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.
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.