Biodegradable Plant Pots – The Options

Reducing plastic waste is on the forefront of many gardener’s minds. The gardening industry is guilty of promoting one use plastic. However, in recent years new products have started to appear that address this issue, one being the growing variety of biodegradable plant pots. We decided to look into more detail about the pros and cons of these, as well as make-shift pots you can create at home.

Coir and Coconut Fibre Pots

Young runner bean plants growing in biodegradable pots - © GAP Photos/Nicola Stocken

Young runner bean plants growing in biodegradable pots – © GAP Photos/Nicola Stocken

These biodegradable pots are now widely available in garden centres and online, and while a more expensive option compared to plastic pots, as they are essentially one use, they do have numerous benefits. The main benefit is that they are perfect for starting seeds, as the seedling’s roots will push through the sides of the pot, meaning less root disturbance and greater success when planted in the ground. They are fairly sturdy and can withstand a few rounds of watering before they should be planted out. The main drawback is that they dry out quickly, so need to be watered quite regularly. Like toilet rolls, they are also prone to moulding when used in humid environments such as propagators.

Bamboo and Rice Plastic Alternatives

Watering transplanted Viola seedling in a biodegradable flower pot made from Bamboo and Rice material - © GAP Photos/FhF Greenmedia

Watering transplanted Viola seedling in a biodegradable flower pot made from Bamboo and Rice material – © GAP Photos/FhF Greenmedia

These pots are quite new to the industry, and are made of bamboo and rice materials, although they appear at first glance to be plastic. They are strong and durable like plastic, come in different colours and will eventually break down, although this process can take as long as three years. For this reason, they can be reused, and are a good option if you would like to start plants off under shelter, or keep a while before you plant them out. As these pots take a long time to break down completely, it is probably best not to plant them underground, as you may well get a pot-bound plant, as the roots will not be able to penetrate the pot sides as with other biodegradable options. If you like to grow young plants on and are keen to reduce your plastic use, investing in some bamboo and rice material pots might be a good option for you.

Newspaper Pots

Sweet pea plants grown in newspaper pots - © GAP Photos/Gary Smith

Sweet pea plants grown in newspaper pots – © GAP Photos/Gary Smith

If you own a pot maker, you can create a whole batch of these in an afternoon (once you’ve read your newspaper of course). There are obvious benefits to these pots, the main one being that you are finding a way to repurpose an object you already have used. As you are creating the pots yourself, you know that there have been no additional transportation costs involved to deliver them. Newspaper also breaks down in wet soil quite easily, so plants are unlikely to become pot-bound. There is an obvious drawback to using newspaper to make biodegradable pots. They are fairly flimsy, and will not last long if watered regularly above the ground. For this reason, they are best used for quick-germinating annuals that can be planted out promptly.

Toilet Rolls

French Beans, 'Purple Teepee' growing in empty loo rolls, UK May - © GAP Photos/Gary Smith

French Beans, ‘Purple Teepee’ growing in empty loo rolls, UK May – © GAP Photos/Gary Smith

Saving toilet rolls for planting seeds such as peas and runner beans has been a trick used for years. Again, the benefit of using these as seed pots is that you are repurposing an item you have no further use for. They are perfect for seeds that need to be planted quite deeply, but you can always cut them in half for smaller seeds if you wish. They will erode quite quickly when sufficiently wet, and you can plant them straight out in the ground when the seedlings are a good enough size, reducing waste and root disturbance. An obvious drawback is that you need quite a few, as you would only sow one seed per toilet roll. Another drawback is that in a humid environment, for example a propagator, they can start to mould before you have the chance to plant them out.