from the employee owners at Gardener's Supply Co.

Seedstarting With Cowpots

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.

Cowpot

Cowpots

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

Cowpots are available in four sizes:

  • 2.75″, four six-packs
  • 3″, set of 12
  • 4″, set of 12
  • 5″, set of 12

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.

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?

9 Comments

  1. February 4, 2011    

    Those are great!!

  2. March 1, 2011    

    What cute little pots- I will have to get some

  3. March 2, 2011    

    Also helps avoid the use of peat pots which are an unsustainable resource. What a fantastic way to recycle!

  4. Anonymous
    March 2, 2011    

    I do believe they were on a segment of Dirty Jobs a few years back.

  5. March 3, 2011    

    As one who also grew up on a dairy farm, I love this recycling idea, Mary

  6. PlanoVeggieGardener
    March 3, 2011    

    Above you show the pots on a self watering tray, so does that mean that they suck the water from the trays successfully when used with self watering potting soil? Do the pots last long enough to create strong starters under a grow light? About how long before they start to degrade when sitting on a self watering tray?

  7. Anonymous
    March 3, 2011    

    What do you recommend using to “contain” your Cowpots? Do you recommend any vendors that supply self-watering trays that fit the Cowpot dimensions? (preferably with domes?) I am using the 3″ pots this year.

  8. March 3, 2011    

    Hi PlanoVeggieGardener and Anonymous,

    The Cowpots in the photo are shown with the Self-Watering Tray. When used with Germinating Mix, the pots draw moisture from the tray’s capillary mat. We don’t offer greenhouse covers or domes that fit the Cowpots.

    The pots don’t start to break down until you transplant them into the garden, although you might see a bit of mold or algae on the side of the pot. Although unsightly, this won’t harm the plants. For more on using Cowpots, read this article: http://www.gardeners.com/Why-Cowpots/7546,default,pg.html

    You can find the Self-Watering trays here:
    http://www.gardeners.com/Self-Watering-Tray/GrowBags_Cat,38-561,default,cp.html

  9. pat (bronx)
    March 3, 2011    

    These pots offer an excellent example of recycling and eco-friendly awareness to children’s science classes. It’s right up there with your newspaper pot maker. Thank you for sharing this new resource.

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We are an employee-owned company of avid gardeners, located in Burlington, VT.