Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Product Test: The Air-Pot

I'm pretty excited at the moment as I've just been given my first product to test, courtesy of Gardeners' Click. I was asked if I was interested in testing an Air-Pot, so naturally I jumped at the chance. I had the option of testing a kit for growing tomatoes or one for potatoes. I went for the latter and decided to go for the smaller, 50 litre patio sized kit so I could keep an eye on things at home.

I'm already familiar with Air-Pots, as the Yew I bought at the garden centre 2 years ago came in one and Martyn used a close-up picture of one for his mystery guess quiz a few weeks ago. It looks like they're going to be more widely available in the future, hence the product test. Since getting my Yew, I've been intrigued at how they work as a pot with holes seems plain wrong doesn't it? According to Martyn, the holes encourage the roots to grow a myriad of fine hairs in response to their contact with air rather than spiralling round the pot as usually happens. I'm yet to remain convinced as I'm worried about keeping the pot watered sufficiently well. Whenever I've watered my Yew, it only seems to take a small amount before leaking everywhere.

I was concerned it might be too late for the product test this year, but then remembered that I'd planted some of my left over seed potatoes rather late for a compost bag growing trial. Therefore I could split the young plants for a comparison test between the Air-Pot and the compost bag method. My Air-Pot came on Friday and surprise, I had 2 instead of the one I was expecting! As you can see from the main picture, the kit is pretty simple, comprising a base, a wall and some screws to hold everything together.

They took less than 5 minutes to assemble. The base needs to snuggle in between 2 of the rows of dimples and I found it was easy to do so and include a hole in the bottom if I didn't roll the wall around the base tightly enough. Everything seemed fine at my second attempt, but closer scrutiny of the picture on the instructions showed I'd assembled it upside down. Some of the dimples don't have holes in them (which are easy to miss) and where these are is important for the finished product. Everything came together at my third attempt thank goodness - luckily the screws come out as easily as they go in and the assembled pot looks and feels pretty sturdy.

Then came the potato transfer. If I'd been planting them as newly chitted potatoes, I'd just be filling the first 4 inches of the pot and adding compost as the plants grow just like I'm doing with my compost bags. However, the plants were large enough for me to fill up the pot immediately as you can see in the picture. I made sure the compost was pressed down well (as instructed) and I found it took about 70 litres of compost to fill the 50 litre pots. The instructions also say that the pots will need more water than conventional ones, so I thought I'd mix some water retaining gel into the compost to keep the need for watering down a little. Now all that remains for me is to keep an eye on progress, water the pots and then pull them apart when I'm ready to harvest. Luckily I've kept the join to the front of where I've placed them on the lower patio, so I don't have to move the pots around come harvest time.

I'll let you know how I get on :)

9 comments:

  1. I look forward to hearing how they do. Like you I have only heard of them for trees before, though I have bought tiny bedding plants in plastic 'nets' which are really ridged plastic - same principle? I worry when the roots met the outside air instead of soil, but they still seemed to grow and transplant well. I run out of small pots for seedling and re-used some, they did seem to be better plants.

    Best wishes Sylvia

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  2. What a neat planter. It looks like air holes are all over it. I like the bags with the plants in them. Different, creative and recycled. I like that. Have a good day.

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  3. Fascinating. I'd never heard of these.

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  4. I can see them being useful for plants that are to be put in the ground but I can't really see the advantage for things that aren't going to be planted. Like you I think that watering would be a problem - and more wasteful come to that. I'll be interested to see how you get on!

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  5. Thanks for the report VP. Have not come across these before. Look forward to hearing your verdict later in the season.

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  6. Am very jealous! What fun to be doing a trial. I'll be fascinated to hear how you get on. And everyone else too.

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  7. Interesting - I look forward to the results.

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  8. That looks very interesting. I haven't grown potatoes (and someone was saying they wouldn't work in a container, but I see they're wrong about that).

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  9. Sylvia - I think they do something like you describe. The resultant increase in and finer roots are meant to help the plant establish much more quickly when planted out I believe.

    Becca - lots and lots of air holes. Glad you like my compost bags!

    EG - I think that's why we're testing to see if they'll work as planters. When Martyn posted his answer to his mystery picture, he had Orach growing in his, so it looks like at least one of us has had previous success with using them this way.

    Anna and HM - I might post an interim photo soon as the plants have romped away in my absence. It depends if I can find a spot to fit it in amongst all the others crowding into my brain at the moment ;)

    Maggi - there's quite a few photos and reports over at Gardeners' Click for you to look at already.

    Monica - container planting works very well as the volunteers that are growing in my compost bin up at the allotment over the past few years will testify!

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