The good: They can help minimize transplant shock, so they're especially good for plants that don't like to have their roots disturbed, such as melons, cucumbers, squash and nasturtiums.
You can mitigate some of these problems, though. If you're growing tomatoes, you can plant them deeper in the soil than they were in the pot, so you can just bury the whole biodegradable pot. If you're planting other vegetables, though, they should go into the garden at the same depth as they were in the pot. So if they're in peat pots, you need to tear the top rim of the pot off so it doesn't stick out above the soil surface. It's also a good idea to tear the bottom off the pot so that roots won't be trapped if the pot doesn't break down.
The bad: Biodegradable pots tend to be more expensive than plastic pots. If they are planted in the garden with the rim of the pot above the soil surface, they can wick water away from the soil the plant is sitting in. And they do not always decompose completely, so a plant can become root bound in them.
Q: What do you think of using peat pots for starting seeds? Ads I've seen say you can start seeds in them and then just plant the whole pot in the garden. Does that really work?
A: Biodegradable pots made from peat, cow dung, or other fibers have pros and cons.
If there are still remnants of your biodegradable pot in the garden at the end of the season, they can be broken up and turned into the existing plant bed or removed and added to the compost pile.
2. Gently tear off the bottom of the pot, too, unless roots have already fully penetrated it. Removing the bottom of the peat pot, Cowpot or newspaper pot will make it easier for the seedling to take root and access nutrients and water from the ground.
Read about other options of containers for starting seeds.
Learn all about starting plants from seed in the downloadable recorded slideshow It Starts With a Seed.
In summary, when planting biodegradable pots with their seedlings in the ground, tear off the top and the bottom. It's easiest to do this if you soak the pot in water first.
Biodegradable pots—such as Jiffy Pots, other peat pots, Cowpots and pots made from newspaper—offer an easy way to grow plants from seed and transplant seedlings into the garden. Because these pots break down naturally over time, the seedlings can be planted pot and all in the ground. Jiffy Pots, Cowpots and the like are especially great options for plants that do not like having their roots disturbed, such as nasturtiums and cucumbers.
There are two tricks to remember when transplanting seedlings in biodegradable pots:
1. Gently tear off the top half inch of the pot. If you leave this part of the peat pot or Cowpot on, it could wick water away from the soil surface and limit the amount of water that reaches the plant's roots.
Shop for special seed mixes from Renee's Garden. Many can be direct sown into the garden after the last frost.
Biodegradable plant containers offer a more efficient and more sustainable transplanting operation compared to traditional plastic materials. Another benefit of plantable pots for gardening is their contribution to plant growth. Research has shown that using alternative containers generally benefits plant growth.
There are different types of plantable pots. Plantable pots can be made from: peat, manure, rice hulls, paper, coconut coir, bioplastic, wood fiber, and straw. There are pros and cons with each type of pot; read this guide to help select the type of plantable pot that is best for you. When selecting a plantable pot, it is important to consider how much time your plants need to start vs. how long it takes the container to degrade. Other considerations are climate, soil, and cost.
If you are looking for sustainable gardening practices, you may want to consider using plantable pots for gardening. These containers will allow you to reduce the use of plastic and/or clay materials in your garden.
What are Plantable Containers?
Once in the ground, roots are able to grow through the pots’ walls. These biodegradable plant containers differ from compostable and recycled plastic/bio-based plastic (R3) containers in the way that plantable containers can be planted in the ground, while these other containers are meant to be externally composted or recycled.
Plantable pots for gardening make transplanting quicker and easier, and can be used for ornamental and horticultural plants. The plantable pot can absorb some water, so it may be necessary to increase watering depending on the type used. For example; peat, wood fiber, and manure absorb more water than bioplastics and rice hulls. Plantable pots can also help stabilize substrate temperature, which reduces the chance to root injury especially in the southeastern region of the country.
Plantable containers can be used for starting plants. They are beneficial to use because they can help reduce transplant shock (which will help with your plants’ survival rate), reduce transplanting expenses, and avoid using disposable plastics. They’re durable enough for short term production, and can be planted directly into the ground.
Plantable pots are a great way to reduce the use of plastics and other non-renewable resources in your garden. There are many different types available, so it is important to consider your climate, soil, and gardening practices when selecting one.