What’s the Best Pot? Containers Explained Which growing container works best for cannabis? What is it that makes some containers better than others? The answers are contained in the roots of Containers come in various shapes and sizes. They play an important role in growing cannabis, especially if you’re planting autoflowering seeds. Autoflowe What type of containers or pots work best for seedlings? Let’s examine a variety of seed starting systems. Then we’ll look at the pros and cons. Hopefully this will guide you in selecting a growing system that works best in your situation.
What’s the Best Pot? Containers Explained
Which growing container works best for cannabis? What is it that makes some containers better than others?
The answers are contained in the roots of your cannabis plants. The idea behind choosing the right container is to pick one that is going to provide the best possible environment for your cannabis roots. Your roots are like the “heart” of your of your cannabis plant. They need to be healthy for your plant to get nutrients and grow.
What do marijuana roots want?
Happy cannabis roots want…
Moist at all times – roots die when they dry out! Good watering practices combined with a great growing medium will make sure your roots never dry out
Oxygen – your roots “breathe” oxygen, so one of the best things you can do for them is make sure they always have access to plenty of oxygen – more oxygen to the roots = faster growth
Nutrients – your roots “find” nutrients at the roots, and then deliver them to the rest of the plant, so making sure your plant has easy access to nutrients will help your plants thrive and make buds
pH Management – Some nutrients are sensitive to the pH of their environment. When exposed to the wrong pH, the molecular form of these nutrients actually changes. Nutrients in the wrong chemical form become unavailable to your plant roots. Exposing nutrients to the correct pH reverts them back to a form your roots can take in.
Bottled Cannabis Nutrients
Managing pH is especially important when using bottled nutrients.
Using bottled nutrients gets the nutrients to your plant faster (which equals faster growth), but it also means you are in charge of managing the pH.
These systems deliver nutrients directly to the plant roots in their simplest form, but there is no “middle man” between you and the plant roots, leaving you in charge.
So if you’re using bottle nutrients, make sure you manage your pH!
Amended & Composted Soil
When starting your cannabis grow with properly amended and composted soil, pH isn’t as important for you to manage. Instead of managing pH, you need to manage and care for the bacteria and microorganisms in the soil. In a proper composted soil setup, the microorganisms deliver nutrients to your roots in the right form. They become the “middle man.”
Types of Containers
There are many kinds of popular rowing containers for cannabis gardens…
Standard plant container with saucer
Here’s a breakdown of those different container options…
Standard plant container with saucer
This is a container with a hole at the bottom for drainage, plus a saucer to catch the water.
Tried and true method
Easy to find at any gardening store
Saucer captures runoff water for easy disposal
Smart pots (fabric containers)
More oxygen to the roots
Prevents plants from getting “root-bound” via “air-pruning” from the sides
Since growing medium dries out from the sides, smart pots make it difficult to overwater your plants, but that also means you will end up watering more often
Since smart pots dry out faster than regular cannabis containers, you should get double the size as your normally would, and it’s recommended your final size should be at least a 5-gallon container (anything smaller than that dries out in just a day or two!). So if you would normally get a 2-gallon container, you’d want to get a 5-gallon smart pot.
Need an extra large saucer or a tray to capture runoff water – smart pots don’t come with a saucer or tray and they seep out water from the sides
More oxygen to the roots
Helps prevent plants from getting “root-bound” via “air-pruning” from the sides
Since growing medium dries out from the sides, air pots make it difficult to overwater your plants, but that also means you will end up watering more often
Although water seeps out the sides when watering, air pots are tall and thin so you can use a regular size saucer for each container
Like a regular plant container except instead of having drainage holes out the bottom, they are located near the bottom on the sides
This leaves a small pool of water in the bottom of the container after watering
Need to water less often with hempy buckets, which is a great advantage when growing larger plants that drink a lot
Can sometimes lead to root or nutrient problems since stagnant water can sit at the bottom of the container and any nutrient buildup never gets rinsed out
How to Catch Water Runoff
The two most popular ways of capturing runoff water in small containers are…
Individual saucers for each container
Trays to catch runoff from several containers
Most regular plant containers come with a matching saucer. These are placed under the plant and catch the runoff water for each individual plant.
When using a container that lets air in through the sides (such as a smart pot or air pot), you will need a larger than normal saucer to capture all the runoff water, since water will be seeping down the sides of the container.
One of the problems with saucers is you usually remove them from under the plants to empty the runoff water (always remove runoff – never let it sit so it’s seeped back up into the growing medium!). This is easy with just a few plants, but can become a problem when growing with a lot of plants in a small space. It can be difficult to get to the saucers in the back after the grow space has been filled up with plants.
If you’re having trouble emptying out all your plant saucers, you may want to consider an alternative to regular saucers…
If you want to capture the water from a lot of plants in one space, I recommend using a tray set one a slight incline, so the part of the tray furthest away from you is raised slightly off the ground.. With even a tiny incline, the runoff water will pool at the front of the tray, and a wet vac can be used to capture all the water from the plants. This can be a lot easier than emptying saucers, depending on your setup.
As a bonus to using a tray, you won’t have to move your plants around as much, which results in better and faster growth. Plants don’t like being moved around if you can help it.
How to pick up the water from your tray?
- Wet/Dry vacuum
- Water transfer pump
I found the “Bucket Head” attachment at Home Depot which costs about $25 and can be attached to any standard bucket, turning it into an ultra-cheap wet/dry vacuum.
Which Size Container?
Final Size Container for Desired Plant Size – General guide
When choosing the size of your containers, you must think about the final size of your plant. Bigger plants will need bigger containers, while smaller plants grow best in a relatively small container. You need to match the size of your plant with the size of your container.
A general guide is to have up to 2 gallons per 12″ of height. This isn’t perfect, since plants often grow differently, and some plants are short and wide instead of tall, but this is a good rule of thumb.
So if your final (desired) plant size is…
12″ ~ 2-3 gallon container
24″ ~ 3-5 gallon container
36″ ~ 6-8 gallon container
48″ ~ 8-10 gallon container
60″ ~ 12+ gallon container
Lots of different types of containers will work for growing cannabis as long as it has good drainage holes out the bottom
If you’re using a Smart Pot (fabric pot) or any container that lets in oxygen from the sides, you’ll get faster growth than a hard-sided container. However you will also need to water your plants more often since the soil will dry out more quickly.
Therefore it’s recommended to get twice the normal size if you get fabric pots so the soil doesn’t dry out as fast.
Get twice the normal size if the container lets oxygen in from the sides (like fabric pots and air pots)
Which size container should you start with? Start Small
To start, your plants will do best in a relatively small container. This helps prevent the chances of overwatering (since the container is so small) and since a small container dries out quickly, it will deliver more oxygen to the roots.
Many growers start their plants in a solo cup or a 1-gallon pot.
As mentioned earlier, some growers start their marijuana plants in their final container, which is usually larger than a 1-gallon pot. Starting in a big container isn’t as simple as starting with a small container, and can cause slower growth at first, but here’s you can take to get a seedling to grow quickly in a large container.
Once the leaves reach the edges of the solo cup it’s time to transfer to a larger container. These seedlings are getting close!
How to water seedlings or clones in a too-big container
When starting seedlings in a big container (bigger than 2-gallon), it’s important to slowly give just a little bit of water at a time until your seedling “grows into” its pot. This prevents overwatering, which slows down seedling growth.
By watering the right amount in the seedling stage, you can speed up growth significantly, especially during that first week or two.
For new seedlings you should give water in a small circle around the plant instead of saturating the whole container.
Don’t give water again until the top inch of potting mix is dry to the touch (which should be less than a few days if you did your job right). This makes sure your seedlings get a perfect mix of air and water so it grows as fast as possible.
Make sure to give water slowly in a small circle around seedlings until you get runoff water out the bottom of the container. This makes sure that water is getting to your plant’s roots but isn’t over-saturating the container.
After plant has started to “grow into” it’s container, the top inch of potting mix will start drying out quickly (less than a few days). At this point, you can start normal cannabis watering practices which means you saturate the whole growing medium until you get about 20% runoff water
How to water cannabis seedlings or clones in a too-big container
This is for when you’ve just planted your cannabis seeds or clones in a too-big container. By giving your young plants less water at a time following the steps below, you prevent overwatering which can slow down seedling or clone growth in a too-big container.
- Pour water slowly in a small circle around the base of the seedling (I first pour my water into a solo cup so that it’s easy to pour water around each plant).
- The circle should be ~2 inches in every direction from the base of your seedling (or if your seedlings are bigger, about the width of the leaves).
- Every time, make sure to continue watering slowly in a circle until you get runoff water out the bottom of the container. Make sure to remove runoff water so it doesn’t get re-absorbed through the bottom of the container.
- Don’t water again until the top inch (up to your first knuckle) is starting to feel dry to the touch.
Regular Watering Stage
Once your marijuana plants have established healthy root systems that can support the size of your container, you can start watering as normal.
- Once the top of the growing medium is drying out quickly, in less than than 2-3 days, you’re past the beginning stage.
- Switch to normal watering practices. This means that you are watering the entire container until you get 20% runoff every time. Then don’t water again until the top inch (up to your first knuckle) is starting to feel dry to the touch.
Important: Always wait until the top inch (up to your first knuckle) is starting to feel dry to the touch before watering your plant again. This prevents both overwatering and fungus gnats
Transplanting for faster growth
Transplanting means that you start your plants in a relatively small container, and then transplant the plants as needed so that their roots never run out of room.
Transplanting will provide your plants with faster growth if done right. This is because transplanting allows you to set up an environment where your roots are getting access to plenty of water and air. However, transplanting can stress your plants (and slow down growth) if not done properly. When transplanting, it’s important to carefully move plants so that their roots are not disrupted in any way. This means moving plants before they get root-bound, and creating a hole in the potting mix of their new container so the plants can be placed right in without disturbing the roots.
If you plan on starting your plants in a small solo cup and transplanting your plants to bigger containers as needed, take a look at this transplanting guide.
While transplanting makes it easier to give your young plants access to plenty of water and air, it can stress the plants if not done right, and it can also be too much work for some growers. So many growers start their plant in it’s final container.
When seedlings or clones are started in a large container, it can be difficult to get enough air to the roots until the plant is bigger and drinking a lot. Thisis because when the potting mix gets soaked, the seedling roots just won’t be able to drink it fast enough, and the roots will end up sitting in stagnant water with very little acces to oxygen. The growing medium has to dry out on it’s own, which can take a while, and your plant will be droopy and overwatered until the roots start getting access to air again.
Some growers start their seedlings or clones in a bigger pot, or even the final container they plan to use. While this can slow down growth of young seedlings, you can minimize this effect by watering young plants correctly when they’re started in a too-big container.
Here’s a very quick breakdown of some of the most common cannabis growing mediums for a hand-watered grow. This is not a comprehensive list, but should give you a place to start your research. Each of these different growing mediums have pros and cons.
Soilless (coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, etc)
Easy to find at any gardening store
You can start with nutrient-rich soil and transplant several times throughout the grow to give your plant what it needs after it’s used up all the nutrients in the soil in it’s current container. If you choose not to continue transplanting to give cannabis more nutrients, you will need to use cannabis nutrients to make sure plants are getting what they need
You will need to manage and adjust pH for a soil grow, especially if using bottled cannabis nutrients
Composted Soil – learn about composting your own soil
You will need to amend and compost your soil to use this method, which can take a lot of time, or buy amended and composted soil from a quality source
When done right, there’s no need for bottled nutrients or adjusting pH
Many growers claim that composted organic soil provides the best bud taste and smell
Soilless Potting Mix – (coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, etc)
Faster growth than growing in soil
Starting at the seedling stage, you will need to use cannabis nutrients made for hydro, since soilless mediums do not come with nutrients
Managing and adjusting pH is crucial to success in a soilless growing medium
Less likely to get pests or bugs
How much grow medium to get?
In the USA, a “3-gallon” plant container usually holds less than 3 gallons (same with 1-gallon, 2-gallon, 5-gallon, etc.). It’s a weird convention in the USA which means a direct conversion between listed gallons and gallons of soil (or conversion to liters) isn’t accurate. A “trade” gallon holds about 3/4 of a “real” gallon. This makes it easy to buy a lot of extra grow medium. To make things more confusing, in the USA not every 3-gallon pot actually holds the same amount of grow medium (it’s not totally standardized). Additionally, smaller companies often give the actual amount. Other factors change how much grow medium you need, including how high you fill the pot and how much it gets compacted. When in doubt, get the listed amount and you’ll always end up with enough or extra grow medium.
Types of containers to grow autoflowering seeds
Containers are very important if you want to get the best yields. Know more about the different types of containers to grow autoflowers!
- 1. Things to remember when choosing containers
- 2. Paint buckets
- 3. Plastic containers
- 4. Terracotta containers
- 5. Cement pots
- 6. Smart pots
- 7. Air pots
- 8. What is the right sized container for the best autoflower cultivation?
- 8. a. Indoor cultivation
- 8. b. Outdoor cultivation
- 9. In conclusion
Containers come in various shapes and sizes. They play an important role in growing cannabis, especially if you’re planting autoflowering seeds. Autoflowering cannabis varieties are a little different compared to photoperiod strains because they don’t grow as big as the latter. This makes it even more important for you to choose the best container.
It might make sense for you to just select a big container to grow your autos. However, that’s not a good idea. Just like your potted flowers don’t do well in large containers, autoflowers also tend to struggle if you plant them in containers that are just too big. On the other hand, choosing really small containers will also hinder the growth, and you’ll end up with small plants with tiny buds. Thus, as you can see, it gets a bit tricky.
Also, containers don’t differ just with their sizes. You have to look at the type of the container. For instance, a plastic pot may not perform as well as a smart pot. In some cases, an airpot can be your best friend. No matter what you choose, you must go for something meant specifically for autoflowers, and that’s exactly what we will discuss today.
1. Things to remember when choosing containers
For growing autoflowering cannabis plants, choosing a container can be tricky. However, once you understand how the plant responds, you’ll be able to do a better job. To choose a container for autoflowers, you need to know how long the plant will survive. A little information on how tall and big the plant grows will also help.
Many people underestimate the importance of containers, but they always end up paying a heavy price at the end of it all. Remember that you need to consider the amount of space you have. If the plant performs very well in a 3-gallon container, purchasing a 5-gallon will not only take up more space but you’ll also spend a lot more money as well. Most autoflowers grow well in 3-gallon pots, but you can always experiment with one plant before planting ten different seeds.
Another important thing to remember is that most autoflowers don’t perform well if they are transplanted. Of course, expert growers start with small containers and move on to bigger ones even with autos, but it’s simply not recommended.
It’s critical to grow plants in containers that allow them to breathe. If not, the roots suffocate and the plant eventually dies. Healthy roots are the foundation to growing big plants that produce fantastic juicy buds. Also, don’t choose pots that completely dry out the roots. The key word is “damp” here where the roots aren’t completely swimming in water or are totally dry. In short, select containers that give your plants an abundance of oxygen. Roots love it when they can breathe.
Pro Tip – Never start off your autoflowering seeds in dixie cups or any small plastic containers because you’ll force the plant to become root-bound.
2. Paint buckets
If you don’t like spending a little extra on containers, regular paint buckets are a fantastic way to grow plants. Those with the urge to “DIY” everything will surely love this. The only problem is that they don’t come with holes at the bottom, but you can easily drill a few holes yourself.
There are a few concerns about using paint buckets since some paint manufacturers include lead in their paints. As you will be smoking the buds, this can be scary. Thus, you can either ditch the idea of using these buckets or you can use paints that don’t have lead in them. Just make sure that you wash all the paint thoroughly before using them.
3. Plastic containers
These are your standard containers that suit any plant. They are available anywhere – online and local nurseries. While these are easy to use, you must take care while growing cannabis, especially the autoflowering varieties. Plastic containers tend to make the roots stick together, and they eventually become root-bound. However, if you have no other choice, plastic pots ranging from 3 to 5 gallons will also work well.
Just ensure that there are ample holes at the bottom of the container so that the water drains out or you’ll end up with soggy roots that will kill your plant faster than you’ve ever imagined. If you don’t see any holes (it happens sometimes) simply punch 5-10 holes at the bottom, and you’re good to go. Most plastic containers come with small saucers that help to catch all the water draining out of the pot.
first time ever growing and got some amazing colors from this strain with low temps ran it at about 58-64 for 2 weeks and got this color
Seed Starting: Containers
You’ve picked out the varieties you want to grow. You ordered your seeds. Now you need to plant them! What type of containers or pots work best for seedlings? Let’s examine a variety of seed starting systems. Then we’ll look at the pros and cons. Hopefully this will guide you in selecting a growing system that works best in your situation.
How to Select the Right Seedling Pots
The first and more important thing to bear in mind is that when it comes to seed starting, there is no perfect, single solution. What’s the best seed starting container? The answer to that question will depend upon the factors that are most important to you:
PLANT QUANTITY: The number of plants you plan on growing will have a huge impact on the growing system you decide to implement. For example, in a production environment like a greenhouse or nursery, you need to produce thousands of seedlings. To produce a high volume of seedlings, nurseries rely on systems that are compact and allow for smaller, denser plants.
PLANT SIZE: What if you are a small scale urban gardener who only grows a few peppers and tomatoes? You may benefit from a system that supports larger, more vigorous seedlings. Growing massive plants with well established root systems gives you a great head start on the growing season. Healthier plants are more disease and pest resistant too. So a seedling container that grows plants with larger root systems might be exactly what you need.
UPFRONT COST: We only have so much money. Many gardeners look at growing food as a way to SAVE money (not spend more). Other gardening hobbyists have no problem dumping hundreds of dollars in a system that only generates a fraction of what they invested. But they don’t care because it’s something they love doing. Starting seeds can be super cheap or maybe a little more costly, depending on what method you choose. Some systems require an upfront investment that slowly pays for itself over a course of years. So we’ll look at what each system has to offer.
RENEWABILITY: Some seed starting solutions may seem simple and affordable at first glance. But a few of these systems are designed in a way that you’ll have to come back, year after year to buy them again and again. This is something worth considering. Would you prefer a reusable product that you can clean and use again next year?
Video: Seed Starting Containers:
10+ Ideas for Vegetable Gardening
Seedling Container Options:
SEEDLING POTS: A simple, highly reliable method for starting seedlings is to just grow each one in its own individual pot. Opting for this method allows you to custom select the pot size and shape that best suits your needs.
It’s so easy to mix and match your seedling containers. For standard sized plants like lettuce, I find that 2.25″ square pots offer a nice balance of rooting size in a compact space. For larger plants like tomatoes, you can easily upgrade to 1 quart pots, allowing the plants to stretch out nicely. You can also select pots that have a more depth for better root systems.
Separate seedling pots allow you to scale up or down in plant size and plant quantity. Plants can be spaced out as they get bigger for better airflow. They can be easily irrigated from the bottom or even placed onto a watering mat. Such pots are easy to wash and reuse year after year. Of course, they may become hard to manage once you start juggling a very large quantity. So keep that in mind.
SALVAGED POTS: Have you ever bought a seedling or a small herb pot that came in its own little potting container? Hopefully you didn’t throw the container away! I always hold onto mine. Time and again they have come in handy. Even if I just put a plant into one of these and then give it to a friend.
As your collection grows, you’ll likely find that you have a stockpile of various sizes. That includes containers with extra depth for better root systems. Depending on the application, you can pick the pot size that is just big enough for whatever plant you’re growing.
Reusing nursery pots makes a lot of sense. It saves you money. But it also diverts materials away from the landfill. I encourage people to recycle and reuse materials when practical. In the case of salvaged potting containers, it’s a no brainer!
DRINKING CUPS / FOOD CONTAINERS: If you are brand new to gardening, you might not have many materials on hand. Starting from scratch can be daunting. And it can be quite costly. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Recycling containers is a free way to acquire some seedling containers without spending a penny!
Why not rinse out some used party cups? Or you could clean some plastic food containers that are shaped properly for growing plants. I’ve used yogurt containers. Once clean, all you need to do is add some drain holes. I typically use a utility knife to cut triangular holes at the base.
To conserve potting mix and further save money, you don’t actually need to fill the containers up all the way. This is especially true for less vigorous plants that don’t have aggressive root systems. Even with larger plants like tomatoes, you could simply choose to plant them outside before they get oversized and become root bound.
NET CUPS: Net cups were developed for use in hydroponics. These basket shaped cups have open slits in the sides and bottom. The openings allow plant roots to grow freely into rooting medium, nutrient solution or even into highly humid air!
Some people have found that net cups can be utilized in growing seedlings. In a standard growing environment, the roots grow to the sides and then stop as they hit dry air. This effect is called air pruning and it prevents unwanted circling of roots. The cups themselves can be placed onto a watering mat allowing them to draw up water as needed.
Net cups can be bought in bulk at a low price. The smaller cups are quite affordable, although they can be very flimsy. Larger cups would support larger plants and would also be easier to clean and re-use again.
COW / PEAT / COIR POTS: Perhaps you’ve see square or round pots that have a texture similar to cardboard pulp. It’s possible to find pots made from several biodegradable materials. Peat pots are made from peat moss. Coir or Coco pots are made from recycled coconut fiber. And CowPots are derived from composted cow manure. All of these are marketed with the intent that you can just plant the entire seedling into the ground and the pot will break down, allowing the seedling to grow to mature size.
Each of these materials has varying levels of sustainability. Some environmentalists oppose the use of peat moss for horticultural use due to the negative impacts of harvesting it. Coir is a more renewable alternative since it is a by-product of the coconut industry. Processing cow poo into a pot is also a cool way to utilize a resource that might otherwise be considered waste.
Some gardeners have complained that their biodegradable pot never properly decomposed during the growing season. If this happens, your plant may become root bound and its growth will be stunted. To avoid this, I peel away the pot and toss the pieces in the ground at planting time.
If your pot is kept moist and is breaking down quickly you may be just fine. One way to tell is to examine the outside edges of the pot before planting. Have plant roots begun to poke through the edges? These pots are meant to air prune the roots, preventing root spiralling. If you see tips of roots, then once you plant this in the ground, you know the roots will be ready to quickly spread out into the native soil. Growth will not be restricted and you should have good results. One final thought: these are consumable products. So you will be stuck buying new ones every year.
SEEDLING FLATS / CELL PACKS & TRAYS: Seedling flats offer tiny cells of soil for each plant. This high density system allows a lot of plants to be squeezed into a small space. Each flat is usually placed into an accompanying tray. The tray offers structure during transport. The trays also can hold excess water, keeping things neat.
Such systems are very common and cheap to implement. They devote only a small amount of potting media to any given plant. But seedling trays are most useful in a nursery or greenhouse application. They may not be the best solution in a small scale home environment.
In my personal experience, I’ve found the trays to be hard to water. Top irrigation works ok, but can be quite messy inside the home. I’ve tried lifting the flat and dumping water underneath into the tray. This bottom watering method is neater. But it’s easy to over water. Also, some cells become over-saturated while seedlings on the edges may dry out faster. Root rot, fungus gnats and mildews can quickly follow. Using a system like this on a self-watering wicking mat can be a very helpful upgrade.
JIFFY PELLETS: Jiffy pellets are little compressed disks of peat moss (or sometimes coir) that expand when soaked in water. The pellets can take a while to absorb the water. But each one is a stand alone “pot” that comes with its own potting mix and nutrients. A simple solution for first time gardeners. Just add water and seeds!
As with a few other options out there, these also air prune the side roots. The squishy cylinder of potting mix is held together by a thin netting. Supposedly, plants roots can grow right through these, once planted in the ground. But some people have had issues with this. It might be safe to cut away the netting at planting time.
There are several sizes that will support various levels of plant size versus plant quantity. Of course, these are consumable products that you’ll be stuck buying again and again. But you can buy packs of just pellets (refills) at a reasonable price. And remember: these save you from buying seed starting mix.
CONE-TAINERS / RAY LEACH TUBES: Cone-tainers are a system developed by the forestry industry for a way of propagating young tree seedlings. These containers are very deep, allowing for a longer tap root. At the same time, they are narrow which works in a production environment where plant density is needed.
The cone-tainer system could certainly be used by a home gardener. But there are several things to consider. This system is has a somewhat limited availability. You may not find it in the typical big box stores or even in local garden centers. When purchased online, I’ve found them to be more expensive than common alternatives like flats and trays.
Cone-tainers require a stand for support. This makes them hard to handle in small batches. They are difficult to water from below. I like that you can pick up and move one or two cones as needed. But they are still cumbersome in small spaces. I recommend these for starting onions or leeks indoors from seed. You can grow lots of onions, while allowing for plenty of vertical root growth.
AIR-POTS: An Air-pot is a specially designed growing system built around one simple concept: air pruning of roots. These pots are shaped in such a way that they will guide roots along a channel that is cut open to the air. Once root tips reach the opening, they dry out and become “air pruned”. The growth tip does not spiral. Instead it terminates. This results in more, branching roots being sent out from the plant.
Regular pots will result in a big ball of entangled roots. The larger the plant gets, the bigger the issue. Poorly watered plants tend to send out extra root growth, further worsening the problem. But plants grown in air-pots have a dense, fibrous network of feeder roots. At the outer edges, there is no entanglement. Instead, the roots are pointing outward, ready to resume growth once planted into the ground. Air-pots are TRUE air pruning systems in that the even air prune the bottom roots. Many systems cannot achieve this effect.
In particular, air-pots are great for growing healthy perennials like herbs and even trees. Perennials are permanent fixtures in your garden that you want to keep for many years. But planting a root bound tree in the ground gives it a horrible start in life. It stunts plants and ultimately leads to increased death rates.
Air-pots are a more costly growth system, especially when compared to other seed starting solutions. But they offer a small pot that is about a quart in capacity, and not as expensive. So you could use this for your larger seedlings that will be allowed to mature quite a bit before planting outdoors.
SOIL BLOCKERS: Soil blockers are a pretty unique idea. They compress a special soil mix that forms small blocks or cubes of soil for your seedlings to take root. Each blocker has several squares allowing you to press out multiple blocks with each action. There is a tiny air space separating them, much like ice cubes in an ice cube tray. Ideally you would have a tray that you press them onto and then leave them in place.
The soil blocker system offers small, medium and large blocks. So you can start a large volume of seedlings. But you can also upgrade the blocks by fitting them into large blocks as plants get bigger. These cubes o’ dirt need to be kept moist. I recommend placing them onto a capillary mat to supply water from underneath.
Soil blockers are a little more costly up front. But they are a truly sustainable system that will last for a long time. There is no waste. No containers to store. And as an added bonus, plant roots are air pruned on the sides, preventing the plant becoming root-bound.
I’ve never personally grown seedlings in these. I imagine it could be tricky to move these around in a small grow chamber. Rearranging plants might be a pain. I also can’t imagine offering these plants to friends without first finding a way to protect the blocks from being squished or drying out. If you have a physical limitation, like arthritis, using these for a large volume of plants might be difficult. Otherwise, these seem rather ingenious and they just might fit your needs perfectly.
ALBO-STEIN SELF-WATERING SIP: This system is a little bonus that I wanted to throw in there. Each of these is constructed from a Clorox wipes container with a yogurt container nested into it. It’s built on the same idea as using repurposed or upcycled containers for growing plants. But this system take things much further!
Each albo-stein holds 1 quart of potting mix. But it also has a self-contained water reservoir that can store 3 cups of water. This water slowly wicks up, through the use of a cord. As the seedling grows, water gets drawn up through capillary forces. It makes it super easy to water some very big seedlings.
These containers are fairly large and so you can’t fit a lot of them into a small space. But these are a great way for a small scale urban gardener to grow some huge pepper or tomato seedlings, without having them dry out as they get big. I have a complete write up on these if you’d like to know more. Perhaps this design could be used with other containers that you encounter in your daily life.