Grow Your Own Kitchen Garden With Orta Seed Pots

These self-watering seed-and-dirt containers are made from attractive glazed terra cotta and can turn anyone into a green thumb. They also keep plastic out of gardening.


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Photo by Lance Yamamoto

Both attractive and functional, Orta Seed Pots offer an easy and plastic-free way to grow seeds and cuttings in your home. The “self-watering” glazed terra cotta pots contain a reservoir that can be filled with water once a week to keep seedlings moist.

The brainchild of Berkeley native Anne Fletcher, Orta (Italian for “kitchen garden”) germinated as a solution to the problem of keeping alive her delicate seedlings. The product designer and avid cook tried growing hard-to-find herbs from seed but killed more than she nurtured. Even a single day without water could cause the tiny plants to wither and die. With her innovative design, water is steadily drawn from the reservoir on an as-needed basis. She also wanted to share that “magic moment” where a seed becomes a living thing, so that others could be more closely involved with the cycle of life.

Fletcher made her first batch of pots six years ago in her driveway and sold all of them at the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa. A year later, she launched an online Kickstarter funding campaign with the intention of doing a prototype and design. She found two possible manufacturers, both of whom canceled. With 538 backers, she decided to figure out a way to make the pots herself, even though it was not in the business plan.

Orta now employs a team of six and is in a North Oakland space behind a metal shop, where the entire manufacturing is completed — making the clay, mixing the glazes, fashioning molds, casting the pots, hand-trimming, and firing the kiln. The small business prides itself on being as green as possible with the mantra of “keeping plastics out of gardening.”

Funded by another Kickstarter campaign, the company’s most recent offering is a microgreens kit, which includes soil, seeds, and instructions, all packaged without plastic. The kit allows you to grow your own mini-salad indoors and is a self-contained introduction to growing your own food.

Orta Seed Pots range from $39 to $79 and can be found locally at Crimson, The Gardener, and Mrs. Dalloway’s, as well as online at OrtaKitchenGarden.com. The website also offers factory seconds.

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