Fabric pots for fruit trees

bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)January 3, 2012

I've been reading about fabric bags in the Container gardening forum. The air root pruning (root hits the edge , the tip dries, and the root branches rather than circling) and over-watering protection (lots of surface area for evaporation, which also keeps it from over-heating) sounds like a good idea.

I was wondering if anyone (Fruitnut?) here has used these for fruit trees (peach, apricot, apple, etc) and how it went? I was going to use 5 gallon buckets with holes drilled in the bottom, but I think this could change my plans...

Subsequent questions:

1.) Is there an ideal size which works well, but isn't too heavy? 5, 7, 10, or even 15 gallons are possibilities- actually even larger is possible, but too big for me.

2.) Which brand (Geopots, Smart Pots, Aerobag, Optipots, etc) have you found to be most durable? This trait would be far more important with trees, than vegetable gardening where it is just a "nice to have".


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alan haigh

I've only used two kinds of fabric pots and none are what you list. I've been using them for almost 20 years, I think, but mostly to get trees up to size to sell.

One of the bag types I stopped using which was the original Whitcomb bag, I believe the first on the market and is made from a heavy black propelyne fabric that almost completely stops significant roots from developing out of the bag. The other is Carl's second bag which he designed after the University of Ok sued him for manufacturing the first bag he designed, under their salary to him.

The second bag is woven with lots of small holes and roots develop outside the bag which allows trees to grow without irrigation here in the northeast but it means a bigger setback when sold and transplanted.

I've grown a couple of trees- a persimmon and two fig trees for many years in 18" bags of the original design which are probably better for your purposes. I actually used potting soil to they wouldn't be as heavy although in my nursery I use dirt- a better medium if you don't have to move the trees every year. I've never done anything about the potting soil in all this time and now it is all decomposed except the perlite, but it doesn't seem to matter. The trees have lots of root outside the bag but pop out of the ground every fall without any difficulty so I can store them in my well-house. This keeps them pretty small.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 5:58AM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

I found Whitcomb's soft containers online- Patio Root Trappers. Assuming he has kept the height the same, 18" equates to around 11 gallons (he has 10,12,18 and 24", which equate to 3.5, 5, 11, and 20 gallons). How long have you kept the plants in the soft container? I'm guessing it has been a while if the fabric has broken down to a point where the roots are getting through. It doesn't sound like you are taking advantage of "air pruning" the roots as you put it in the ground.

I'm planning to have mine on a deck, which is ~11 feet off the ground- I'm hoping it will increase the airflow and keep down disease. But it also means that I don't want to make them too heavy. Maybe I should add a bit of real soil, just to improve how long the medium can last for.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 11:50PM
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alan haigh

Even the original design lets small roots out of the bag but as they expand the bag girdles them. The newer design only weakens the roots and supposedly creates these nodes of carbohydrate storage on the inside of the bags that when the bag is removed stimulates quicker establishment.

These bags are designed for in ground use. I've no experience using them as an out of ground container. If people have had success using them this way with other plants I can't see why it wouldn't work with fruit trees.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2012 at 5:57AM
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I've used several and have found the geopots to have the best construction. We have transplated several trees into their 30 gallon tan pots with handles with great results. The true test of these fabric pots is if you can pick up and move them by the handles when they are filled completely with pottig mix and a medium sized tree...:) No problems with the geopots. We have Mangos and several other fruit trees growing in these.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 7:14PM
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alan haigh

The bags I use are for the nursery trade and wholesale for under $4 per for 18" bags. They have no handles and are only available in quantity, as far as I know.

They are useful for figs as a permanent management system when you need to pop them out of the ground or horizontally every winter.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 7:44PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

I purchased 6 different brands of fabric pots. I agree with Gwrace that Geopot was the nicest. It was the most expensive as well, but the difference isn't that large. It has the thickest material, though the real test will come in how it holds up over the years.

I got mostly 7, 10, and 15 gallon bags, though I did try a 20 gallon Geopot in my second order (Geopot was the type I ordered more of). Even before the tree gets too big, the 20 gal is heavier than I'd like. 10 gallon seems like the sweet spot so far, but I need to see how the trees respond.

I'll type up a more detailed description of each type of fabric pot.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 10:10PM
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Hi, is this fabric same as the geotextile?

I need this fabric bag solution becoz trimming roots of 15ft trees is not possible conventionally. Then if i can use these bags or geotextile to make such bags it will give me the choice to invest in expensive decorative pots without the worry that the roots will eventually break those pots too.Importing the bags will be cost prohibitive therefore i am trying to find a suitable locally available substitute.
Please suggest if you know.


    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 7:41AM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

It's been almost a year and I wanted to update this thread with my experiences.

My opinion on the Geopots has taken a 180. While they seemed nicest at first and plenty thick, they break down pretty quick. I had several rip when I tried to pick them up this fall (I move them to the north side of the house to keep them dormant and under an overhang during the winter). They didn't just rip the handle off, but the top ring of fabric, right at the soil-line. After the first few rips, I moved to picking them up by the bottom, though the fabric is feeling pretty fragile. The tan colored ones seemed worse than the black. Regrettably, most of the ones I bought were tan. One potential reason is that my mix was on the water-retentive side (roughly even mix of Turface, perlite, leaf mulch, peat, and pine bark, over-weighted on pine bark once I found a good supply).

The issue wasn't just with the larger sizes. I also had the same problem with the 5 gallon variety. But, the 10+ gallon containers were heavy enough that I'm moving away from them anyway. I took two of the 15 and 20 gallon bags and just planted them. I planted the bag and all, the trees will probably have more than enough vigor as it is (apricot and mulbery) which I wouldn't mind tamping down a bit.

This coming year, I'm planning to use mostly 5 and 7 gallon containers. The one which seems to have held up the best so far is the Aerobag, which is also one of the cheapest ($3.25 for 5gal) and has handles. The Roottrapper II's are also doing fine. This year, my new additions will go into the above kind, as well as a few into "Dirt bags", another type I found online.

Sorry Palmfronds- I don't know much about the underlying textiles which are used in these containers.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 6:22PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

I can shed some light on your Geopot problem -- apparently, they've recently pulled the tan pots from the market because they're not holding up well to UV rays. I'd planned to buy some, but, fortunately, I waited too long to order. When I inquired about why they were no longer available, a Geopot retailer shared the UV info with me.

Also, have you come across Root Pouches before? They're a very affordable alternative to some of the other higher priced pots (a pack of 10 10-gallon pots with handles for $27.50 at greenhousemegastore.com). I picked up 30 of the grey pots recently, and I'm going to move most of my potted fruits to them in the coming year. They have an estimated lifespan of 3-4 years, and the construction looks quite good.

This post was edited by shazaam on Mon, Dec 17, 12 at 11:51

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 10:20PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

That's very interesting Shazaam- I'll keep an eye on the how the black Geopot does. I just checked and I have a total of 1 (vs 12 tan ones), as I thought that tan would keep the roots cooler. The only one which is black is on a Jujube, which I figured would like the warmth.

Thanks for the great tip on the Root Pouches. I've gone to the site and it seems they have a "Longest Lifespan" version which should last ~6 years. And it's cheaper than I was going to spend on Aerobags, which was my previous low-cost solution ($14 for 10 vs $3.25 each at MonsterGardens). Given that I'm planning to get 20-30, that will add up. At least 10-15 of that will be grafting on new rootstocks and I won't feel as bad about screwing it up if it's cheaper...

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 12:23AM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

Glad to help -- I've been looking at fabric pots for several years now, but I hadn't encountered Root Pouches before. I just happened to stumble across them when I was shopping for some other things at Greenhouse Megastore recently. I was very, very happy with my trial run with Smart Pots this year, so I'm looking forward to moving most of my trees and bushes to Root Pouches. The brown pots that you mentioned weren't available when I ordered recently -- I think they're relatively new to the market. I went with the grey pots (instead of the longer life black ones) in the hopes that they'll stay a little cooler -- we have long, hot summers here in NC, so every little bit counts.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 11:50AM
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