I think the most difficult part of getting started with growing marijuana, for me at least, was the sheer amount of information. I would sit down before bed to “read a little bit” and then find myself scrolling through various forums until 4 in the morning. There were several quick start guides that would walk you through the basics and get you going, but I’ve never been one to follow things like that.
I didn’t want to just grow in soil, I wanted to grow in the absolute best soil I could. So I’d dive into the vast topic of organic soil and everything it entailed. Start my first grow with bagseed I have laying around? No thanks, let me research an endless list of strains until I find exactly what I want. Wait, you mean I can bend and shape my plants to grow the way I want them to? Well, I guess I better spend the rest of the day learning about each method so I know exactly what I’m going to do.
Seriously guys, I would estimate that altogether at least a few days worth of time were spent on reading before my first grow. I’m willing to bet that most of you can relate to what I’m talking about.
There’s one moment in particular that stands out to me. I remember it so well because I was finally ready to start my grow. You know what I’m talking about. That feeling of excitement when you realize that you’ve worked out all the details and it’s time to actually get started. Anyways, I was rereading a post about organic soil to double check some information on measuring out amendments when I came across a brief question someone had posted.
“Do any of you guys have experience growing in Smart Pots or Air Pots?”
Ok, maybe that’s not an exact quote, but it was something pretty close to that.
I had somehow never heard of these Smart Pots or Air Pots. In fact, I hadn’t even considered that there might be more options beyond a run of the mill pot or a 5 gallon bucket. Why would there be? I mean, they’re just pots, how much better can you really make them?
Well, much better apparently. And it’s all about the roots.
Root Bound Plants
Have you ever seen a plant that has been pulled out of its pot? More than likely you could see that the plant’s roots were circling around the sides and the bottom of the container. I’m sure most of you know this already, but for those of you that don’t, that plant has become root bound.
What does that even mean? What causes this happen?
Alright, so a plant’s root system is constantly expanding. Constantly growing further and deeper to accommodate the growth above the soil. Eventually, the roots of a potted plant will reach the wall of the container, and with nowhere else to go, they begin to wrap around. If this isn’t taken care of the roots will eventually become choked and the plant will experience stunted growth. Let it get bad enough and your plant may die.
Side note: I’m actually not sure where the term “root bound” comes from. Is it because the roots are bound by the container? Or is it that the roots bind themselves? Something else entirely? If you know the answer, fill me in!
The solution for this problem is transplanting. (I say solution but ideally you’ll want to transplant before this even happens.) Pretty simple process, you just pull the plant out of the pot and move it to a bigger one. But there’s a problem a lot people eventually face with this. At some point you can’t transplant to a bigger pot and your plant will probably still become root bound, at least a little bit.
Air pruning is a process that happens naturally when a root is exposed to dry air that’s low in humidity. Essentially what happens is that the root tip gets “burned” and stops growing in the direction it’s growing. Instead, the root will develop new, healthy roots that branch out.
So these Smart Pots and Air Pots are designed in a way that allows for automatic air pruning of the roots. I’ll highlight some details and pros and cons about them below, but all in all they each achieve the same effect. As the roots of your marijuana plant reach the sides of the container they come in contact with air and get pruned.
What you wind up getting is a dense system, or ball, of roots throughout the growing medium as opposed to root growth being concentrated around the sides of the container. The difference in root development can easily be seen. In a regular pot, you’ll find large patches of growing medium without any roots. In a pot like these, nearly all of the growing medium is filled with roots.
Smart Pots are made of a breathable fabric and come in a wide variety of sizes ranging up to hundreds of gallons. They’re my personal preference and seems as though most would agree, as these are the more popular of the two.
Pros of a Smart Pot
- They’re reasonably priced at about $10 to $15 a piece, depending on the size you choose of course.
- Fairly durable and long lasting if you take proper care of them.
- Easy to store, just fold flat and tuck them away.
Cons of a Smart Pot
- Because the pot isn’t rigid, the soil gets misshapen when you lift it. Maybe this is ok, but I’m wary of the roots being disturbed by this.
- Despite the durability, they’re still made of fabric. Fabric can and will tear eventually.
- They can leak and make a mess.
- Sometime’s the roots will grab hold of the fabric which makes transplanting difficult.
Tips for Growing in a Smart Pot
- Get the ones with handles and thank me later.
- Start watering around the stalk and then make your way to the edges.
- Use some sort of tray to catch any runoff and just allow the water to get soaked back up.
- When you have to remove it, set it on an upside down bucket and slowly roll the fabric down.
- Take proper care of them and they’ll last quite awhile. Toss in the washer after each grow.
Such an odd looking pot, right? They basically work by guiding the roots towards those holes where they then get pruned. As you can see, the bottom is also vented to prevent roots from circling the bottom of the container. These get shipped to you flat. You just roll them around the bottom disc and attach the fasteners (those blue pieces).
Pros of an Air Pot
- They’re made from a durable plastic that’s easy to clean and will likely last you a long time.
- Transplanting is a breeze. Just undo the fasteners and peel the pot right off.
- Easy to store, just lay them flat on top of one another and put them away.
Cons of an Air Pot
- They’re a little higher priced than Smart Pots.
- As you would imagine, watering usually causes quite the mess.
- I’ve seen more than a few reports of gnats hanging out inside of the holes.
- They dry out at a significantly faster rate than a Smart Pot.
- Because they’re thinner, there’s a high chance of these toppling over.
Tips For Using Air Pots
- Again, slowly start watering around the stalk and make your way outwards.
- Expect to clean up water and plan accordingly.
Obviously neither of these pots are a necessity. People have been producing great bud, using regular containers, for quite some time before pots like these existed. So the big question is, should you use a Smart Pot or Air Pot and if so, which one? I’ll try to keep my answer short and sweet for you, but if you there’s more you want to know just get at me in the comments.
You’ll hear that using one of these pots increased the growth rate or yield in comparison to growing in a regular pot. But you’ll also hear that they didn’t result in any noticeable difference at all. I’ll be honest with you guys and say that I have no idea if they result in faster growth or a heavier harvest because I’ve never grown in a regular pot.
Here’s the thing though, and it might be where you and I differ. I don’t particularly care how much a plant yields or how long it takes to finish flowering. When I grow marijuana, my goal is simply to grow the best marijuana I can. The quality of the end product is my driving force. That’s what my recommendation is based on.
Does air pruning create a healthier system of roots? Absolutely. No one can argue that. Whether that directly correlates to faster growth, denser buds, or has a positive effect that can even be seen, is irrelevant to me. What I care about is just providing the best conditions possible for my plants. A dense, well developed mass of healthy roots is something I can provide my plants by using a container like an Air Pot or a Smart Pot.
To sum that up, yes, I think you should use one of these containers.
Personally, I recommend going with a Smart Pot. Don’t get me wrong, Air Pots work just as well. But they make a bigger mess than I really cared to have in my grow space and I don’t like the potential of them tipping over easily.
One last thing: I want to reiterate that you can (obviously) grow great plants in something like a 5 gallon bucket. If that’s what you’re going to use, I have a tip for you. Go to the bakery in your local grocery store and ask for their empty icing buckets. You’ll have to wash cake icing out of them, but that’s a small price to pay for free containers.
Ok guys, you know the drill. Meet me in the comments and stir up a conversation.