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13.11.11

Smart Pots for Smart Container Gardening

As a frugal urban gardener who often creates container gardens from buckets and other items I have a hard time recommending gardeners buy pots because they're so expensive at garden centers and nurseries. But after trying some Smart Pots in the balcony garden this year I've discovered some pots I'm happy to recommend. I met one of the men behind Smart Pots this past winter at the Mid-America Horticultural Trade Show who convinced me to try some Smart Pots after I told him I didn't believe in buying pots. When I saw him again this summer at the Independent Garden Center Show and he inquired about the Smart Pot samples he gave me, I had to admit he was right. Smart Pots are a smart solution to container gardening.

Smart Pots for Urban Gardening, Urban Farming


What are Smart Pots? They're soft-sided, fabric containers that feel a lot like felt, but aren't made of felt-it's a polypropylene material. The photo on the left was taken on 6/13 after I planted two purple tomatillo starts, four bell pepper starts, three eggplant seedlings and sowed lots of basil seeds. The photo on the left was taken on 9/13 and as you can see this vegetable container garden was a bit wild. Did I mention that the pot is only 7 gallons? I don't recommend planting that many plants in a 7 gallon pot, but I like to really push garden products I'm given to review. If I have a successful experience with a garden product knowingly abusing it then I fell like a gardener who follows the manufacturer suggestions can get good results too.

Since Smart Pots are made from a permeable material plant roots don't circle the pot and eventually become rootbound like in traditional containers. The root tips emerge outside the fabric only to be "pruned" by being dried out by the air-causing the plant to send out more roots at the root ball. This is called "air pruning." The result are stronger, healthier plants.

These pots are good solutions for container gardening because they're reusable, weigh less than terracotta, stone and metal pots; even less than their alternative fiberglass pots. Their light weight also makes them ideal containers for older gardeners, gardeners with mobility issues, balcony gardeners and rooftop gardening.

The garden at the Smart Home at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago features Smart Pots; demonstrating that they'd be good pots in school gardens and community gardens, because they're more affordable than building raised beds and they're portable. Similarly, Smart Pots could replace the need for urban farms and urban agriculture projects to build raised beds on asphalt and concrete . They're also pretty affordable and within the means of groups and organizations gardening on a budget.

While I used my Smart Pots to grow vegetables they're also applicable in ornamental container gardening. Even though I over-planted the pots I still managed to grow a nice crop of healthy vegetables. My one problem-if I can call it that-is that they're round pots. Round container take up too much space when you're gardening in a square or rectangular location like a balcony or porch. While the pots come in a variety of sizes, but it would be nice for urbanites with gardens in small spaces to have rectangular pots as an option. I received two Smart Pots for free for the purposes of trialing and reviewing them. I used one of them in my container garden on the balcony and the other to grow potatoes.


11 comments:

  1. Interesting. I was considering building raised beds on our parking pad next year. These might be a worthwhile alternative.

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  2. We tried and sold these at our garden center with similarly great results. People loved their light weight, portability and functionality. I had the opportunity to meet the gentleman behind Smart Pots too, he was genuinely excited,and sincere about helping gardeners be successful. It always feels good to support a brand with passionate people behind it. We can't wait to try the large sized "raised bed" type planter which we believe will be welcomed by renters and others who can't afford the tools and supplies for traditional raised beds made with lumber. I'd like to re-post your review on our page. Great info.

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  3. Very cool. Thanks for the recommendation.

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  4. @Helen, They're something you should definitely look into or experiment too if you don't want the expense of raised beds.

    @beginablarp, I keep walking past this small empty lot near my house and thinking that it would be just big enough to create a community garden using a couple of the 300-400 gallob Smart Pots. Smart Pots are also pretty inexpensive when you compare them to traditional containers. Could you image paying less than $100 for a 400 gallon contianer? Sure, you can link to my post from your page.

    @smedette,You're welcomed. Hope you get a chance to try one out in your garden.

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  5. I grew some potatoes in a Smart Pots-like container this year (not a Smart Pot TM) and didn't like them--they dried out faster than the potatoes in my plastic storage container bin, and no how would I use them for potatoes again. I'm gonna try carrots next spring because my mom doesn't want the darn thing back!

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  6. I love my smart pots- planted 3 types of herbs in 1 and in the other I created a pocket container for strawberries with onions on top. Everything we planted did really well, and is still thriving.

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  7. @Monica, I grew potatoes in my Smart Pot and I didn't experience what you experienced in whatever fabric pot you planted yours in.

    @Jessica, Next year I'm going to try planting the sides of mine into a strawberry pot like yours and plant the sides of it too. I didn't do it this year because I had already planted too many things into this one pot.

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  8. Wow MBT, I'm impressed with how great your plants look, even if they are a little packed in there. I'm really looking forward to trying my Smart Pots next spring! That's a great idea to make them in rectangular shapes - hopefully the Smart Pot people think so too.

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  9. I've used smart pots before to grow fingerling potatoes. They worked great! A great product. I read your information on collecting morning glory seeds and went outside to collect my seeds. I was stunned how easy it was to collect their seed. They have been coming back in my zone 5 garden, but now I can collect the seed..thank you for posting the information....robbie:-)

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  10. We asked about square pots when we met the guy behind them. He said there was no way to do it without them gapping open, losing their shape. I tried these http://bit.ly/uaVLOT because I like the shape and capacity, and my tomatoes did very well, but the fabric shows wear and tear, after one season, especially along the bands that divide the bag-and help hold its shape. It really doesn't stay neatly rectangular once it's full of soil, either. Based on using both, I think the smart pot will hold up longer. I like both products, though and a happy to see companies address these needs.

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  11. There's an Irish company making these,marketed as CleverPots...they make both square and circular ones. I've tried them and they're awesome,my habanero plants are really thriving! I got some 26litre ones but I know they make custom sizes. Great prices too, much cheaper than Smart Pots!

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