Superoots Air-Pot Planter Containers
I was first introduced to Air-Pots through an online video by world renowned permaculturalist, Geoff Lawton. He was at a massive permaculture site in Hong Kong. The facility is one of the most impressive demonstrations of permaculture in the world. And at this facility, they have their own nursery where they propagate native plant species. Geoff focused on how they utilize air pots for establishing healthier perennials.
The Air-Pot is a specialized growing system that trains and air prunes the roots of developing plants from small herbs to trees. It prevents the plants' roots from becoming root bound. Normally the roots spread outward to the container edge. Once they hit the edge, they begin to circle, following the profile of the pot. This results in a tightly bound ball of misshapen roots.
How Air-Pruning Works
Switching from conventional pots to Air-Pots results in a much more natural root structure. The plant roots grow outward but are funnelled along the conical chambers making up the container wall. Each chamber has a hole cut into the end. As roots grow towards that hole they reach the edge which is comprised of bare, dry potting medium.
Once the root tips are exposed to dry air they terminate and do not grow any further. When the terminal tip of the developing root dies, the plant creates a branching network of fibrous roots, closer towards the plant's center. The overall root structure of plants grown in Air-Pots is much more natural. Once the plants are put into the ground they are poised to grow vigorously from all directions.
The Air-Pot Advantage
In my testing, I've found this to be exactly what happens. After a Summer of growing in Air-Pots, my nursery perennials had roots that were filling the entire pot. But there was not much, if any, root circling. The air pruning really works! And this includes not just the sides, but the bottom as well.
Air-Pots are available in a broad range of sizes. They can be collapsed and stored in a flat shape when not in use. But once you need one, you can easily select the appropriate side and bottom panel. Simply wrap the side into a cylinder around the base. Overlap the edges of the side and secure it in place with one or two reusable fasteners.
Unlike "air pruning" mesh fabric grow bags, air-pots hold up much better, even after repeated use. To achieve any sort of air pruning on the bottom of a mesh fabric grow bag, the bag must be lifted up off of the ground. But air-pots don't need elevated. They have an internal lip which keeps the bottom from touching the ground, ensuring a complete air prune. And removing the root ball from the pot is completely effortless. The sidewall simply unwraps and you're good to go!
When to Use an Air-Pot
Air-Pots are a worthwhile investment that can be used again and again. I tested them on a couple annual vegetables, like tomatoes. Once transplanted into the garden, the tomatoes exhibited explosive growth! But these are most useful for perennials. Think about perennial herbs or flowers. And shrubs and trees are extremely good candidates.
PERFECT FOR PERENNIALS: If you buy a small potted plant from a nursery, it might be a few weeks or even months before you have a spot prepared for it in the landscape or garden. Placing such plants in well sized Air-Pots allows them to keep developing even as they are waiting to be planted. Once you install them, they'll grow faster and establish more easily.
These are even good for over-wintering and establishing larger sized plants. Such plants look more full and mature when they are finally installed into the landscape. Edible landscapers and backyard orchardists should consider these to be an essential tool of the trade.
Although the Air-Pots are worth using, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
ASSEMBLY: Be sure to pay attention to the way you assemble them. Don't place the side wall up-side-down or in-side-out. Be sure to stuff potting mix in each and every pocket along the side wall. Otherwise, the roots cannot properly grow outwardly into the air pruning pockets.
WATERING: These containers tend to dry out quicker. So in a large-scale operation you may find drip irrigation to be worth the investment. Also, if your potting mix is mostly peat moss or coir, allowing the pots to dry out results in contraction of the mix. Once you try to rehydrate them, the water will run out through the gaps along the edges, spilling out through the side holes.
Buy Superoots Air-Pot Containers from Amazon.com