Most of the plants we buy at garden centers come in black plastic pots. After a while, you accumulate so many you could build your own Tower of Babel.
So what do you do when your garden center doesn’t want them, the recycler won’t take them, and town ordinances don’t allow pagan towers? You’re stuck.
It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. If growers grew plants in biodegradable pots that you could safely put in the ground, the problem would be solved. Well, the Grump is happy to report that Bonnie Plants, one of the country’s biggest suppliers of annuals, vegetable, and herbs, is doing just that.
Chances are, you’ve seen Bonnie’s plants. Established in Bullock County in Alabama in 1918, Bonnie now operates 33 growing facilities around the country and supplies wholesale plants to hundreds of garden and home centers.
Bonnie sells most of its plants in 3″, 4″, and 5″ pressed peat pots that are completely biodegradable. Once you place them in the ground, roots grow through the sides. Eventually, the whole pot decomposes and actually improves the soil. For larger plants, Bonnie uses a one-gallon “jumbo pot” made of recycled paper. You can treat it exactly as you would a peat pot. Bonnie claims its new pots saved more than 100 million pounds of plastic from winding up in landfills. Now, I can’t say whether Bonnie’s motives for this are totally altruistic — for all I know, peat pots probably cost a lot less to make — but you can’t argue with the result.
Good for the Earth, Good for the Plant
Biodegradable pots that you place in the ground do more than help the environment. They also help the plant by reducing transplanting shock, because you never have to remove the plant from the pot. Plant the right way and the annual, vegetable, or herb never knows it’s been relocated. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1 — Water the plant thoroughly before you plant, so both the peat pot and the soil inside it are moist. Let the pot drain a few minutes before planting. Plant in moist soil, because dry soil may steal moisture.
Step 2 — Remove the shrink-wrap plant label from the pot. Tear off the rim of the pot, so that no peat shows above ground after planting. (Leaving peat exposed could wick away moisture from the roots.)
Step 3 — Tear off the bottom half of the peat pot before you put it in the hole. This places roots in direct contact with the soil and gets your plant off to a good start. You can dump the torn-off peat in the compost and just crumble it up and add it to your soil.
Step 4 — Place the plant and pot in the hole and fill in with soil so that the top of the root ball is even with the soil surface. (Tomatoes are an exception. They like to be planted deeply, so that only the top set of leaves show.) Then water thoroughly to eliminate air pockets.
Step 5 — Tell all your neighbors how you’re saving the world. You da man! (Or da woman, whatever the case may be.)