Gardeners today face a wide array of choices in containers. Bio-degradable plant pots may cost a little more than conventional ones, but they offer significant benefits to gardeners, plants and the environment. Gardeners should be aware that they will need to purchase new pots for every plant they intend to grow in a bio-degradable pot. These pots are not reusable.
Bio-degradable plant pots serve as temporary places for plants to reside before gardeners plant them permanently in the ground or into larger pots. Although their structural integrity allows them to perform well temporarily, they are not a good options for permanent potted plant situations, as they will decompose over time.
Pots incorporating wood pulp, coconut fibers (commonly called coir or coco peat) or peat moss are all readily available. They come in a range of sizes and shapes to suit most gardening needs. Texas A&M University's Department of Horticultural Sciences notes that more attractive designs for the decor-conscious gardener are becoming available as well.
Sowing seeds in bio-degradable plant pots makes transplantation easier both on gardeners and on plants. Gardeners do not have to worry about gently easing out tender plant root-balls and covering the fragile roots with soil. Plants are less easily shocked, because their roots are never exposed to direct light and air. Transplant shock (transplants not adapting quickly or well and having stunted growth as a result) is mostly avoided. Gardeners doing large landscaping projects save untold amounts of time, since they can just place the entire pot right in the hole, cover it with soil and move on to the next plant. Gardeners concerned about root injury when roots grow too large for these containers can rip holes in container sides or bottoms as a compromise.
Biodegradable plant pots decompose over time with exposure to natural elements. In a constantly moist environment, such as when they are surrounded by soil in the ground, they decompose more quickly. As they do so, they act as natural soil amendments, enriching the soil with their nutrients and improving the soil's structure as healthy additions of organic material. Using these pots instead of conventional plastic pots lessens environmental impact due to less conventional pots ending up in the garbage.
Pots that incorporate peat moss are somewhat controversial due to the nature of how peat moss is harvested. Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, extension urban horticulturist and associate professor at the Puyallup Research and Extension Center at Washington State University, advises that peat moss is not as environmentally sustainable as has been advertised. It is a very specialized natural resource that is part of its own ecosystem, which could not survive without it. Peat accumulates in nature at a rate of about one quarter-inch per year. While its water retention properties are admirable, other natural materials perform similarly well but with far less environmental impact.