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Why Choose Cowpots to Start Seeds

By Suzanne DeJohn
Starting Seeds in Cowpots

When seedlings are ready to be planted in the garden, the Cowpot goes right into the ground with the plant, reducing transplant shock.

Tips for Seedstarting with Cowpots

  • Use Germinating Mix to start your seeds, moistening it thoroughly before filling the pots.
  • Start seeds in the smallest (2.75″ or 3″) Cowpots. It saves room in the light garden and it's easier to keep the mix evenly moist.
  • Use a Heat Mat for faster germination strong root growth.
  • Water plants from below by setting them in a tray of warm water until the top of the soil mix is moistened. (Moist soil is a darker brown than dry mix.) Then, let excess water drain off.
  • When seedlings are tiny, if the surface of the mix starts to dry but the rest of the mix is still moist, I use a plant mister to gently spritz the surface. Once the seedlings are up and growing strong you can let the soil mix dry out slightly between waterings.
  • Begin fertilizing when seedlings have two sets of true leaves, using Plant Heath Care for Seedlings.
  • Once roots begin to penetrate the sides of the pots, it's time to transplant the seedlings. If it's still too cold outdoors, transplant the seedlings to a larger (4″ or 5″) Cowpot. Plant them — pot and all — into Transplant Mix, which is more coarse than the Germinating Mix for better drainage in larger pots. During transplanting, hold the seedlings by the leaves or roots, not the delicate stems.
  • When transplanting Cowpots (or any biodegradable pot), avoid leaving the top edge of the pot exposed. Otherwise, it can act as a wick to pull moisture out of the pot. If necessary, break off the edge of the pot so it lies below the soil surface.

I worked for a summer on a dairy farm so I can attest to the fact that a cow produces a lot of manure. Matt and Ben Freund, the two Connecticut dairy farmers who invented biodegradable Cowpots™, estimate that a cow produces about 120 pounds of manure per day. And disposing of that manure is a big issue. Although manure makes a nutrient-rich fertilizer for hayfields and cornfields, spreading fresh manure also risks polluting surrounding waterways. So what's a farmer to do?

The Freunds came up with the idea of making plant pots out of manure — and the rest is Cowpot history. The pots are molded out of dried manure using a manufacturing process that removes weeds and pathogens — and any trace of manure odor.

I've been starting plants from seed for years and I find that lately I've been using more biodegradable pots, for a few reasons:

  • The seedlings seem to settle into the garden faster than those started in plastic pots.
  • Because you can plant them pot and all, the roots aren't disturbed during transplanting. And some plants are especially sensitive to transplanting. I've found that cucumbers, dill, okra and squash do best when started in biodegradable pots.
  • They disappear. I don't end up with stacks of plastic cell packs and various-sized pots to store or try to recycle.
Large Cowpots

Large Cowpots are good for transplants or starting bulbs and tubers, such as dahlias and begonias.

I'm not sure why, but Cowpots seem easier on seedling roots than peat pots. They appear to degrade faster so plant roots can penetrate the pots' walls and venture out into the garden soil, so plants establish quickly. One side effect of the Cowpots' fast decomposition is that you sometimes see a bit of mold or algae on the side of the pot. Although unsightly, this won't harm the plants; it just indicates that the pot material is ready to decompose and offer up its nutrients to the seedlings.

So let's see: Cowpots are biodegradable, keeping plastic waste out of the landfill. And they're not only made from a renewable resource, they're taking a potential pollutant out of the waste stream. They're made in the U.S. by farmers, and they grow happy seedlings. What's not to love?