Choosing a planting container for outdoor gardening is a decision that will have a direct impact on the yield and quality of the finished crop. After all, the plant’s root mass will be housed within that container and the roots are a plant’s direct connection to water and nutrients. Without a flourishing root system, a plant will never live up to its potential. Many outdoor gardeners are starting to realize the vast benefits of quality fabric containers for outdoor cultivation. The biggest advantage of fabric containers is a healthier root structure. A healthy root structure equates to healthier growth and more abundant yields. Fabric containers, like Smart Pot, create a healthier root structure because of the increased aeration created by a permeable, fabric material. Seasoned gardeners understand that a well aerated root zone will stimulate growth and increase plant health. Aside from the general benefits of an aerated medium, using Smart Pots for outdoor crops offers other distinct advantages.
Unlike plastic containers, which are notorious for trapping and holding heat, fabric containers offer a heightened “breathability” that allows the heat to escape easily. Heat trapped around the root zone can create a perfect breeding ground for pathogens and may end up being catastrophic for the plants. A fabric container, like a Smart Pot, has increased aeration and will actually allow evaporative cooling to occur within the container. This creates a more uniform soil temperature (regardless of the side of the container facing the sun) throughout the entire container. Plastic containers will develop a “hot spot” on the side of the container which faces the sun. The hot spot on a plastic container can create a temperature that is too warm for any root growth to occur. When temperatures are too high around the root zone, the plant will slow its growth or stop altogether. A fabric planting container’s ability to release heat allows plants to continually develop healthy root growth, even on hot summer days.
Air Pruning and Lateral Root Growth
Perhaps the most significant advantage of a fabric pot is the way it alters root growth. In a plastic container, roots will grow out until they reach the side of the container. After hitting the side of the container, the root will follow the wall around and around. This creates a ball of circled roots. Any gardener who has transplanted from a plastic container has seen the evidence of the circling roots. The roots of plants grown in fabric containers do not circle but instead get “air pruned.” When the root reaches the side of a fabric container, the root tip stops growing and the root develops a series of lateral roots. The roots created by air pruning are extremely fibrous and increase the root’s surface contact area. Plants with vibrant, fibrous roots will grow strong, healthy plants which produce prolific yields.
Outdoor growers are always looking for ways to increase crop production. Smart Pots are high quality fabric containers that offer many significant advantages to outdoor horticulturists. The unique aeration qualities provided by a fabric planting container create a root mass unmatched by any plastic container. Heathy roots are the key to a productive garden. Outdoor growers looking to increase root health and, in turn, the garden’s production can visit SmartPots.com for more information on Smart Pot fabric planting containers.
What is Wrong With Transplanting
I hear a lot of indoor and container gardeners speaking about how transplanting is bad, and that you want to minimize it. They also complain that it damages and stresses the root zone and causes the plant react poorly and be sad
None of Us Want Sad Plants
Mangling and abusing the root zone it is not a good idea – trauma is not good for anyone or their plants. I don’t care what they say about “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” it isn’t accurate, because a maiming is not something that any plant wants, and it’s not the way to help a plant thrive.
Transplanting is Different
Transplanting is a form of plant management that considers the optimal and most efficient environment for a plant’s root zone at any stage of growth. Transplanting is:
- A way of controlling growth
- A way to reduce costs
- A way to reduce problems caused by environmental excesses
In the root’s environment, an excess of moisture and the absence of oxygen will have an effect on the susceptibility of a plant to pathogens.
When you are container gardening and growing indoors start small with your plants because small works in almost every situation. In a small container, the roots can grow into it without stagnant pockets where no uptake occurs. Let the plant grow into its container, and then give it some time. At each interval, when the roots have filled in, give it a bit more room and energy by transplanting.
A good rule of thumb I learned from a mentor is to double the container size every couple of weeks. You can modify that schedule, if needed, to control the growth – hold it longer and keep it from exploding, in the right conditions it will thank you. Plus, smaller pots mean we use less water, fewer nutrients and lower costs.
If you follow this process you can keep the substrate moist and the roots can handle it. If a container that is too large is used for a root mass that is too small, over-watering can cause death or stagnation. When this happens the plants suffer and a grower only wastes money and time.
At each transplant interval, give the plant what it needs and when it is time to move the plant do it gently. This process can be made easier by using containers that facilitate easy removal – graduated and conical shapes are best. Start by massaging and whacking the outside of the pot to break off the limpet-like roots, and then hold the soil with the stalk as you remove the old pot. The plant will barely notice.
Emulating nature is great, but urban gardeners do not have the luxury of sunlight in the best latitudes, constant fresh air and water, microbial and fungal networks, thriving ecosystems of predators and prey, etc. it just isn’t available in a contained setting. But you do have the ability to coax plants into their optimal states in indoor and container gardens. With the right conditions and proper care there is some certainty that horticulture can bring out more from a plant than nature can alone.
Selecting a Smart Pot Size
Once all of the great benefits of growing in a Smart Pot fabric container have been experienced, a gardener will never go back to plastic potting containers again. Fabric containers offer more oxygen to the roots which automatically enables the roots to work more efficiently. Smart Pot containers also “air prune” roots which creates a series of lateral roots within the container instead of the spaghetti-like mess of tangled roots commonly found at the bottom of plastic potting containers. After growers have made the decision to use Smart Pot fabric containers, they must determine which size will best suit their gardening needs.
With container gardening, it is possible to grow any size plant in any size container. However, just because something can be done, doesn’t necessarily mean it should be done. Growing basil in a 100 gallon pot or a giant pumpkin in a one gallon pot would be far from optimal and the grower would most likely be disappointed with the results. A plant grown in a Smart Pot will typically grow faster and larger than a plant grown in a traditional plastic container; however, growers who have experience with plastic containers can start using Smart Pots that are the same size as the plastic containers they are accustom to. In other words, if a gardener is currently using a three gallon plastic container, a three gallon Smart Pot can be substituted for the same purpose. If the gardener has no experience with plastic potting containers, he or she should consider the following before choosing the container size:
If you need or plan to move your planting container around, get a Smart Pot size you can handle. For example, a 10 gallon Smart Pot can weigh close to fifty pounds once filled with soil. Smart Pots are durable enough to be slid around for transport but the overall weight of the container should always be a consideration (especially for your back).
Fitting a Smart Pot
Many gardeners like to use Smart Pots as inserts that fit into other potting containers. This way he or she can receive all the benefits of growing in a fabric container while still displaying a decorative planting container. Just remember, Smart Pots have straight sides (no taper). If you plan on placing the Smart Pot inside another container, make sure the bottom diameter will fit and that you can lift it out if necessary.
Genetic Potential of the Plant
The type of plant you plan to grow will be a determining factor of the size container you should use. Plants that typically grow large in size will not perform up to their genetic potential if they are grown in a container that is too small. The same is true for smaller plants; they will not always perform as well in containers that are too big.
Smart Pot Sizing Recommendations
There are always exceptions (like the grower’s physical growing space) that will contribute to the decision when choosing a container size. That being said, there are general recommendations that can help a grower determine which size Smart Pot to use. The following are recommendations of which Smart Pot size to use for some commonly grown vegetable crops:
7 Gallon Smart Pot
Garlic, leeks, shallots, lettuce, spinach, arugula, chard, endive, escarole, basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, beans, bok choy, kale, peas, parsnips, and small annuals
10 Gallon Smart Pot
Peppers, artichoke, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, strawberries, onions, beets, turnips, carrots, radish, patio cucumbers, patio tomatoes, and larger annuals
15 Gallon Smart Pot
Cucumbers, potatoes, summer squash, zucchini, patty pan squash, crooked neck squash, eggplant, and tomatillos
20 Gallon Smart Pot
Tomatoes, muskmelons, watermelons, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, winter squash, acorn squash, butternut squash, and hubbard squash
Hydroponic gardeners who use Smart Pots will follow slightly different guidelines for determining the best size container for their gardens. The type of hydroponic system, the fertilizers being used, and the type of soil mix will all be factors to consider when choosing the correct size Smart Pot for a hydroponic garden.
For more information visit Smartpots.com
Cleaning and Reusing Smart Pots
Many indoor horticulturists are reaping the benefits of growing in Smart Pot fabric containers. Not only do fabric containers give a plant’s roots maximum exposure to oxygen, but they also naturally “air prune” the roots. Once “air pruned” these roots create multiple lateral, fine roots which, in turn, enhance the entire root structure and increase the plant’s ability to manage moisture and nutrients. Once a garden cycle is complete and the plants have been harvested or transplanted, Smarts Pots have one more trick up their sleeves: they can be cleaned and reused.
In order to reuse a Smart Pot the first thing a gardener should do is let the container dry out completely. The best way to do this is to remove the medium from the container and let the container sit somewhere in low humidity for a day or two. The goal is to get the container itself and any medium, root debris, etc which remains stuck to the fabric to dry out completely. Once dry, the Smart Pot can be rubbed against itself in order to remove as much debris as possible. After removing as much sediment as possible, the Smart Pot can be sterilized.
One common way to sterilize a Smart Pot is to put it in the washing machine with a sterilization solution. It is important to choose a sterilization solution that is capable of killing bacteria. Hydrogen peroxide, OxyClean, or a bleach solution all have the capability to sterilize a fabric planting container. Be sure to rinse thoroughly after the sterilization process to ensure all residuals from the sterilization agent are removed. Growers with a large number of Smart Pots may want to utilize a laundry mat for the sterilization process. Please be sure to remove all soil from the Smart Pots before bringing them to the laundry mat. For gardeners with few containers or for those who do not have access to a washing machine, Smart Pots can be soaked in a container of sterilization solution and agitated manually.
Drying is a very important part of the cleaning process. Do NOT put Smart Pots in the dryer. Smart Pots should only be hung to dry or fluff dried.
Gardeners who experience excess salt buildup on their fabric containers can rectify the problem with a vinegar-water solution. Salt encrusted Smart Pots can be soaked in a vinegar-water solution which will break up the salt and remove it from the fabric. Be sure to rinse thoroughly after this process as well.
One of the best things about the Smart Pot brand of fabric containers is its durability. Smart Pot containers are truly built to last and can withstand many washings and growing cycles. Some growers may be timid about reusing Smart Pots. Don’t be. Smart Pots are built to withstand the abuse of use and reuse. While other fabric containers fall apart during the cleaning process, the Smart Pot fabric container will hold strong and be able to be used time and time again.
For more information visit Smartpots.com.
Not All Fabric Potting Containers Are Created Equally
Over the last few years, many indoor horticulturists have discovered the benefits of using fabric potting containers. These containers are designed to maximize air exposure to the root mass. Maximizing the exposure to air creates a couple of significant advantages when it comes to root growth and development. First, roots love oxygen. Oxygen helps to promote white, vibrant roots. Because of their breathability, fabric potting containers allow the roots to receive heightened access to oxygen. Fabric potting containers also naturally “air prune” the plant’s roots. As a root reaches the side of a fabric planting container, it gets exposed to air and naturally prunes itself. When the root tip is air pruned, a multitude of lateral roots stem from that root. This creates an unmatched fibrous root structure. When compared to a plastic potting container, where the roots wind upon themselves and become a tangled mess, a fabric container filled with healthy lateral roots reigns supreme. The healthy lateral roots are more efficient at nutrient and moisture uptake which means plants that are grown in fabric containers usually experience accelerated growth rates and larger yields.
Due to all the advantages offered by fabric potting containers, it is no wonder that so many indoor horticulturists are incorporating them into their gardens. However, some of the growers who are using fabric containers may be doing themselves a grave injustice as well. In truth, not all fabric containers are created equally. In fact, there is a large variance between the way fabric containers are manufactured and this can have a significant effect on the quality of the product and the safety of the plants grown within.
The folks at High Caliper Growing have their fabric containers (Smart Pots and Big Bag Beds) manufactured in the USA and have ultimate control over the manufacturing process. When a horticulturist purchases a Smart Pot or a Big Bag Bed it will be the same quality product day after day, year after year. On the contrary, when companies do not have control over the manufacturing process, they have little control over the quality and consistency of the fabric. Many of the fabric potting container suppliers probably do not even know what is in their fabric.
High Caliper Growing has tested their fabric to ensure a high level of consistency and safety. They proudly boast that their fabric containers contain absolutely no BPA. High Caliper Growing independently and scientifically tested four of their leading competitors for BPA. Guess what? Three out of the four have BPA present in their fabrics. I don’t know about you but I don’t want anything I plan on consuming growing in a container that leaches BPA into the most sensitive area for plant absorption (the root mass).
For indoor horticulturists who want to gain all of the benefits of a fabric container and also want a safe, consistent product, Smart Pots by High Caliper Growing are the way to go. For more information visit Smartpots.com.
Fabric Containers for Indoor Horticulture
Lighting, atmospheric conditions and nutrition are some of the most important garden variables that new growers must master in order to be successful. After a grower has a good understanding of the basics behind the operation of an indoor garden, he or she can begin searching for other ways to help maximize performance. There are numerous variables that make up a well functioning indoor garden but examining the potting containers is a good place to begin.
For many growers, plastic potting containers have become the norm because that is what their friends use or they do not understand that there are other options available. The truth is, plastic potting containers are not necessarily the best option for indoor horticulture. Fabric containers, like the Smart Pot, are changing the way indoor horticulturists view planting containers. There are multiple benefits to using a fabric planting container in an indoor garden; all of which can help a grower to maximize his or her return.
The biggest difference between a fabric container and a plastic container is breathability. A plastic container is non-permeable and will not allow any air to reach the side portions of the planting container. With a Smart Pot all of the soil within the container is exposed to air. This “breathability” creates two distinct advantages over plastic potting containers: air pruned roots and increased oxygen to the root mass.
Air Pruned Roots
After branching out from the center, the roots will eventually reach the wall of the potting container. In a typical plastic potting container, the roots will reach the wall and turn. This creates a circling of roots within the container. The roots in a fabric container behave differently. As a root reaches the wall of a fabric container, the exposure to air causes the root to air prune. The tip of the root is “pruned” and stops growing. As the tip of the root stops growing, a series of lateral roots grow off the main root. This creates a more uniform root mass within the potting container. A plant with a uniform root mass is more efficient at up-taking nutrients and moisture. It is the natural air pruning from fabric containers that creates a healthier, more uniform root mass. As many growers know, a plant with a robust root mass will be healthier and produce better yields.
Aside from the benefits of air pruning, the increased exposure to air provides the roots with a higher oxygen content. Roots love oxygen. When a plant’s roots are provided with increased oxygen levels healthier, brilliantly white and fuzzy roots with lateral branches are created. The increased oxygen is also a safe guard against many root-borne pathogens. Root rot (pythium) is a common problem for indoor horticulturists. This nasty disease is capable of wiping out an entire garden in a matter of just days. By using a Smart Pot, indoor gardeners automatically protect themselves from pythium or other anaerobic pathogens that breed in oxygen depleted environments.
Indoor gardeners who are still using plastic potting containers to house their soil should definitely give a fabric container, like the Smart Pot, a try. If the science behind the fabric containers doesn’t convince you, try doing a side by side comparison. Grow one plant in a fabric pot right next to a plant of the same variety in a plastic container. Once you have experienced the increased growth rates and the healthiest root masses you’ve ever grown indoors, you’ll be switching every plastic container to Smart Pots before you can say, “air pruned”.
For more information regarding quality fabric containers and the Smart Pot, please visit Smartpot.com.