Wetting Agents

Wetting agents have been a wonderful new addition in recent decades to help with our lawn and garden care, helpers which specifically aid us whenever we are dealing with problem soils which may not be as accepting of our watering as we would like them to be. We discuss wetting agents quite often on this site, so what are they and how can they help us, and what types of soil problems will wetting agents assist with?

What Are Wetting Agents

Wetting agents work similar to how detergents work against grease, grime and wax. Just as we would add detergent to our water to remove any type of oily matter from dishes or clothing, so too can we add wetting agents to our soils to fight against waxiness on the grains of the soil.

Wetting agents will not however permanently remove the waxiness of some soils, or change the soil in any way, instead they help water to flow past any such waxiness so to more evenly distribute water in our soil.

As the wetting agents flow through the soil profile of lawns and gardens, water is then more easily and naturally dispersed throughout the soil profile, soil can be more evenly wet after watering and without as many dry patches, and water can remain in soil for longer periods for soil types which may otherwise naturally repel water.

Any time where we may have soil problems regarding the free flowing of water, wetting agents should be able to help us to improve the situation.

Wetting Agents Do Not Change Soils

Wetting agents do not permanently change a soil in any way, they are always a temporary measure which will require reapplication in the future. Once again, we should view their assistance to us in a similar way that we use detergents, eventually they will flow out of the soil or otherwise become of no use, and we would then need to apply them again to help the water distribute itself through the soil again.

How To Apply Wetting Agents

Wetting agents can be applied in a few different ways. The first is the granular solution, where we buy a bucket of wetting agents and inside are tiny granules. These granules are not the wetting agents themselves, but rather cork or a similar substance which has the wetting agents applied to them. When we apply the wetting agents to the soil, the wetting agents wash off the tiny cork pieces and the cork then disintegrates naturally into the soil.

The next methods of applying wetting agents to our soils would both be liquid. We can buy a hose-on container of wetting agents which attach to a garden hose, or we may purchase a concentrated form which we would mix up and then spray or water onto our lawns and gardens using a garden watering can.

Wetting agents cannot harm our lawns, gardens or soils, so we don’t need to worry at all in this respect as we would if applying fertilizers for example, where over-application is indeed cause for concern and may damage our lawns. Overuse though, may just be wasting our money, there’s only so much they can do to help our soils, and past that point would just be wastage for no added benefit.

How Often To Apply Wetting Agents

This question can only be answered by each of us individually. No matter where we live our soils will be different from each other, which also compounds when each of us, or the previous owners of a property, may have done soil improvements in times past. No two lawns or gardens are alike, and so each individual lawn or garden will have different requirements for all lawn soil improvements, including in the use of wetting agents.

For severely hydrophobic soils which repel water from them, or just often won’t soak water into the soil properly at all, then a couple or a few applications throughout the year may be required. We all have budgets to live to though, so spending regularly and continuously on things like wetting agents may not be the wisest choice for us all. In such cases anything may be better than nothing, and even if we only applied wetting agents to our affected soils once a year, just before Summer arrives, it will help tremendously for our overall lawn care, and applying before Summer arrives gives our lawns the best fighting chance to get through the hottest months with the most water available to them as possible.

Soil Improvements

Those of us with the worst soils in regard to natural water uptake and dispersement of water throughout the soil profile, may wish to consider longer term solutions to their soil problems.

Gardens can of course be improved with rich organic matter to improve poor soils, or clay type soils can have sandy loams or other similar coarse grained soils dug through to help with water flow.
The best thing any lawn owner can do to naturally improve their soils, for free, is to begin to mulch mow their lawns and to continue this wonderful lawn care practice permanently. Mulch mowing continuously mulches the lawn soil as we mow the lawn, and when done over years this will enormously aid in soil improvement. Mulch mowing will also feed our lawns with very low doses of Nitrogen for free fertilizer, and will help insulate our soils from moisture loss in Summer.

Lawn soils can also be improved in other ways, such as aerating the turf and then top dressing the lawn and filling in all the little holes in the lawn with a soil type to help fix whatever ails our soil. A course sand or sandy loam can be applied to a clay type soil, or a rich soil can be applied to a sandy soil. These new soils will get into our lawn soil profile to counteract whatever it is which is causing problems for us with our present soil.

A simple top dressing of similar soil-improving new soils, whether sandy or rich dependent on soil type, can also aid in soil improvements over time, though obviously not to the same extent as if we had cored the soil first.

An Alternative Option?

Some people have been known to apply mild detergent solutions to their lawns and gardens in lieu of having wetting agents on hand, though this is not something which I would have any comment on as to its efficacy, they are obviously not the same, so results won’t be the same either. Though this may be something which some of may wish to try for ourselves.

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