using the product.

Please note that the Amazon links (and only the Amazon links) above are affiliate links. Should you choose to purchase products through these links, GPReview will make a small commission (at no extra cost to you) that helps to support this website and our gardening product reviews. Thank you!

Other Container Reviews


Enjoyed This Review?

If you liked this review, please sign up for our email updates with reviews, how-to articles and gardening videos!

Yes, I Want Reviews & Gardening Tips!

The Smart Pots big bag bed is a quality raised garden bed. It gives you the benefits of a smart pot in a raised garden bed. The smart pots big bag bed is waterproof and does not require tedious installation; it covers about 13.5 square feet of gardening space. It is very inexpensive, is reusable and can last for 3 – 5 years.

Moreover, the smart pots big bag bed warms up very quickly in the Spring releases excess gas in the Summer and offers drainage all year round. It is constructed from the same porous fabric as the smart pots. This porous material dissipates excess heat and makes excess water to evaporate. The porous fabric also has the ability to air prune roots thereby enhancing the plants’ ability to develop strong and healthy roots. It has dimensions such as 50″ W x 12″ H and it has a 100-gallon capacity.

Smart Pots Big Bag Bed Features:

  • Easy to set up: just unfold, fill and grow
  • 13.5 feet of growing space is enough to plant a small vegetable, flower or herb garden
  • Warms quickly in the spring, releases excess heat in the summer, and provides excellent drainage for healthy plants
  • Provides aeration, air pruning roots for vigorous root systems
  • 50 inches wide x 12 inches tall, providing 13.5 square feet of growing area

Smart Pots Big Bag Bed Reviews:

The Smart Pots Big Bag Bed is a garden bed that is very easy to setup. You just unfold it, fill with soil and plant. It provides all the benefits of a Smart Pot in a raised garden bed. It is a weatherproof bed and folds out to offer 13.5 square feet of gardening space which lasts for 3 – 5 years. It quickly warms up in the Spring, releases excessive heat in the Summer, and provides drainage during the entire year. It also has the ability to air prune roots while protecting plants from underground pests like gophers and moles. Its dimensions are 50″ W x 12″ H and it has a 100-gallon capacity.

The Smart Pots big bag bed is a good and very easy garden bed to set up and grow your plants. If you are looking for a raised garden bed, I strongly recommend you consider it.

Anyone Can Have a Raised Bed Garden with a Big Bag Bed Jr.

Wishing you could grow your garden in raised beds, but don’t have the space or enough time? Whether you’re a newbie gardener, an old pro or a master gardener, there’s a perfect solution for a beautiful, varied and thoughtful garden that’s so simple it’s hard to believe – a Big Bag Bed Jr.

Unlike standard container gardening, large fabric, aerated raised beds are the answer for gardeners who want lush, productive gardens but don’t want the daunting project of building raised beds. Perfect for small or large spaces, non-BPA fabric beds will change your opinion of container gardening.

Meeting the special needs of your plants

In addition to your loving care, every plant in your garden has specific needs. When planning it out, you have to make a lot of decisions, right? Plants need:

  • Good drainage and enough soil depth to form strong, healthy roots.
  • Distance from plants that aren’t complementary – and room to grow next to amenable companions. Think tomatoes and basil!
  • A location that will provide just enough light or shade for each plant to thrive.
  • A soil mixture that will support and encourage each kind of plant.

With portable fabric beds, you can easily meet each of these demands without the expense and hard work of building raised beds. But, to be fair, let’s talk about what wood-constructed raised beds require.

The challenges of raised beds

Building raised beds is labor-intensive and expensive. Using pre-treated lumber can leach harmful chemicals into your soil and plant roots. But another consideration is that they’re fairly limited in terms of placement and functionality.

  • First, they need committed space, since you won’t want to move them anytime soon.
  • They need enough soil depth for your plants’ roots to comfortably grow strong.
  • They need proper drainage.
  • They require a perfect location to meet the sunlight needs of each specific crop.
  • They need heavy lumber, a ton of soil and construction skills.
  • And, sometimes you just want to have your plantings a little closer in – like an herb bed near your kitchen door, a rush of fragrant flowers on the deck or balcony, or a lemon tree on the patio…

Using fabric raised beds for the garden you really want

Fabric growing planters are stable, lightweight and versatile. They’ve set a new standard in gardening because, when you can place your plants in precise locations, it’s easier to give them the care they need. The depth of these large bags allows deep-growing roots to mature and thrive. Since you can choose a perfect soil mixture for each type of planting, aerated fabric planters can accommodate a prolific garden yield.

Our current favorite for large container gardening is Big Bag Bed Jr. from Smart Pots. They last for years and come in three sizes, up to 13 square feet of garden space. Fabric containers are easy to manage, situate, fill, empty and store. And here’s a surprise – the Big Bag Bed even comes in purple!

What to do with the bags after harvest?

After your successful growing season, empty the bags, fold them up flat and store them away for next spring. It’s that simple. You can amend your ground soil with the used potted soil or, if you’re a year-round gardener, go ahead and plant some winter vegetables. They’re weatherproof!

Dreaming about raised bed gardening? Now you can turn those dreams into reality. Anyone can have a raised bed garden with a Big Bag Bed Jr.

The above article was sponsored by Smart Pot. The information contained in this article may contain ads or advertorial opinions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *