Has your soil been giving you a bit of pushback? You water, but it doesn’t seem to soak in? When conditions are dry, a waxy residue forms on soil particles, causing soils to become hydrophobic or water repellent. Even after a thorough watering, you can scratch the soil surface and find large dry patches below. Here’s a quick fix.
For fast improvements to hydrophobic soils, use wetting agents. There are many products available, in liquid or granular form, and the active ingredient in most of them is a synthetic surfactant. One end of these surfactant molecules loves waxy surfaces and the other likes water. When applied to the soil, the molecules stick to the waxy particles and, the next time you water, the free end ‘grabs’ onto water as it passes.
Surfactants also reduce the surface tension of water (how tightly molecules cling together). The combination of these qualities allows water to penetrate more readily, and properly coat soil particles.
Pick up a copy of the March issue for more information on wetting agents, as well as easy long-term solutions for dry soil.