If you are interested in the latest trend in container gardening, you should check out the smart pot.
Fabric grow bags have always been a popular choice for commercial growers, especially when growing trees and shrubs. But we’ve seen a growing trend for home gardeners to use a similar product for their own container gardens – the smart pot.
I am a recent convert to using fabric pots in my own herb garden and have started to slowly transition away from using plastic containers. Here is what I have learned about using smart pots and how they have helped me in my own herb garden.
Table of Contents
What is a Smart Pot?
Smart pots are soft sided fabric containers for growing plants. The fabric is lightweight and porous similar to the material used in landscaping fabric. The material is BPA free and can be used in organic gardening and food crops.
The unique features that separate a smart pot from plastic or ceramic containers.
- Breathable fabric to keep the roots cool
- Creates a healthy root system
- Prevents overwatering
- Lightweight and easy to pack away for storage
- Customizable – Easily add pocket holes for spreaders
Smart Pot Benefits – Why Plants Grow Better in Fabric Pots
All gardeners want to grow healthier plants. Here we took a closer look at the benefits of using a fabric pot vs ceramic or plastic containers and why they work so well to grow potted herbs and other plants.
Let’s The Roots Breathe And Keeps Them Cool
Roots will stay cooler since the fabric is porous. Heat builds up in containers, especially in the hotter summer months. The smart pot solves this by allowing your plants to breathe.
The most natural way for plants to grow is in the ground. The ground keeps the roots of your plants cooler naturally. But when you grow plants in a plastic pot, the plastic gets hot in the heat of the summer creating an unhealthy environment for your plant.
Think about it this way. What would you like to wear in the summer sun? A cotton t-shirt or a plastic raincoat? Living things need to breathe.
Air Pruning Creates a Healthy Root Structure
Air root pruning prevents your container plants from becoming root-bound. In a plastic pot, when a plant starts to outgrow its container, the roots will start to grow around in a circle at the bottom.
But in fabric pots, the air will naturally prune the plant’s roots keeping them healthy. When the roots reach the bottom or side of the pot, the root tip stops growing and instead branches out to create a naturally fibrous root ball. A fibrous root system allows the plant to take in water and nutrients much more efficiently than if the roots are tightly bound in a circle.
A common problem with growing plants in containers is overwatering. This is especially true for herbs as you will see mentioned several times that certain herbs like rosemary & thyme do not like wet feet.
Since the container is made from fabric, the water naturally flows out the bottom so the plant will never be sitting in water. This is a huge benefit as it can be difficult to tell how much water is in the bottom of the container unless you have a water meter.
On the flip side, you may need to water the plant more often. And if you decide to bring your plants indoors you will definitely need to use a saucer under each pot or the water will spill out onto your counters and floors.
Another benefit to the easy draining fabric is you can also use heavier or richer soil. Often we use very light soil in containers so it doesn’t become too compacted. With fabric pots, you don’t need to worry the soil will stay too wet and compacted smothering your plant.
A cool feature of using a fabric container is that you can create your own pockets in the side of the smart pot similar to strawberry pots. This is perfect for growing spreading herbs like mint or thyme.
To add pockets in your smart pot, cut small Xs where you want to add an opening. This can be done before or after filling the smart pot. You can even add an opening at the bottom if you want to hang the smart pot.
Saves on Storage Space
If you are limited on storage space in your garden shed or garage, fabric pots are a great solution. The lightweight nature of the fabric makes it easy to put away at the end of the growing season. You can stack ten or twenty of these pots in the same amount of space you would be able to fit a traditional container.
How I Use Smart Pots in the Garden
I still have many traditional pots in my own garden as I have not made the full transition to eliminate plastic containers. But there are two reasons I’ll always keep my smart pots handy.
Temporary Container for Transplants
One of my favorite uses for the smart pot is to use it when transplanting. When your plants are getting overcrowded, it’s time to make some room and move them to other areas of the garden. The problem is you don’t always have the perfect place picked out.
The smart pot makes a great way to add a temporary home for your transplants. You can sit them in different areas of the garden before digging the holes to make sure they get the right amount of sun, water, and are growing well with the other plants.
I use the black colored bags and they almost disappear visually in the garden which is nice. They also kind of mold into the ground, so it doesn’t look like there are potted plants sitting in the middle of the garden bed.
The company makes a transplanter type fabric bag that is designed for moving larger plants with a slit down one side. I haven’t personally tried this one out yet although it looks interesting.
Create a Plant Infirmary
Smart pots make an easy way to move sick or diseased plants from your garden bed and nurse them back to health.
I have a small herb garden planted in a whiskey barrel plastic container that housed rosemary, thyme, and sage. Unfortunately, my rosemary was slowly getting more and more unhealthy. The leaves were getting yellow and I could tell it needed a little extra TLC.
My solution was to dig up just the Rosemary and replant it in a smart pot. I trimmed it way back and replaced the garden soil. I also temporarily moved it to a less sunny area of the garden to make sure it was staying well-watered as I noticed in the larger container, it kept drying out. Within a few months, the rosemary started to show new growth and is much greener.
I’ve started to do this with any plants that seem to be struggling. I transplant them into a Smart Pot and move them to an isolated corner of the garden. This helps to prevent the spread of pests or diseases from infecting your other plants. I now have a small nursery where I can separate and treat the failing plants until they are healthy enough to return to the main garden.
Tips and Frequently Asked Questions
How to Clean a Smart Pot
There are two ways to clean a smart pot. The easiest way is to empty the bag, let it dry out, and brush off the excess dirt. This is fine for most uses.
If you have used your smart pots like me to house sick or ailing plants, then you should sterilize it before reusing it. In this case, wash it with peroxide or OxyClean in the sink or the bathtub and allow it to air dry.
What Size Smart Pot Do You Need?
The mature size of your plant will determine the smart pot size you will need. Here is a general guideline to follow.
Smaller (1-5 gallons): Radish, Salad Greens, and Herbs
Medium (10-15 gallons): Peppers, Strawberries
Larger (20-100 gallons): Potatoes, Tomatoes, Melons
Visit the Smart Pots Store to see all available sizes.
How Long Do Smart Pots Last?
The answer is longer than you think. The Smart pots can last up to six or year years. The biggest advantage a smart pot has over stone, plastic, or clay pots is they do not crack or freeze in the winter months.
What Can You Grow In A Smart Pot?
Pretty much anything with roots! As I mentioned, I grow mostly herbs in my smart pots, but I have also used them for roses and other ornamentals.
On the company website, you’ll see that this type of grow bag is also extremely popular with vegetable gardeners. Many of their customers claim they get much better yields with this type of growing.
Are You Ready to Try Smart Pots?
Growing plants in smart pots is the latest trend in container gardening. If you like to grow plants in pots, be sure to give them a try. You may never go back to buying traditional containers again.