Garden & Greenhouse


Garden & Greenhouse Cover Story – Air-Pot®

Posted January 11th, 2017 by Eric Hopper in

One of the biggest advantages of hydroponic gardening is the increased air (oxygen) to the plant’s root mass. Accelerated growth rates and larger yields are usually associated with crops whose roots receive increased oxygen levels. What if I told you that increased growth rates and a vibrant root system can be obtained in a planting container just as easily as in a hydroponic system?

During the last twenty years the Air-Pot System® has revolutionized planting containers and the way plants are grown. The design of the Air-Pot® is constantly being upgraded and improved to meet the demands of horticulturists across the globe. The current design is the sixth generation. Made in Scotland out of 100% recycled plastics, the Air-Pot System® is built to last, even under harsh conditions and years of intense sunlight. So what makes growing in an Air-Pot® so special? The main benefits of the Air-Pot System®’s unique design are increased oxygen levels to the roots and the growing medium.

Beneficial Microorganisms

Beneficial microorganisms in the soil are the foundation for nutrient uptake. When the soil is healthy and has a bountiful microorganism population, more nutrients are available to the plant for absorption. Along with the organic material in the soil and the sugars secreted from the roots, most beneficial microorganisms need oxygen to survive and thrive. Beneficial bacteria and fungi will establish and reproduce more quickly when in an oxygen-rich environment.

The largest advantage of a healthy population of beneficial microorganisms is the increased availability of nutrients to the plants. Plants that can easily access nutrients will have increased growth rates and, eventually, larger yields. The Air-Pot System® is the best way for container gardeners to maximize oxygen in the medium and, in turn, stimulate the growth of the beneficial microorganisms contained within.

Air Pruning

The biggest difference between traditional planting containers and the Air-Pot System® can be observed in the way the roots grow within the container. In a typical planting container, the tap root grows down until it reaches the bottom of the container. After reaching the bottom of the container, the root turns and turns, until a mess of circular roots make up the majority of the plant’s root system. In the Air-Pot System®, the root structure develops quite differently. First, the tap root develops and reaches downward. Once the tap root reaches the base of the Air-Pot®, it touches air which causes the root tip to dehydrate. The dehydrated root tip becomes “air pruned” which stimulates the formation of a series of lateral branching roots. Each of the new lateral root tips is guided by the Air-Pot®’s proprietary design to an air hole where the tip is air pruned and more lateral root branching is stimulated. This process is repeated over and over again until the planting container is full of healthy, fibrous, outward-facing roots.

This type of root structure is not only more suitable for transplanting, but is also more effective at nutrient uptake. A healthy, outward-branching root structure is able to uptake more nutrients and water which equates to faster, more vigorous growth. A fibrous, radial root structure also means stronger structural integrity for the entire plant, allowing the plant to support larger fruits and flowers.

How to Use an Air-Pot®

After following the simple instructions for assembling the Air-Pot®, it can be put to use in the garden. Unlike traditional planting containers where the medium needs to have an abundance of perlite or other aeration additives, the medium used in an Air-Pot® can contain a higher ratio of compost. More compost in the medium means more nutrients for the plant.

Lack of aeration and poor drainage are the biggest problems when using a compost-rich medium in traditional potting containers. These problems simply do not exist in an Air-Pot System®. In fact, the increased oxygenation associated with an Air-Pot System® means the medium can be rich in compost and even compacted into the containers without becoming anaerobic (depleted of oxygen). Again, more compost in the medium means more nutrients for the plants. Watering a plant in an Air-Pot® is a little different than watering plants in traditional potting containers. The increased amount of oxygen in the medium combined with the abundance of new lateral roots may mean plants grown in an Air-Pot® will require more frequent waterings and feedings.

Managing this increased demand is fundamental to the success of the Air-Pot System®. Ideally, plants in Air-Pot® containers would be set up on an automated watering system, like a drip irrigation system. This is the method preferred by professionals who use the Air-Pot®. However, hand watering can be equally effective. There is actually an area at the top of the Air-Pot® without holes which can form a water reservoir. In other words, the water won’t pour out of the sides of the container as soon as it is hand watered. Regardless of whether the Air-Pot System® is hand watered or automated, the increased oxygen in the root zone will accelerate growth rates and increase populations of vital beneficial microorganisms.

Air-Pot® for Nurseries and Commercial Applications

The Air-Pot® is not just for indoor horticulturists and home greenhouse growers it is also used by nurseries and commercial growers. In fact, only trees grown in Air-Pot® containers were used in the landscaping of London’s Olympic Park. Over three thousand species of plants are now grown in Air-Pot® containers at The Royal Botanical Gardens Kew. The Air-Pot System® is also relied on by the world’s leading horticultural institutions for their programs of research and conservation.

In some cases, a simple solution to a problem can offer a wide variety of benefits. This is exactly what happened when the Air-Pot® was developed. Roots grown in traditional potting containers end up as circular masses of semi-healthy roots; after many years of research and development, the Air-Pot® was designed to correct this seemingly simple problem. The Air-Pot®’s specialized cones and holes provide an oxygen-rich environment for roots to air prune and naturally explode in lateral root growth.

The difference between a plant’s roots grown in a traditional container and plant’s roots grown in an Air-Pot® container are astonishing. The mass of healthy, fibrous roots created by an Air-Pot® container means increased access to water and nutrients for the plant. If a plant has increased access to water and nutrients, it grows faster and is stronger. The Air-Pot® stimulates lateral root growth and creates a better environment for establishing and maintaining a healthy population of beneficial microorganisms. It is the combination of air pruning and increased oxygen for beneficial microorganisms which truly puts the Air-Pot® at the top of planting containers.

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