Contain Yourself – Fabric Pots: A New Container Revolution
Container gardening is not a new concept, but the types of containers that offer the ability to produce unprecedented amounts of food are indeed revolutionary…
In days of old, as in less than a century ago, people relied on small-scale farms and gardens to grow the food they needed to feed their families. It was commonplace for each household to have a veggie plot on their land. Nowadays, with the onset of industrialized commercial agriculture, food had been confined to the walls of cans, bags, and boxes. It is then processed to preserve it and shipped across the country before it reaches the mouths it was intended to feed. In the modern era of fast, cheap and convenient, many children grow up not even knowing where food comes from. As the industry has pushed rural folk toward cities, giving birth to the sprawl of suburbia, many people have given up on gardening as a way to provide themselves with safely grown, nutritious produce. In densely packed urban centers, growing any plant can seem nearly impossible. However, not all hope is lost. Thanks to the numerous benefits of container gardening, just about any plant imaginable can be grown in even the most concrete of jungles.
Container gardening is not a new or revolutionary concept. Cultures throughout the ages have embraced container gardening as an innovative and effective way to grow food. From the millennia of pottery that has been unearthed in archaeological excavations across the globe to the famed hanging gardens of Babylon, container gardens have etched their importance into the pages of history. What is revolutionary are the simple, yet effective, types of containers that have been popping up in the modern-day marketplace with the ability to produce crop yields of unprecedented proportions.
When we think of container gardening, a terra cotta flower pot, a decorative ceramic planter or a standard black plastic nursery pot are probably the first images that come to mind. While those receptacles, of course, have the ability to contain soil or a medium, it’s the fabric aeration containers that are taking the hydroponics industry by storm and really blowing other pots out of the water.
What is a fabric aeration container?
Well, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s a container made from a breathable fabric that works as a great alternative to traditional pots—its benefits are many and the results are noticeable.
Here are a few of the advantages that these fabric pots bring to the table:
Promotes air pruning of the roots and prevents roots circling – In standard plastic nursery pots, roots grow outward and eventually hit the impenetrable walls of the pot, leaving them with nowhere to go. They travel downward and then hit the bottom of the pot. Again with nowhere to go, they begin to spiral around one another, choking each other out and becoming “root bound.” This leads to a stressed-out plant, stunted growth and ultimately a smaller harvest. In the fabric pot, the roots grow outward and when they reach the side, they are naturally pruned by the air and light instead of traveling down and circling.
Improves root structure and mass – When the roots become air pruned by the fabric, the plant begins to shoot out new feeder roots. The increase in root mass provides more area of root matter that can uptake water and nutrients, allowing the plant to grow bigger and at an accelerated rate.
Aerates the root zone and regulates temperature -The breathable fabric allows oxygen to aerate the root zone from all sides, rather than from just the top. The oxygenation helps beneficial microbes in the soil thrive and contributes to a healthy rhizosphere (the living area around the roots), as the breathability and evaporative cooling help keep temperatures low (conversely, temperatures in plastic pots reach such extreme levels that they could literally cook the microbiology in the soil). It’s like wearing a wet t-shirt rather than a trash bag.
Prevents overwatering – The porous fabric provides excellent drainage on all sides so the roots don’t get overwatered and drown. Overwatering is also one of the main causes of mold and pathogens, so sufficient drainage is crucial to preventing it.
Can be used in hydro systems – Water can get out… and in! They work great in ebb-and-flow systems, allowing water to penetrate the bag and be absorbed by the medium. They also act as a filter, allowing a grower to use a soilless medium in a hydroponic system without the threat of the medium clogging the tubes and various components.
Makes growing food possible where soil conditions are poor – Fabric aeration bags make gardening possible where it would not have been before.
Mobile – The containers are flexible, so they are easy to fold up and store when not in use. They can also be moved to different locations around a yard if sunlight only reaches certain areas at different times of the day.
Since fabric aeration containers have made their debut into the hydroponics industry, they have been the buzz in grow rooms around the world. When choosing a fabric pot for optimal crops and maximum yields, keep in mind that not all pots are created equally
Here are some features to look for when choosing the best fabric pot for you:
When investing your hard-earned money into your garden, it is far worth a slightly higher initial investment to buy superior quality materials. You want bags that you can use crop after crop for years. Look for fabric bags that will last for a long time, and won’t rip after a couple of uses. Try to find bags that are UV-protected so they won’t break apart after minimal sun exposure. This will reduce the frequency that you have to buy them, and actually save you money over time. Your best bet would be to invest in a bag made in the United States with quality proprietary fabric. Also, be sure to ask which bags are food-grade.
Be mindful of the material
Many fabric bags will boast that they are “made from recycled materials” and “degradable.” Recycled materials could be anything from used plastic bottles or recycled textiles to cotton fabrics. Depending on the raw source, “recycled” materials could lead to the leaching of toxins into the root zone. Cotton has the tendency to attract disease and pathogens. “Degradable” simply means that it falls apart, which is not a good thing!
Keep it simple
Look for a good strong bag without mechanical components. While zippers, Velcro, and straps might seem cool and convenient, they are the first pieces to get clogged with soil, fail and be rendered useless way too soon. Handles can be helpful if the bag will be moved around frequently.
A great quality fabric aeration container combined with premium organic nutrients, plenty of light and ample ventilation are the key components to achieving some of the largest yields in history. Side-by-side tests in fabric aeration containers versus plastic pots prove noticeable differences in plant quality and yield size. With fabric containers, the possibilities are virtually limitless. They have made it possible for urbanites in metropolitan areas to grow on balconies, porches, vertical walls and rooftops, leaving them no excuse to grow their own food—a hopeful notion for a society that has become so far removed from their food source. Incorporate some fabric bags into your garden and see for yourself just how impressive the results can be.
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- Amir Ali Shaikh