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No one suspected it at the time, but Smart Pots started in 1980 when Ralph Reiger, who owned a tree farm near Guthrie, Oklahoma, sewed together a thousand fabric containers and planted them in the ground with caliper sized trees. Ralph hoped that the fabric containers would make harvesting and transplanting the large trees much easier, and he hoped that the plant’s root structures would be held more intact.
The trees were harvested in late 1982 and 1983. The first goal was accomplished; harvesting a Bag grown tree was much easier than the traditional field harvesting method of ball & burlap. And the plant’s root structure? Clearly it was intact, but something unsuspected had occurred. The fabric bag had root pruned the roots. Where the trees’ roots had grown into the Bag, the fabric had initiated a branching and pruning process behind the point of encounter. Instead of circling around the side, the root area was increasing in the container by lateral branching and pruning. The trees transplanted well and lived, even though many were dug and moved in the dead of summer.
In 1984 Ralph incorporated and started selling his new tree bags. He called the product the Root Control Bag, and the company was Root Control, Inc. The customers were tree growing nurseries who wanted an easier harvesting process and a better, root-enhanced root structure. Our company still proudly sells Root Control Bags to some of the same nurseries who first tried the Bags back in 1984.
In 1985, Ralph’s son Kurt Reiger returned to Oklahoma City to help his father build a company. At the time Ralph was operating out of the basement of his house. Kurt’s first action was to rent a small, one room office and move the company out of his parent’s basement.
For the next fifteen years, Kurt and Ralph worked hard to spread the word about growing trees in fabric Root Control Bags, talking up the advantages of root pruning and the ease of harvesting and transplanting. Significantly, great customers began using the Root Control Bags in unexpected ways. Some started growing trees above ground, using the Root Control Bag as a large above ground container as opposed to an in-ground production tool. Other customers started growing aquatic plants in water in the Root Control Bags.
Recognizing these changes, the company started making fabric containers specifically designed for above ground and aquatic uses. But the product needed a name. Since the Bag was called the Root Control Bag, we first called the product the Above Ground Root Control Bag. And for about nine months, we tried selling the Above Ground Root Control Bag. It did not work so well. So we turned to our great customers and asked for suggestions on a better name. One of our better customers advised: “You should call it the Smart Pot, because it helps distribute water evenly in the container, and it root prunes, and it releases heat, and I do not even have to leave the office and go walk in the field for it to do these things, so I feel smart when I use it, so call it the Smart Pot!” So the Smart Pot was born!
Another great turning point for the Smart Pot was the realization of the full power of root pruning and the turn to a retail product. We knew growing plants in our Bags helped develop a better root structure. But initially for us the purpose of a better root structure was to assure better survival of a transplanted tree. Building a better root structure on an Oak clearly made it easier to transplant. But a Holley naturally developed a pretty full root area. Was there a benefit to better roots on species like this?
Soon, however, we recognized that a better root structure helps all plants, and that retail customers could also benefit from more roots. For vegetables and edibles, more roots mean a fuller, higher yielding plant. If you want to container grow more tomatoes or jalapeño peppers, grow them in a container where they will develop a greater root structure. Grow them in a Smart Pot!
To further reflect our shift to a retail market, the company name was changed to High Caliper Growing, Inc. Caliper is the measured diameter of a plant. The higher the caliper, the bigger the plant!
Another innovation came in explaining the Smart Pot. We would often explain that the Smart Pot worked “like a raised bed”. After saying this many times, we decided to introduce the Big Bag Bed, a fabric raised bed. So we have the Smart Pot, which is a pot, and the Big Bag Bed, which is a raised bed. Horticulturally speaking, they work the same way.
High Caliper Growing manufactures its’ products at our headquarters in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Because our Smart Pots, Big Bag Beds and Root Control Bags are made right here, we have the highest quality standards. Every Bag is made for growing a great plant. Kurt Reiger is the company president.
We hope you will join with us in the joy of container growing a fuller, healthier plant. The container you use will effect the plant you grow! Grow it better in a Smart Pot!