Smart Pots -- can we talk??

dancinglemons(7B VA)May 15, 2010

Hello all,

I have done a search on the GW for 'smart pots' and do not come up with much. I have read what I can find on Google and it looks promising. Has anyone here used them?? Has anyone here grown tomatoes and/or potatoes in them?? I don't care if it is the Smart Pot brand or the brand currently sold by Gardener's Supply. If you have used them please post pictures if possible. Please don't post what the vendors say about them -- I have already read their websites -- I want to know from GW members with personal experience.



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I currently have two types of potatoes planted in 4 SmartPots. So, I'll let you know at the end of the growing season! So far, I like them. They are well made, and fairly stiff. They were not so stiff though that I couldn't roll down the sides. They seem to do well as far as draining (I have them sitting on bare ground). The potatoes are just coming up, so that part at least has gone well. Long as this crazy weather we've had doesn't kill the poor potatoes, I'll give a full report the end of the year!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 7:47AM
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I used 5 and 10 gallon last year, grew tomatoes cherry and
roma type. The tomatoes did well until it got very hot.
Need to water more as they seemed to dry out.
To be fair they did better than the tomatoes in earthboxes
did. Once our texas summers get hot nothing does well.
This spring I planted about 50 green onion sets in two ten
gallon smart pots, 100 total. As they grew I used the onions to thin as needed. Current count is about 25 per pot. I,ve been happy with smart pots and will add more.
What I've learned so far:
1. I think the 10gal size is the smallest to use for tomatoes. The 5gal. size I tried last year did poorer than the tomatoes in the 10 gal. I think peppers would be fine in 5 gal.
2. Water slowly if you put a lot of water in the pot fast
it tends to run out the side and not soak into the middle.
3. I used a 60 40 mix of potting mix and compost this spring and it seemed to work better than the 100%
potting mix I used last year.
4. I don't think any size under 5 gal. would work here
as they would need watering to often.
5. I ordered from the smart pot web site and the service was very good. I have not tried the ones from garden supply.
Hope this helps I'll know more after this year, but I think you should try a couple and see what you think.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 3:15PM
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I have used Smart Pots for about 5 years now. I really like them and I don't have much space. I have about twenty of them from 3 gal. to 25 gal. Used the 25 gal for 1 tomato plant last year and it was awesome! I used the 5 gal. smart pot for cucumbers and peppers. As one poster said, they do require watering more often. I used Al's 5-1-1, as I will this year but will have to amend it, maybe more peat. I will post pictures if I can figure it out. By the way I think your posts are most informative on Gardenweb as well as Earthbox.Com. Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 4:59PM
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dancinglemons(7B VA)

Thanks everyone!! Now that I have some positive information, I will be using the SmartPots for the first time this year.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 12:42AM
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terroir(zone 8)

how did they turn out for you dancinglemons? i recently got a 2 gal and a 5 gal smart pot. havent tried them out yet, but being down here in texas and reading what mikewrt wrote maybe i should look into other root pruning pots

thanks everyone!

    Bookmark   November 23, 2010 at 4:07PM
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johnweh(10 Boca Raton FL)

Here are some homemade smart pots I made. The 1st is a milk crate with a weed barrier fabric lining with 5-1-1(5gal). The 2nd is just the weed barrier stapled & glued together with
potting soil(3gal.).

Here is a link that might be useful: Smart pots

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 12:03PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Roottrapper would be better. After having tried both, I much prefer Roottraper over smartpot in hot weather.

Here is a link that might be useful: ROOTTRAPPER® CONTAINERS

    Bookmark   December 5, 2010 at 11:19PM
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I'm resurrecting this old post as I just ordered roottrapper containers for my blueberries and wonder if anyone is using these or the smart pots and how they like them.

Thank you.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 12:05PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Kathy: I've been using smart pots for summer vegetables for four years and love them. I am not as familiar with root trappers, but I believe they work in a similar manner, by air pruning roots. Since this post started, there have been several discussions of them that you can find by searching root trapper or smart pot. Besides personal experience, the academic studies showing their benefits are what most convinced me.

Here is a link that might be useful: Here are some studies

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 9:28AM
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delaware(Z7 DE)

Thank you so much for the "studies" articles! The were extremely informative especially the one about better winter survival in Smart Pots. Good thing cause I took a chance and bought 25 of them Can't wait to see how the work out.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 8:00PM
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I'm in my 3rd or 4th year of using smartpots and earthboxes, and I love both. I first grew Super San Marzano tomatoes in the 10 gallon pots, which really are too small, but they did quite well in spite of the size. Last year I upped it to 15 gal. which is also too small, but they did well enough for the woodchucks to murder them. I had some bell peppers in the 7 gal., and cherry tomatoes in the 10 gal. last year which did famously. On my deck, I have basil in the 3 gal, and have to cut them back every 3 weeks to prevent them from bolting.

They are easily washable and reusable, and so easily portable. If you want aesthetics, you can hide them inside a nice looking solid pot.

Becuase of the way they prevent root binding, some plants will like tomatoes will grow the roots down into the ground, which can be difficult when cleaning up in the fall.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 2:49PM
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dancinglemons(7B VA)

Thanks again everyone!! I did not get started in 2010 as planned. I did find smart*pot knockoffs with handles and more larger sizes for less money -- I will try to find that link and post it here.

I totally agree that 10gal is not sufficient for the SanMarzano super plants. I first grew them in EarthBox (2 plants per box) and even though they survived they did much better when I only put one plant in an EarthBox. When I put the SanM in a 20 gallon container it was really and truly a super tomato plant.

Thanks again one and all!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 2:31AM
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dancinglemons(7B VA)

I found the link. The knockoffs are called Root Pouch and they are sold by Greenhouse MegaStore. They have 3-4 year and 4-5 year. Sizes up to 35gallon in the 4-5 year type. DH and I will surely get these this year.


Here is a link that might be useful: Root Pouch link

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 2:40AM
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I really like smart pots but also have used a new brand call yield pots. They are about half the price but are actually really good quality. Have any of you guys used the yield pots yet?

Here is a link that might be useful: Video on Yieldpots

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 8:12PM
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This is my first year using Smart Pots. I purchased three 10 gallon pots. Can I put two green pepper plants in one or is it better to do one in each?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 8:56AM
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This is my first year with Smart Pots because I downsized to a smaller place with lots of courtyard. I did a lot of container gardening research and settled on six pepper plants in 10 gallon Smart Pots, 6 tomato plants in 20 gallon Smart Pots, 5 blueberry plants in 20 gallon Smart Pots, 4 blackberry plants in 20 gallon Smart Pots, two watermelon in 15 gallon smart pots, two cucumber in 15 gallon Smart Pots and two eggplant in 15 gallon Smart Pots. I am keeping a journal of my plant varieties, growth, productivity, feeding, etc... So far the tomatoes in Smart Pots are happier than the four I have in plastic pots. Next year, I may put two pepper plants in one 20 gallon pot so they don't dry out so readily but we'll see. I am in San Diego (15 miles inland - dry, but not desert hot) - we'll see how the Smart Pots do in August. Got my peppers (and some tomatoes) from Sweet Corn Organic Nursery and the plants were strong and healthy upon arrival. They sell great amendments, also. First growing season with these folks but between their amendments, plants and the Smart Pots, my container garden looks GREAT!

Here is a link that might be useful: Sweet Corn Organic Nursery

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 1:59PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

SDV: I think you'll have a lot of trouble with your tomatoes and peppers packed in like that. This is a photo of two giant Marconi peppers in a 10-gallon smart pot. They were planted less than a month ago. These peppers only grow about 18 inches high so I thought it would be alright to have two together in that size pot. But we've had very mild weather with lots of rain, and these plants are already demanding water almost every day. I grow one indeterminate tomato each in 20 and 25-gallon smart pots, and they are already huge. I tried growing two in one pot, but my yield wasn't nearly as good and I had more disease problems.

Here is a link that might be useful: One tomato in a 20-gallon smart pot

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 4:17PM
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thebutcher(6b (Philadelphia area))

Great thread,

This is my first year in container gardening and with fabric pots. Here is a photo of my 20 Gal from Hydrofarm with 5-1-1 mix and a Ramapo F-1 Hybrid variety. I also planted in ground the same varieties and have 3 more of the 20 Gal pots. They were planted May 16th. I am also a 2nd year tomato grower and this is my first year from seed along with the pots.

And to mention I have had a blossom problem but I think it is because of the weather and the seedlings were maturing in there little containers too long before I could plant them outside.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 9:22PM
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I am having more success with this type of container than I ever had with my in ground vegetable garden, I have more control over water and fertilizer and soil conditions without the time-drain involved in weeding, my least favorite chore. I have 5 indeterminate tomato plants each planted in their own 20 gallon containers. I embedded a 14 inch square tomato cage in each when i filled with soil at planting back in early March and as the plants are all now over 6 feet tall, I had to fasten extenders on all of them. The containers are a little wider than tall and have been very stable even with the extenders and in high wind conditions that toppled other tall foliage plants in large conventional pots; none of my tomatoes fell over. I have 7 okra plants in 15 gallon containers, those are a little crowded because I couldn't decide which seedling to throw out of the nest when the time came to thin (2 plants per pot except for the dwarf green long pod, which ended up with 3 plants). However they are making pods at about the same rate as my in ground okra used to. Besides the dwarf green long pod, I have Stewarts Zeebest, which has been a little slower growing but is now turning into monsters with trunks at least an inch in diameter each. I have six Pointset 76 cucumber vines in one 20 gallon container and have had to start giving cucumbers away. I have two 10 gallon containers, each has two early prolific straight neck yellow squash plants. Originally I wasn't going to plant squash because of my experiences with the squash pest whose name should not be spoken (hint, it makes frass) but I had container mix and pots left over so I just threw the seeds in and they took off. I am now unexpectedly harvesting squash and engaged in a war with that pest (moan). I have sage, chives, basil, and rosemary in 7 gallon containers and all are thriving. I have used both the smart and hydro farm brands. The hydros hold their shape better, the smarts tend to droop at the rims, but the smarts seem to require less frequent waterings. Most are set on ground and as others have said, this wicks moisture so there are few drainage problems. The ones set on concrete definitely stay moist longer but it makes it easier to overwater so you have to be careful. Some staining of the concrete also occurs, and I have placed coco mats under those to reduce this. I like being able to move them around using the handles but you have to be aware that once the larger vegetable plants reach a certain size, this becomes less of an option so consider their placement carefully in advance. I could likely not move my tomatoes, okra, and squash now, though when they were small it was a breeze since the pots have handles and are really not that heavy then even with soil in them. Hope this is helpful!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 10:25AM
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Forgot to mention- for media I mixed container mix, bagged garden "soil" and a little pine mulch (smallest pieces I could find). I've read so much about the 511 mix on this website but for the life of me I cannot locate anything resembling pine fines except for reptibark, for which I will not pay $24 a bag. I fertilize at the label rate using foliage pro and protekt but I still had to supplement the cucmbers with Epsom salts, I guess their production outstripped what was provided in terms of magnesium. I did add controlled release fertilizer pearls with micros to the media before plantings and I didn't start the soluable feeds until I began to see blooms. Temps here are now in the mid 90's and I'm watering almost daily but nothing is dying yet.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 10:44AM
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david52 Zone 6

I've 8 of these things, and I'm on the second season. I tried peppers the first year and was not impressed, couldn't figure out what the problem was. This year its sweet potatoes, and now I've seen whats going on. In the arid, windy environment I deal with, they dry out amazingly fast and need watering every day. Not just a quart or so, they need a gallon.

I think I prefer plastic containers.

This post was edited by david52 on Sat, Jun 22, 13 at 18:37

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 12:29PM
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I am doing square foot gardening and am very frustrated with the results, so I am turning to container gardening. I ordered a couple of Smartpots and really like them so far. I used the 2 gallon pot for Alpine Strawberries and have wheat grass growing in another pot.
I found the information I need to have to know which vegetables go with which size pot, but, it doesn't say how many plants you can put into the pot. For example, if I want to grow carrots (I don't remember the pot size), I don't know how many I can plant in it. I am looking for a general description, but with more detail of how many plants to a pot I can use. Thanks for any help.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 11:39PM
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calbayarea(9 SF Bay/Fremont)

Heck, I made a bunch of them last year and used them for potatoes. (I have an embroidery machine also) Going to try some tomatoes as well this year. I bunch them together to help reduce water evaporation.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 1:06AM
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@Calbayarea, that pot looks awesome!! What kind of fabric did you use to make your pot? Did you follow a pattern or just wing it? It looks like half of a bolster roll pillow.... I think I could crank out enough pots this summer to have some for my class to use in the fall.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 7:51PM
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I've had good success with smart pots - I've done several side by side comparisons in the heat of the Texas summer. Things that normally go dormant in pots because of overheated roots kept producing through the climax of summer.

The only thing I've had that hasn't done well in smart pots is blueberries. They've only been in there for a year, but have major failure to thrive syndrome. Not an issue with pH or fertilizer - the leaves aren't chlorotic.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 9:19AM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

"The only thing I've had that hasn't done well in smart pots is blueberries. They've only been in there for a year, but have major failure to thrive syndrome. Not an issue with pH or fertilizer - the leaves aren't chlorotic."

Do you have blueberries in other containers for comparison purposes? I ask because I've had good results with blueberries in fabric pots. I do have to be very attentive to water, though, since they dry out more quickly.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 11:58AM
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johns.coastal.patio(USDA 10b, Sunset 24)

A nice video on using very large smart pots:

Here is a link that might be useful: UI Extension video

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 1:38PM
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I've only got 2 months of experience with fabric pots under my belt, and already serious concerns are starting to develop regarding keeping them properly hydrated in an arid environment.

It's only been in the mid 70's here in UT as of late. But in UT, the air is very dry. 15-25% daytime relative humidity in these mild Spring conditions. In the summer, when the temps will be 95-100 for days on end, the relative humidity will often drop below 10%. It isnâÂÂt overly windy here, but usually there is some sort of breeze, and things do dry out very quickly.

Even in these more mild Spring conditions, the edges of my 15 gallon pots dry out VERY fast. To the point that 15 gallon fabric pots probably have 8 gallons or less of effective growing media. Even with daily watering of the outside edges of the media on top (while only in the mid 70âÂÂs), there are large dry zones all around the outside - to the point that a 5-1-1 type mix becomes hydrophobic. Yet, the center of the media is heavily saturated with water. Even though I attempt to avoid watering the center of the pot.

IâÂÂm not yet sure what IâÂÂll be doing to compensate through the summer. Mostly likely IâÂÂll be adding 1/4 inch soaker hose in a loop circling just inside the pot wall, and turn that on daily. I had been planning on using multi-stream bubblers on an automated drip system, but that will likely need to be supplemented with additional water applied to the outside edge media on a more frequent basis to prevent the available growing media from shrinking further. I might go so far as digging down 8 inches to put one coil there, and another just under the surface.

Just something for others in arid environs to consider before deciding to use fabric pots.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 12:59PM
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I didn't have a control for the blueberries.. at the time I was so enamored with fabric pots that I didn't think I needed one. I did plant two plants from the same source at friends place in bales of peat raised beds - they got only rainwater and produced a pint of delicious berries.

I repotted them today, and so had a change to look at the root systems. The were essentially ideal - very fibrous, little woodiness, perfect air pruning all around the edges of the container, filled most of the container (not just the bottom). In short, I don't think the pots are to blame.

I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong with them. I'm not religious about using acidified water, but I figured leaf chlorosis would clue me in if that was an issue. No nitrates in the fertilizer.

Then again.. I also use chelated iron.. which might be masking pH issues?

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 3:22PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

If I understand it correctly " Smart Pot" is just a trade name for fabric bag/container. A lot of people use WalMart 99 cent bags. I bought some Kroger/Fred Meyers bags (equivalent to 5 gal). At 88 cents they are good alternative to 5-ga. buckets.

Climate Consideration.

In my PNW climate fabric bags are fine, as we don't get very hot temperatures but instead we get more rain. But I doubt that it would be a good option down south ( South GA, Central TX, SoCal, FL).
I used to have coconut coir hanging baskets down in GA. They would get dry in no time. So, I used to line them with plastic from inside and make few holes at the bottom.
Then it depend on the size of the bag too. If you use 10 to 20 gallon ones, it would take them much linger to dry up.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 5:19PM
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What is the best way to water/fertilize these smart pots? I currently have a dozen 10gal pots and find it taking forever to water and fertilize them. how do you guys tackle it? Right now I'm using a hose to soak them thoroughly but it takes me forever lol

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 10:23AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I use organic fertilizer and slow release fertilizer, if I have time, i might add a soluable. maybe once a month. This has worked for me. It's easy enough just to water, but if making fertilizer each time, it takes twice to three times as long, and that doesn't work for me.
I use root pouches. An extremly nice and cheap product.

Yields have been fantastic!
Here's a days harvest

Different day harvest is still kicking!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 9:45PM
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Do you soil drench when you fertilize your pots? If so how much water are you using? Anyone can chime in as well if they have pots/grow bags, etc.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 8:59AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I use 10, 15 and 30 gallon bags and I use between 2.5 to 6 gallons of water when watering.

As to the first post, yes I grow tomatoes in root pouches. here are more photos

The pot to the right on the bottom photo is a tradtional pot, 25 gallon, the the rest are root pouches. Notice the tomato plants are greener in the pouches. Same water, soil, and fertilizer.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 9:23AM
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Thanks Drew! So when you fertilize those big boys, you mix up a batch or 1/4-1/2 strength fertilizer in 2.5-6 gal of water and then water?

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 9:52AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Yes, although I do have dynamite control release fertilizer in pots, and organic fertilizer too. I usually only fertilize once a month at 1/2 strength. The plants look a little stressed recently so increased fertilizer. The organics are probably done.
Organic fertilizer is micro-life vegetable and alfalfa meal.
The soluble I use is usually 1/2 miracle grow and 1/2 calcium nitrate.
Soil mix is my own. Peat/pine/DE
Rock phosphate, azomite, MycoGrow, Biotin, and humic acid added.
Foliar feed with Epsom salts once or twice a season.

I currently have 10 1 gallon bags of quartered tomatoes frozen for sauce. I'm making sauce today with fresh and 3 bags to see how it goes. I'll process the rest at a later date. Harvest is heavy right now. Over 800 cherry tomatoes harvested off of a SunSugar and a SunGold plant.
I stored 2 bags for use later. My neighbors are hiding from me, 6 of them have received cherry and regular tomatoes. Besides getting beans, raspberries, and strawberries. Yields are more than expected on beans and tomatoes. I'll plant less plants next year. I have 11 tomato plants. Most are paste type. Plumb and ribbed types.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 10:28AM
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I've found that growing in the fabric materials in our very dry environment does work well, but that watering should be done multiple times per day. The moist sides of the pots really help to evaporatively cool the roots, and I think the plants really appreciate this addition. I use a drip/microsprinker system on a timer to water 3-4 times each day, with just enough water that some comes out the bottom. In the heat of the summer, I might give each plant a gallon or two of water each day over the waterings. I also use a fertilizer injector so that fertilizing is pretty easy to combine with watering. I think that if I just watered once per day I'd have lots of dry spots in the pots, and I would have root balls that were much hotter.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 1:30PM
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This is a great thread! I've been using Smart Pots for 4 seasons now and love them too. First 2 years I grew ghost peppers in them overwintering them. The second year they grew to about 6 feet tall in 10 gallon pots. I had 100s of peppers per plant.

I just ordered a case of 25 Phat Sacks, a similar product but much cheaper, all 10 gallon. I plan on converting my raised 16' x 16' bed into a container garden with them using the soil right out of the garden. I will set all of the pots on pallets that will be the base. I'm hoping there will be added benefit from bottom air pruning and where I am using organic garden soil, thinking it will also improve drainage being up on pallets.

Any thoughts on my planned approach?

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 7:57PM
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