Where does the plant go?
This question really seems trivial, but if you aren’t going to put plants directly in the soil and you don’t want to have dozens of heavy ceramic pots decorating your systems, you might need to reassess it. One great solution happens to be net pots, let’s look at them today!
Net pots are essential for use in many hydroponics layouts. They are simple, cheap, and very effective for many uses. We’re going to look at net pots, when they’re useful, what advantages they have, and what kinds of problems you might face when using them.
What is a net pot?
If you’re going to get started with a hydroponics system, one of the first things you’ll need to figure out is where to put your plants. The roots can go in the water, of course, but the rest of the plant needs to be somewhere else! One very popular place for your plants is a net pot, due to several factors including their price, weight, and functionality.
Net pots are sturdy plastic baskets resembling basketball nets with a bottom. They are usually black and circular and come in many sizes. Many systems that use net pots, including some wick systems, use standardized sizes of net pots to fit holes or the inside of mason jars. Other times the net pot’s size is determined more by the needs of the plant. Please note that smaller sizes are sometimes referred to as ‘net cups’ but we’ll be using “net pot” interchangeably to mean both on this page as the difference is arbitrary.
How can I use a net pot?
Net pots are typically filled with some medium, such as Hydroton pellets, and have the roots of the plant suspended within the middle of them. Setting up the pot is quite simple and just requires having the pot, the growing medium, and knowledge of what kind of system you want to use:
Wick systems might have a wick poking through the bottom of the pot or snaked through the slits on the side of it. Choosing a wick that is a bit thicker than the net pot’s slits can ensure the wick is held in tight despite some jostling about when building the system – don’t assume you need thick openings just because you are using a wick!
Fogponics and other hydroponics systems that use mist and sprays can also utilize net pots really well. The openings in the side create the perfect opportunity for aeration and great circulation to the roots within the pot. This aeration is also, contrasted to just fitting the plant in between a slit in some styrofoam, excellent for reducing chances of root rot and mold.
Deep Water Culture and ebb and flow systems can use net pots as well, but be sure to fill the net pot with your hydroton or other growth media before
What are the benefits of using a net pot?
Net pots are one of the most effective and popular tools for hydroponics systems on the market… but why? There are other small planters or cheap plastic containers that include drainage holes on the bottom already available. Let’s now look at what sets a net pot apart from the rest for usage in many styles of hydroponics systems.
Great aeration – Whereas traditional pots only have holes on the bottom for drainage of plants with soils, net pots are very very loosely constructed by comparison. The entire construction of the pot is as close to open-air as possible to still allow some growth media inside. The result is great aeration and availability of the roots as well as a reduced chance for root rot!
Inexpensive – Finding a place to put your plant within your system doesn’t need to be difficult or specialized. Since net pots work well with most systems, you can feel free to buy them in bulk. Depending on size, you can get between 20 and 60 net pots for less than $15. If you’re curious about what the benefits might be for your system, then you should definitely consider checking them out.
… and the cons?
Net pots are highly usable, but won’t be perfect for every system, however. Here are some of the disadvantages of using net pots in your systems:
Hard to clean – Most net pots have sharp edgings and dozens of slits in the net. If you want to reuse these pots and are worried about transferring disease from one system to another, then you might have to spend more time scrubbing than you anticipated.
Sharp edges – For aquaponics lovers, if your net pots are going to touch the water you might have some sanding to do… you don’t want the bottoms to scratch up your fish. Think of the burrs that came on the edges of the board games pieces and toys you had to punch out yourself when you were a child. You don’t want any sharp points wounding your priceless fish and leading to infections!
System clogs – Any system that utilizes both net pots and tubes of some sort will need to be wary of small bits of media, shedding roots, or old leaves passing through the slits in the net pot and out into unwanted parts of your system. These rogue debris can and will clog up essential bottlenecks in your nutrient delivery devices if you aren’t keeping a vigilant eye on your machinery and doing weekly checkups.
Net pots are going to be a part of your life if you like to explore the world of hydroponics or even aeroponics and aquaponics. Within each system, there are many ways to alter them or change them.
Remember that cutting into or ripping apart and customizing your net pots for your own personal use in your hydroponics systems is fine – they can be cheaply bought in bulk and are easily replaced.
Be sure to check out our system guides for ideas about how to use net pots in your systems!