Fabric vs. Plastic Grow Pots

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If anyone’s garden is going to produce a maximum potential yield, why not have it be yours?

Experienced growers of all varieties don’t get their hands dirty in hopes of harvesting a less-than-stellar crop. Even the novice grower, who has yet to reach green thumb status, wants to maximize their growing capability.

Both groups and many in between will turn to grow pots to host their plants. These could be DIY smart pots, or perhaps the grower is contemplating the multiple deciding factors in the fabric vs. plastic pot discussion.

The best grow pots cultivate the ideal environmental condition for plants to develop. So when it comes down to container design, which approach reigns supreme?

Fabric vs. Plastic Grow Pots

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So what’s the difference between fabric pots and plastic pots? For one, fabric pots are made of a mesh-type material that is both porous and tough. What comprises a plastic pot is obvious in the name, and instead of having a porous design, this kind of grow pot will have holes perforated around the container’s bottom edge.

These variations in design impact many aspects of a plant’s development. The root structure will vary depending on which pot used. Another distinction is the amount of oxygen these pots make available to the plant’s roots. One more variable when it comes to fabric pots vs. plastic pots: the rate of dehydration.

Let’s take a deeper look and analyze how these factors play out.

Fabric Grow Pots

fabric grow pots

Because of the mesh container, roots grow through the pot itself and face outwards. Transplanting into new soil thus becomes a more efficient process, with the capacity to produce an enhanced yield.

Fabric pots allow for more oxygen flow to get into the root zone. Microbes that catalyze the growing process feed off of oxygen and benefit greatly from the perforated mesh container design.

Air pruning–the whole theory behind aeration containers and fabrics–is all about getting air to the roots. This dehydrates them, causing them to branch, collect more water and nutrients, and therefore expedites growth. Because of their breathability, fabric pots dry out quicker and more evenly, than other types of grow pots.

Plastic Grow Pots

small plant in plastic pot

Typically with the hard, traditional plastic grow pots, the roots grow from the center to the side, then spin around the inside edge of the container. While this approach is widely used, it’s considered to be a less efficient means of growth compared to other methods.

This process produces transplants with circling roots, which can be an inefficient root structure.

Airflow is limited compared to fabric pots. This hampers potential development and cuts the capacity to air prune plants and accelerate growth.

Companies like Smart Pots have made it their business to create the most optimal grow pots, and have done so utilizing the fabric pot approach.

DIY Smart Grow Pots

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Some might be interested in how grow pots are made–more specifically, how to construct DIY smart pots from home. The materials required for this home-style approach to grow pots are as follows: five square pieces of felt (cut to your specifications) and a hot glue gun.

Here is the procedure:

  1. Gluing along the edge of the fabric, connect pieces one side at a time, until you form a four-sided cube that’s missing its top and bottom panels.
  2. Next, the bottom piece should be applied by attaching it, with glue, at a corner. Then glue along the edges until this fifth piece of felt is completely attached.
  3. Once dried, the final step is to flip the bag inside-out and it’s ready to go!

The materials are inexpensive and the method is simple enough that it could be done in an hour (with drying time).

More on Grow Pots:

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  • The soil is aerated when placed in fabric pots. This helps use water more efficiently and enhances the development of the root system.
  • Fabric pots cultivate more nutrient delivery and thus healthier plants. Plastic pots are prone to becoming root-bound and causing root-rot if left in water for too long.
  • It can be problematic if grow pots sit too high off the ground. When watering a plant that’s elevated, the water will sometimes sit too low for the roots to reach it, causing drainage problems.
  • In the case of fabric pots vs. plastic pots, the fabric pots’ mesh-bottom sits on the ground, which allows the roots to remain within a reasonable distance to pull water.
  • Likewise, for plastic pots, the water is retained at the bottom. (This tidbit is worth mentioning for any growers pursuing an operation involving DIY smart pots.)

    Other methods of growing do exist

The design changes in grow pots stem from the desire to generate the maximum potential yield when it comes to what’s being grown. Whether that plant’s being grown in one of the DIY smart pots, or in the better option of the fabric pots vs. plastic pots scenario, always do your research.

By Diego Felix