Surfactants For The Soil, To Help The Water Penetrate

Howdy Gardening Enthusiasts!

naThe subject of using surfactants as more than just an accelerator for weed killers came up this weekend, so I thought it was worth discussing in this week's e-mail tip. Actually, for years, I've had e-mail questions specific and concerning a liquid aerator many times. While I think a core aeration is still best for lawns, there may be some lawns that are small enough that they simply can't get a machine in there to do the core aeration. So, in just instances liquid soil surfactants may be the answer.

In fact, here are the benefits of a soil penetrator/soil surfactant:

  • Reduces water runoff - the major factor of soil erosion and wasted water.
  • Breaks through compacted layers of soil allowing water to penetrate deeper and more evenly.
  • Maintains a deeper rooting zone for healthier and more luxurious plants, turf, shrubs, and trees.
  • Quickly penetrates through heavy thatch and water repellent planting mixes such as peat moss.
  • Eliminates puddling thus reducing the potential for disease.
  • Leaches salt and other unwanted mineral build-ups down to a level below your plants' root zone allowing full release of beneficial and necessary minerals and chemicals.

    There are also areas of landscapes where the mulch has become so compacted that when watered, there is an immediate runoff. This too can be a great place to apply these liquid soil surfactants. You could be thinking, "I know I have plenty of mulch, but why is it so dry underneath that mulch, even though I know my sprinkler works?" Maybe just a soaking of the mulch with the aforementioned products, and a light raking, could be the answer to a lot of problems.

    The two most prominent and "retail available" products are Perc-o-late Plus from Monterey Chemical and Water-In from Parkway Research (based right here in Houston).

    The best ways to use the products are to fill a hose-end sprayer with the product and soak the area at 4-6 ounces per gallon of water. If you don't have a hose-end sprayer (such as an Ortho Dial-N-Spray) then the instructions are fairly simple to just mix the whole quart with a certain number of gallons of water, and get to pouring over the spots in the landscape that are seemingly compacted, showing immediate runoff or seemingly hardpan. And Perc-o-late Plus has a ready-to-use bottle that you just hook on to the end of a hose as well.

    As mentioned before, I've been asked about a liquid aeration product for lawns. And while there are countless anecdotal stories about how good they work, the cost-effectiveness is questionable compared to a core aeration. To make such products work on a typical stand of turfgrass, could cost upwards of $75 to cover a typical 7,500 square foot yard. That's because it can average $10 just to treat 1000 square feet. While a core aeration machine can cost $75 to rent, if you split the cost with neighbors, then you can understand what I mean by the cost effectiveness of these products.

    Now, for those who actually take the time to read these e-mail tips all the way, you know I like to give away free gifts at appearances and live broadcasts at remotes. Well, this Saturday's edition of GardenLine will be no exception. And since I just brought up the product Water-In I want to give you a free quart of this product if you'll come by our live broadcast at Stanton's in Alvin. Stanton's is located at 217 N. Taylor, and we'll be there from 8 a.m.-noon. If you print out a copy of this e-mail tip you can take home a free quart of Water-In. Or if you have no need for the soil surfactant, then here's what else I will give you for free by showing me a copy of this email tip:

  • Water-In Percolation product
  • GreenLight Spinosad
  • Nitro Phos Fire Ant Killer
  • Bonide Weed Beater for Southern Lawns
  • Yum Yum Soil Food from Back to Earth
  • Cotton Burr Compost from Back to Earth

    - Just make sure you bring a copy of this e-mail tip, and you can pick your prize. After 11 a.m., you won't need a copy of the tip sheet to get the prize, but there's not telling what, if anything, will be left by then. So, print it out, and come by and see me Saturday morning as early as 8 a.m. at Stanton's.

Randy Lemmon is the host of the GardenLine radio program on Newsradio 740 KTRH. Randy has been doing GardenLine in one capacity or another since December of 1995, for all three of the now Clear Channel AM stations - KTRH, KPRC & KBME. When Randy took over GardenLine, he replaced long-time Houston radio veteran and GardenLine originator, Bill Zak. For those who remember that far back, GardenLine was a weekly radio staple on KTRH from 10 a.m. to Noon Mondays through Fridays - along with a Saturday show as well. Now GardenLine is heard exclusively on Newsradio 740 KTRH on weekend mornings.