I just discovered that there are smart pots available on the market. It's made of fabric and really porous and they claim to be better than Clay pot. The web site is www.smartpots.com
What do you guys think?
seen these before. i contemplated using these but i will continue using my 3gal grow bags that i buy locally for $0.40 (tax included). the thought of all the work required to wash the smart pots every year scares me.
I have used smart pots before. They dry out very fast in Texas during the hot summer (works much better in the ground). Needs too much watering. I prefer Root Trapper (available to retail now from Rootmaker website). The white covering keeps the mix from getting too hot and significantly cuts down the amount of water needed.
Either way, you end up with much better root system.
What Lou said.
I used a lot of smart pots here in NY for the first time last summer and I actually really liked them... I didn't have a problem with watering, but the area that I'm in gets so much rain at points, that I could use something that wont' retain water so much.
The only thing I DON"T know is how well my plants overwintered in them, since I have to leave things outside over the winter... guess we'll find out..
NOw I"m curious to look up the "root trapper" LOL
Thanks everybody for the help.
The root trapper is a lot more expensive than the smart pots and on the other hand it doesn't last very long.
You probably can get away with smart pot at your location as it doesn't get very hot like my area does for 4 months (90*F+ every day). Ir'a scary how fast 5-1-1 mix dries out in smart pot as the whole thing is basically a wicker. If I had a tree farm with good draining soil, I'd use smart pot in a heart beat to grow trees in the ground which would save a lot of water and fertilizer. Better growth too as I've found out in my old garden bed with shantung maples vs the ones in the containers.
I planted a whole bunch of fruit trees in them. I'm in Northern California (zone 9). We don't get any rain during the summer and fall, but we also don't get more than a week or so of 90 degree temps.
Lou, do you think I should put an auto drip system on these?
I've got several Smart Pots as well as testing out a line of Fanntum Containers for my containerized fruit trees. I live in Central CA where the heat is crazy.
However, only two of them have the gritty mix and I was betting I wouldn't make it through the summer in those. I suspect the gritty or 511 mix in a fabric container, in dry 100+ weather, will not work unless you are a watering maniac.
I made it through last year in plastic containers with the gritty mix (added 20% more turface and reduced granite) but the hottest days did require container shading. Also the smallest containers, and one citrus tree where the roots were extensive and filled the container, required a cache pot or placing mulch around them.
Those is my area scoff and say you *must* use peat or coir in every mix to survive the summer heat. Well I've certainly found that peat "bakes" (as does other media), when used in plastic containers in full sun. Just because a mix holds lots of water doesn't mean you can ignore root temps. There is not enough aeration in a heavy water-retentive soil in a plastic container for it to release the heat.
A benefit of fabric containers is when you place them directly on the ground, the capillary wicking action of water in ground contact is supposed to help drainage even when you use poorly draining soil/media. In addition, supposedly the fabric containers "reduce soil temps" due to the aeration. So this year I'm testing with a typical peat-based soil, and an even heavier mix of cheap potting soil, in Smart pots and Fanntum containers on the ground to see how well they do. I'm hoping they'll require the same amount of watering as the gritty mix in plastic, yet be cooler. Don't know yet.
I'm also testing blueberries in the plastic grow bags which are white on the outside and black inside. They are so cheap (like .75 ea for 10gal) and I want it to retain moisture and have cooler roots for the BB.
BTW, so far I really like the Fanntum containers. Though they won't need "washing" like Smart pots, I do not know how well the "tarp like" material will last from UV damage. But the wire support around the fabric container is *very* helpful for larger sizes 10gal and up. I wish their 5gal sizes included wire supports, but they don't. It's not a retail type place, no online ordering, etc and they mostly cater to growers who purchase in bulk. But Alan Fanntum is sharp, flexible, and pleasurable to work with. He did the best he could to fit the containers in a small package to ship via UPS. You may pay as much for shipping as the containers themselves, but overall they were still much cheaper for me than Smart Pots. A 10gal container runs $4 whereas the smart pot was about $10 locally.
Smart pots become economical if you brave the largest sizes, as they are only a few bucks more than the small/medium sizes.
Thanks for everybody's advice, so far I am very happy with the smart pot. I have a 35 gallon and a 15 gallon with a Fig and a dwarf Pomegrnate tree. They have never been so vigorous. I do have to water every day. Remember this is about 3 weeks of growth. We had a bad frost two weeks ago.
I am investigating this whole concept also for about 80 containers that will live in the hot desert 110+ heat on a drip system. I find it interesting that Al's gritty mix drains too fast and the pots dry out, so I will take Cebury's advice and use a heavier soil. Because other pots are so expensive I am going to start with the 3 gallon Sunleaves Black and White Poly Grow Bags, hand drilled on all sides by me, for air pruning of roots. I have mostly grape vine cuttings that are ready to be potted, and also figs and pomegranates. A couple olive trees, too.
I'll rethink the soil. I was all ready to purchase the components for gritty mix, but life is different where the sun is flip flop melting, sizzling hot, all day, the wind blows hard, and a plant without a drip system will not live.
I find shade cloth a valuable commodity, and plan to put a piece of it as a light mulch over each pot to protect the roots from the hot sun, and to reduce evaporation.
Am thinking of using smart pots in my tiny, unheated greenhouse for winter veggies anyone have any views on this?
There is another smart pot post on here, much longer if you want to look it up and get some additional info.
When placed on the ground, not so much when on a deck or cement, the earth is able to wick out the perched water. So the pots act as raised beds. you would be better off building your soil for a raised bed. The fast draining mixes, like the grity and 511, will drain off to much. Look around for a raised bed soil mix/or a square foot garden soil mix.
I'm using 15, 20 and 25 gallon smart pots for my vegetables for the fourth summer in Southwest Ohio. We are not as hot and dry as some of you are, but we do have dry weather in the 80s and low 90s through most of July and August. For the past three summers I used a mix of about 70% Promix or Metro mix with 30% compost, and had to water every other day. This year I am using a modified 511 mix that I really like. We've already had about 10 days in the 90s, and the watering is about the same. My mix is 5 parts pine bark fines, 1 part each peat, compost and Turface. The pots are in direct contact with the ground. At the end of each season, I found the roots had filled out the containers without any circling, and seemed healthy. This year, I have seen live worms (from my compost) coming to the surface of the pots when watering, and temperatures here have been very high, so I don't think the soil is too hot.
Also, I washed them for the first time this year in the washing machine, three at a time, and it's very easy. These things are great.
I veggies in about 30 smart pots ranging from 3-10 gallons. All are doing well. I used pro-mix, but added in some composted manure, compost and regular potting mix. I am watering almost every day, but the plants have never wilted, even when we were at 95+ for 2 weeks with little rain.
I'm just curious, why do they have to be washed?
They don't have to be washed. If you empty them out at the end of the season and allow them to dry, you can brush off most of the old dirt and root hairs. But, I saw some salt build up on the outside, partly because our water is so hard. Half my pots contained tomatoes that showed some signs of disease, probably fungal. I didn't want to take a chance on carrying the disease over, so I followed the practice several others have described, and washed them with laundry detergent and a half cup of bleach in a full load. The smart pot website says many people use oxyclean.
I love smartpots and have been using them for years. Because of the breathable material, you get a much healthier root system and larger plants. The only thing I dont like about them is the price... I did find a site where you can get a much better deal but you have to buy them in cases. http://www.buyfabricpots.com/
Here is a link that might be useful: Smart Pots wholesale