Zeolite as a soil amendment

ocor25April 27, 2011

I've been researching the use of Zeolites as a soil amendment and would like to give it a try. I was wondering if anyone had any experience with this and if the types of Zeolites out their vary for the application you are using them for?

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For what reason would you use Zeolites as a soil amendment? Possibly as a means of absorbing some contaminants but not to replace organic matter.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 7:26AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

He would use it because the Dirt Doctor, Howard Garrett from Dallas, promotes the heck out of it in his weekly radio shows.

I do have some experience with zeolite. I also happen to be the lawn forum moderator on Howard's website. During one discussion quite awhile ago, we discussed zeolites. I mentioned that I used the HEB grocery store brand of Hill Country Fair Traditional Kitty Litter, which is 100% zeolite. Then the zeolite know-it-all came on and said, "Oh NO! You need to use this other kind of zeolite." And that zeolite is only sold at these few stores in the Dallas area. Over time it has come to light that the HEB kitty litter comes from exactly the same hole in the ground in Tilden, Texas where the "right" zeolite comes from - the one that the k-i-a guy was recommending. So there you have it. You can find the "right" zeolite at every HEB in Texas. It is literally dirt cheap in the ugly blue bag.

So about my experience with it. I had a root that bulged up from a washout spot in my front lawn. Mower bumped across it every week and was driving me crazy. Had I used sand to fill the low spot, the mower would have just pushed the sand away. So I used this chunky, zeolite kitty litter. I used an entire bag of it in that one spot and sort of smoothed it out. It smothered the St Augustine so I pulled some strands out to keep it from all dying in there. The kitty litter worked perfectly in that spot and you'd never know there was a root there.

What effect has the kitty litter had in that one spot? Nuthin! Nil. Nada. No effect. You cannot find that spot to save your life. It is just as if the zeolite was not there. If 20 pounds of zeolite in a 4 square foot area is not enough to have an effect, then that product does not work for that.

Garrett's theory is that zeolite is filled with pores that will hold nutrients and give them up to the grass later. Well I don't see any effect at all. His other argument is that it will act like a filter to filter out impurities of some sort. Again, I don't think so.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 9:30PM
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plenty of reasons to use it.. sorry to bump this old thread.. but you need to find feed grade zeolite, not the kitty litter stuff. might as well use perlite as the kitty litter.

This is what you should look for. I actually have a mine close to my house that i can buy from here in eastern oregon but there are plenty of places to order it from online although the shipping cost makes it a bit over priced... i get an 80 Lb bag for 13$...

â¢Helps Hold and Slowly Release Valuable Plant Nutrients
â¢Reduces Nutrient Leaching
â¢Improves Aeration of the Soil and Minimizes Compaction
â¢Helps Reduce Watering by Retaining Soil Moisture
â¢Improves Strong Root Development
â¢Supports Beneficial Microbe Activity in the Soil

Here is a link that might be useful: ZEOMAX Turf Aid

This post was edited by G.Gnome on Fri, Mar 22, 13 at 18:48

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 6:45PM
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I have been to places where there is a lot of volcanic rock and also places where shale is and nothing grows in either of them until there is an accumulation of organic matter.
Why would adding a mineral substance to the mineral soil you already have make that soil better?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 7:08AM
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I believe kimmsr, has a point.
Just as with charcoal, those pores that fill up with nutrients in order to release later, need to have OM to work with, in the first place. Microbes live in the pores of charcoal and nutrients adsorb to the walls of those pores,yet the OM needs to be the fuel that keeps the operation, operating.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 10:16AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

But assuming there is already organic matter in the garden soil, then you would expect zeolite to do the things it does. I will not go so far as to confirm that they do what G.Gnome says. The name of the company that provides the zeolite to HEB (mentioned in my earlier post) is Zeotech, the makers of Zeomax. Their mine is in Tilden, TX. It is the same stuff you can buy for a lot more under other labels. The kitty litter is very dusty stuff. The dust is probably as good for the soil as the bits and pieces of zeolite. I still maintain it has no effect. You cannot tell where I poured 20 pounds of it.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 12:28AM
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The people that are in the business of selling any given product will tell you that this product is the greatest thing since sliced bread, so they should be the last people to quote about whether any product is good, bad, or indifferent.
Some of the independant research I have seen about these products tells me that if a large enough quantity is added to a soil with adequate amounts of organic matter, there might be a small increase in yield with little difference seen in plant health. If these types of products are added to soils without adequate levels of organic matter little difference in yields has been seen.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 7:14AM
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I first became interested in zeolite after the Fukushima disaster and hearing how much of the radiation is already reaching the west coast via rain fall. It's traditionally been used to help clean up toxic waste sites due to its molecular structures ability to trap heavy metals and other unwanted positively charged particles..then we come to its uses as a human detox supplement for this same property. So after reading about the science behind this, I became very interested. It's really easy to poo poo on somes one's marketing, I get that, people are skeptical of things they don't understand and think someone is just trying to sell them something.but I highly suggest you all read more about it and give it a try. Even if it doesn't give you a crazy yield increase, which I've never heard anyone claim by the way, that's not the point, cleaner food with less heavy metal contamination is the main impetus.. All the other benefits are just icing.

I am still experimenting myself and will follow up after this next harvest.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 6:22PM
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I just realized that this thread is in "organic lawn care"... So my apologies for that. I doubt you all are eating your grass...

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 6:30PM
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Hi all from down under in Australia. My company mines natural zeolite in Australia of the Clinoptilolite species as geologists call them and also has a little Mordenite. It is too far to send any for anybody to buy in the USA so I hope this will sound neutral.
It is interesting reading this thread. I think everybody is referring to a Clinoptilolite zeolite here. Zeolite is a soil amendment no more a total soil substitute as lime, dolomite or gypsum would be. Small amounts help the soil properties in the ways that G.Gnone has listed above. It is no magic bullet and has no nutrient content itself. It will hold and exchange nutrients as pointed out and these come from what is already in the soil, organic matter and fertiliser.
Typical usage is in the order of 15% of the weight of the soil media. Measureable benefits start around 5% and in my experience should not exceed 25%. Using zeolite as 100% soil media would lead to disappointment. We sell our zeolite into all kinds of markets that include use in potting media and turf. It is used between 1,000 kg to 10,000 kg per hectare which is about 2lb to 20lb per square yard.
There is no such thing as a 100% pure natural zeolite but an 85% pure is typical of commercially mined deposits.
Add it to your soils to improve the cation exchange capacity, hold more water and it certainly does host plant friendly soil microorganisms. If the right species are already present in the soil to benefit from the zeolite such as trichoderma and AM Fungi then disease pathogens could be inhibited.
Using zeolite as mixing component of a soil media is rather a low end use for this mineral so any source will probably do a satisfactory job. As there is plenty of time in this application for the honeycomb structure of zeolite to exchange nutrient and water, particle size will not be critical. If given a choice use a powdery form for sandy soils and a gritty form for heavy clays.
I hope you find this useful, I know some Americans donâÂÂt like foreigners acting knowledgeable so please donâÂÂt take offence.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 3:31AM
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I take offense that you think Americans are so petty as to react to a knowledgeable foriegner. :)
You echoed what I was thinking about the stuff. Well written.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 9:21AM
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Natural zeolite's primary benefit is to improve soil fertility through improving the nutrient holding capacity. The other benefits while real are of secondary importance. Peer reviewed research available on the web do a pretty good job of documenting what natural zeolite can and cannot do.

First, natural zeolite cannot improve plant growth if the soil, environmental, and management conditions are perfect or if a good or poor natural zeolite is used improperly. Zeolite cannot improve the genetic potential of the plant.

A good natural zeolite will have a high cation exchange capacity (CEC) to act as a reservoir or buffer for the ammonium and potassium in the soil. A soils lab can measure your CEC for about $30. This reservoir will hold and release these and other nutrients in the root zone thereby reducing leaching or run off of these nutrient.

Also, a good natural zeolite will have low clay. It is not unusual of the cat litter grades of natural zeolites to clump or form mud balls - good for a cat litter, but bad for a soil amendment.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 4:02PM
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Organic matter, vegetative waste, will improve a soils ability to hold both moisture and nutrients and will provide a food source for the Soil food Web that will feed the plants growing in that soil, and much of the vegetative waste can be had for free while Zeolite will cost you some of your hard earned dollars.
Why would anyone spend money on something that is of very littel real value to the Soil Food Web when what is of real value is readily available and free?

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 7:51AM
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I am late with commenting but just found this discussion. It has been interesting and I appreciate the info. I started looking into using zeolite in the organic garden because of some research I'd read about from a professor at Cambridge University, Dr. Peter Leggo. His works involves using zeolite and organic matter to produce crops in contaminated or poor soil. The following is from Dr. Leggo's bio at Cambridge. It is a very good explanation of how zeolite functions. In response to the question of why anyone would or should buy/use zeolite, I'd quickly say to reduce use of fertilizer or amendments (very expensive for quality ones) and especially to reduce the amount of water necessary for growing since zeolite acts to retain water in its air pockets. Even for areas where water isn't scarce, you should consider it would require less labor and money to water/amend. I live in the desert so water retention and reduction of salt buildup in the soil is very important to me.


Research: Stimulation of Nitrifying Micro-organisms by an Organo-Zeolitic Soil Amendment and its Effect on Plant Uptake of Nutrients

A mixture of organic waste and crushed zeolitic tuff when added to soil will boost the population of nitrifying micro-organisms to a high level. The resulting nitrification provides a source of nitrogen, in the form of nitrate, together with a supply of protons which dissociate cations from the soil particulate matter. Phosphorus present in the organic waste is available for plant uptake together with potassium and other elements essential for plant nutrition. The organo-zeolitic-soil system acts biologically to supply plant nutrients, provided air and water are present, and in this respect functions differently to inorganic fertilizers that are currently used to enhance plant growth. The dynamics of the biological fertilizer is controlled by the rate of nitrification and plants growing in such an amended soil environment balance the uptake of nutrient ions to maximise growth. This behaviour has been demonstrated in experiments covering a variety of higher plants grown in both normal and contaminated soils.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 11:18AM
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Most everything I find on the use of Zeolites as soil amendments is by those with a vested interest in selling the product. Most of the research on use of Zeolite indicates that in soils lacking adequate levels of organic matter they can be beneficial and in soils contaminated with toxins they are useful.
However, I can find nothing that tells me that in soils with adequate levels of organic matter adding Zeolite actually does much to make that soil any better then the organic matter.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2013 at 6:59AM
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