Monday, July 2, 2012

Benefits of Organics and Wetting Agents Part Four

Here is part four of the use organics and wetting agents in your landscape. If you have missed any of the previous articles on this topic or any other topic, you can find them at under the Horticulture Hotline tab.

A wetting agent is a water management product. Imagine a bunch of tiny little (microscopic) balloons or sponges that penetrate into your soil through the tiny cracks, absorb water, expand, relieve compaction , and then release the water slowly back to the plant. After about a month, these balloons begin to break down in the soil, like a helium balloon does in the atmosphere.

The first customer that thanked me for introducing her to a wetting agent lived in a clay type soil. The first benefit she noticed was areas that stayed wet in the past seemed to dry out quicker. The wetting agent let the water go into the ground instead of sitting on the surface where water usually sat for days. She also noticed that the water that flowed over the curb to a storm water drain after a rain now stayed on her lawn. For hours or even days after a rain, her neighbor’s curb was wet from water running off their property, while her curb was dry and her landscape benefitted from the rain water.

Wetting agents will make the fine clay particles group together (flocculate), creating pore spaces where air can get to the roots. These air pockets are areas where the roots will also grow, then slough off adding organic matter to the soil and creating a topsoil layer. Every time you add the wetting agent, these microscopic balloons penetrate deeper into the soil, creating more pore spaces, and softening that hard clay into a more forgiving soil. As the roots grow deeper, the roots can get more water and nutrients from the soil, making the plant more drought resistant and require less fertilizer.  

Once the rains began to slow down, she began to notice the big savings in her pocket book. She went from watering Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for thirty minutes a zone down to Monday and Friday for 20 minutes a zone. In other words she went from watering a total of 90 minutes down to 40 minutes. She cut her watering in more than half!

Because of the clay soil, she had lots of containers and hanging baskets for color plants and a small herb garden. These plants also needed far less water. In our brutal heat some of her hanging baskets needed watering twice a day. With the addition of wetting agents, not anymore!