Blog: Growing tomatoes under glass in fabric bags made from recycled plastic bottles…
Invented in Oregon, USA, the Root Pouch is an innovation I was keen to trial after meeting the UK distributors IKON International at Glee last September.
Root Pouch is a porous fabric plant container made from recycled plastic drink bottles, saving thousands of tonnes of plastic from going into landfill or ending up in the sea. They are 100 non-toxic and safe for growing edible plants.
Used by professional growers and hydroponics enthusiasts, I wanted to see how they would perform with tomatoes in my conservatory – quite fitting in British Tomato Fortnight (May 25-June 7).
Mould to fit the space
There are a selection of pouches planted up and one major bonus has already shown itself – they mould to fit into the drip trays on the 30ft long windowsill – and stay there.
They’re light and easy to maneouvre and if I had to choose a preference after planting up, it would be the handled models – easy to lift and I could secure canes onto them.
Most of the tomato varieties are indeterminate (cordon), meaning you need to nip out the side shoots, so you get a single-stemmed, tall plant. In this category are Rosella, Apero, Reisetomate (itself on trial) and heritage Yellow Pear Shaped.
Dwarf bush cherry tomato
There’s also Maskotka, a dwarf bush cherry tomato variety for containers, with cascading stems that fall gently over the sides of their pots, height and spread 30cm.
I’ve tried the cordon varieties in different sizes, the larger pouches with two plants in, just to see how they would cope.
Basically, if the Root Pouches are a success in the demanding environment of my long, thin conservatory, where I’ve tried many growing systems for tomatoes, they’ll be great for people with balconies, back yards or where space is limited. For pot size guide for urban gardening see here.
UK distributors are IKON International – here’s a link to their website and to the many stockists that they supply to.
How do Root Pouches work?
The main benefits are:
- Prevents roots from circling (naturally root prunes)
- Creates insulation from winter cold and/or summer heat
- Allows air and nutrients to pass through
- Decreases risk of transplant shock
- Produces bigger yields and promotes vigorous root growth
In a traditional plant pot, as the plant’s roots grow outwards, they hit the wall of the container and circle around to create a ball of tangled roots.
This root circling restricts the plant’s ability to absorb oxygen and nutrients. With Root Pouch, when the plant’s roots hit the porous fabric wall, they detect air and light, stop that part of the root growing further and use that energy to create new roots elsewhere, effectively pruning itself.
Untangled, strong and healthy roots
The result? Plenty of untangled, strong and healthy roots, resulting in lush green foliage, faster growth, healthier plants, increased nutrient uptake and bigger yields.
They also fold flat for easy storage at the end of the season, can be washed and last from 3-5 years, depending on the fabric chosen.
I’ll be reporting back throughout the season on the tomatoes’ progress – expect the final prognosis in late October!