Over the years, gardeners have found new and innovative ways to control natural processes. Someone once decided to plow a field, plant thousands of seeds and reap the rewards of hard work… but only for a season. Once the crop is harvested, they must wait an entire year to plant another crop. Somewhere along the way, someone realized that by putting a plant in a container, they could extend their growing season, keep a selection of plants closer to the kitchen for ease of use, and possibly grow plants that would never have grown in their region before. Stone and clay pots were the containers of choice for many years. Time marched on and plastic containers became a less expensive, more convenient method of container gardening. They also allowed for better media drainage. While plants do grow nicely in containers with well-drained media, eventually their roots reach the edges of the pot. With nowhere else to grow, the roots begin spiraling around the pot, ultimately strangling themselves.
In recent years, a revolution in container gardening has come about. Fabric! Fabric pots allow for all the same advantages of container gardening but have one distinct improvement: Roots will never spiral inside. The key benefit of this new method of container gardening is that roots receive a prime ratio of air and water. Not only does the root system get air exchange from a few small holes at the bottom and the surface layer of soil, but air is also able to pass through the soil almost the entire way around the pot.
Everyone knows that water is essential to keeping a plant alive, but what many 'brown thumbs' don't realize, is that roots need oxygen just as much as they need water. If you have ever removed a plant from a container that was not draining properly, you surely smelled the horrible odor of rotting roots. This is because water was allowed to fill all the micro-pores in the soil. Without draining, the water became stagnant and the bottom of the pot became anaerobic (lacking oxygen). The roots used up all available oxygen in the water and soil, and then drowned and began to rot. Fabric pots allow for maximum aeration providing roots the best possible balance of airflow and healthy water retention, preventing an anaerobic environment and, ultimately, root rot.
Fabric pots also help develop a full healthy root system. In standard hard side pots, roots tend to travel down and outward. When they reach the edge of the pot, they begin spiraling around the pot searching for new space, nutrients, and water. Fabric pots solve this problem completely. In a fabric pot, roots also travel in the same down and outward direction, however when the roots reach the edge of the pot, rather than spiraling around the inside, they grow into the fabric and become exposed to the outside air.
Now because the humidity of the outside air is lower than the humidity inside the pot, root tips will dry out. Just like a pruned tree that branches below a cut, roots that have dried out will also branch out. At each site where a root has reached the edge of a fabric pot, smaller roots are formed behind that desiccated tip within the pot. This massively increases the root mass within the pot, all the way through. If you've ever transplanted a root bound plant, you may have noticed there was an amount of unused soil at the center of the root ball and the roots have spiraled filled all the space around the edges of the pot. Plants in fabric pots completely fill the media with roots using all available space within.
There have been many scientific tests that have proven the increased performance of plants in fabric pots compared to standard plastic or clay pots. Consider a side-by-side trial with the same size pot you've been using and a fabric pot. It is very likely that you will see increased performance and you'll end up switching over to fabric for the majority of your container gardening needs! Enjoy!
Article from The Grow Scene