Seed Starting with CowPots™

Even though we’re still technically buried in winter, it’s never too early to start embarking on planning your garden for next spring. The best way to satisfy your green thumb during the colder months, as well as giving your garden a great head start, is to start seeds indoors.

While of course you can purchase seedlings from a gardening center once the weather warms up a bit, growing your own seedlings indoors confers several advantages. For one, it’s far more cost effective to start your own seeds. You can also grow a far greater variety of crops than you might be able to find in a garden center. You could grow heirloom seeds and seeds you’ve saved from previous years; and you can ensure that your seeds and their growing medium are completely natural or organic.

So how can you start growing indoors? There are a variety of containers and systems you can use, with just as many pros and cons.

While you can reuse plastic pots from your local nursery or repurpose containers around the house, like yogurt cups, your seedlings will eventually outgrow these containers and you’ll have to transplant them. This can cause transplant shock, and it might even kill your seedlings. Using plastic pots to germinate seeds can also cause your seedlings to become root-bound, which occurs when the plant’s roots grow in a dense, tangled spiral following the contours of its container. When you transplant a root bound seedling, often the roots will continue to grow in this unhealthy pattern.

Peat pots are a popular germination container that sound like a good alternative to plastic – they’re biodegradable, more or less– but they have two features that make them less than ideal. The first is that they actually take quite a long time to degrade in the soil. Some brands also include a plastic mesh net to help the pot hold its shape. That’s great when the pot is above soil, but it also means that even when the pot eventually does break down in the soil, a plastic mesh stays behind, clogging your plants’ roots. And the harvesting of peat destroys valuable peat bogs, contributing to the destruction of centuries-old ecosystems and increasing carbon emissions. While it’s true that peat harvested for botanical uses is only a small fraction of all peat harvested, why use it at all if more eco-friendly alternatives exist?  


CowPots™, a biodegradable planting pot that’s one of the newest additions to the Dalen lineup, re-purpose a waste material that is continually being renewed – dairy cow manure! Before you cringe, CowPots™ are produced on a family farm and the production process eliminates any traces of odor from the manure. Look at their origins as a huge bonus: because of their previous incarnation as manure, CowPots™ provide natural, chemical-free fertilizer for your seedlings. CowPots™ also confer three main other benefits to your seedlings:

  • CowPots™ break down the fastest and most completely compared to other biodegradable alternatives on the market. They can completely disintegrate into the soil in just one growing season.
  • CowPots™ “air-prune” plants’ roots. Air-pruning is precisely the opposite to a plant becoming root-bound. When the young plant sends out new roots in search of nutrients in a contained pot, the roots circle around and around the pot searching for nutrients, coiling in on themselves and ultimately preventing new growth. But when a seedling is started in a pot that allows for air-pruning, when a root reaches the barrier of the container (like the very porous CowPot) it encounters the outside air and the root stops growing. Instead, the seedling sends out a new root in search of nutrients, which creates a healthier root structure.
  • CowPots™ can increase plant yield by 10%.

The ideal time for starting seeds is 6 weeks before the last predicted frost in a region. For Knoxville, that’s mid-March – so you’re right on time to find your supplies and get growing in a few weeks! If you’d like to try out some CowPots™, check your local garden retailer. If they’re not yet in stock for the season, you can find them on  

Have you tried using CowPots™ to give your garden a head start? Let us know your thoughts on Facebook!


Peat pot damage to the ecosystem

Peat pots are a fraction of total peat industry:

Certain pellets use a plastic mesh which does not break down in your garden:

Seed Starting Troubleshooting:                                

Issues with root bound plants: