Polymer water retention crystals

harleylady(PNW/USDA 8b/Sunset 6)October 14, 2003

Anybody using these granules? Interested in hearing your feedback: what kind of plants you're growing with them, your successes, failures, etc. Thanks...


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miSago(z9 Fl Island)

I have used them for large transplanted cabbage palms (I've never used them for any other plants)
I believe they could make the 'weaning off' of nursery cared-for plants easier (for you)
but I do not believe it helps in "making" the roots seek their own water

    Bookmark   October 17, 2003 at 12:34PM
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We used them in a flower bed without much success. They worked to hold some moisture for awhile but, after a few months, most of them were laying around on top of the soil. They might be okay for a container, but I've never felt the need to try them there. Organic matter in a good quality potting soil holds moisture quite well.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2003 at 2:38PM
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harleylady(PNW/USDA 8b/Sunset 6)

How did your granules end up on top of the soil? Do you cultivate your soil a lot or do they work their way up? Anybody else gardening in sand? I know many of you have caliche. I used to curse my clay but would sure love to have some right now. Getting my hands on any organic material to hold moisture in the sand is very difficult here.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2003 at 1:44PM
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We have an alkaline clay soil. It was not worked after the granules were dug in at planting time. Therefore, they simply worked their way up (floated) to the top of the soil.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2003 at 1:58PM
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Harley Lady, the crystals are constantly shrinking and expanding in reponse to moisture levels. When they expand they displace soil (more displacement occurs above than below them as that is the path of least resistance), when they shrink, the heavier soil fills in the void that develops around them. Eventually, this constant shrinking and expanding will cause it to work its way to the surface.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2003 at 11:04AM
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harleylady(PNW/USDA 8b/Sunset 6)

I can't hold any moisture in my ground. There are very few sources of organic material here and what is available is very expensive. I compost my household waste but the desert yields little in the way of compostable materials (no lawns, few leafy trees). When I go up to the USA I bring back sacks of amendments but it's never enough.

Rather than mix the granules into whole planting areas, I'm going to try mixing them only into the area below the rootball in the planting holes. I don't expect miracles from them, just a little help. My water comes in a tanker truck, not through a pipe, so you can imagine how precious it is. I can't afford to waste a drop.

Has anyone seen any difference in the performance of the various brands or is price the only consideration?

    Bookmark   October 25, 2003 at 11:57AM
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I use them in my wall planters, I'm in Phx so the block wall gets very hot and small terra cota planters evaporate quickly. Since using the crystals the plants have done much better! I suggest soaking them 1st and then mixing with the soil :)

    Bookmark   October 26, 2003 at 12:00AM
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eileenaz(9, Sunset 12)

If you can auger out some fairly deep holes into your plants' root systems without damaging the plants, you can mix the crystals with some potting soil or compost and cram that into the holes. It's not ideal, but it may help. Also, I once bought a big bag of compressed coconut shell fiber that was the size of a big bag of potting soil, but when you put a chunk in a bucket and add some water and fluff that up with a hoe or rake, it expands in volume like you wouldn't believe. I got mine at a nursery, but I've seen it advertised for pet bedding. It retains water well and is a good soil amendment. It's marketed as a renewable replacement for peat moss, but it doesn't repel water when it's dry like peat moss does (frankly, I don't think it holds water quite as long, either, but it definitely helps). I suggest it for you because I figure you can only haul back so much soil amendment per trip, and this stuff is really compressed- more bang for your transport buck, as it were. If I can find it online I'll post a source. If you were to mix the coir (that's the coconut shell stuff) with the crystals it would help you out a lot, especially for your potted stuff in the Baja Norte sun.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2003 at 4:20PM
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eileenaz(9, Sunset 12)

There appears to be a lot of information on the web about it. Here are three possibilities-

Good luck- if you do a Google search and type in "coir coconut fiber" you'll get a lot of information- a whole lot!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2003 at 4:29PM
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harleylady(PNW/USDA 8b/Sunset 6)

G_t thanks for the suggestion regarding pre-soaking them.

Eileen, good idea re: putting polymers right *into* the rootball and excellent suggestion of using coir. You know, I have seen it but never bought it in the PNW because there was so much other organic material readily available at low cost. It never even occurred to me to use it down here. Appreciate the links and I'll check those out and get some my next shopping trip to the States. I'll report back how it works for me.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2003 at 11:49PM
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eileenaz(9, Sunset 12)

Good- and I appreciate your trying to enrich the Baja soil! I think I must have lived there in a former life- it feels so simpatico to me whenever I go there, wherever I go there.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2003 at 10:19PM
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harleylady(PNW/USDA 8b/Sunset 6)

Hey, next time you come down this way, you *must* stop and see me. I get so lonely for "green" companions (hmmmm should that be greengos? ;) We can talk plants and go visit my friend, a little old Mexican man that grows some cool stuff and see his shade houses and see his carvings before hitting the beach with a cold one.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2003 at 11:24PM
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anna_z7(the twilight...)

I ordered some watersorb polymers last winter and have used them all season for my transplants as well as in my veggie garden...the pkg tells what the ratio should be and I simply increased it for plants that prefer more moisture.

It seems to work I did not use any for the okra and peppers and the dirt there did get dry and hard (which they can tolerate) while the tomatoes seemed to stay evenly moist.

I did a lot of shopping and they were the best price at the time, also their product doesn't break down into salts as some others do.

I haven't had any resurface :) and have applied them in both the granular and rehydrated forms....they do come in different sizes for different applications and larger granules may be more prone to working up to the surface.

Send your address and I'll mail you a baggy - a little goes a long way - I think it's a tbsp for a tree transplant....

No teacher like experience :)

Greengos - that's great!

Verde in TN :)

    Bookmark   November 2, 2003 at 7:56PM
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harleylady(PNW/USDA 8b/Sunset 6)

Anna, that's very kind of you. I'd love to try them...pls check my trade list and see if there is something you might like to try in that new GH of yours !

    Bookmark   November 3, 2003 at 11:27PM
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eileenaz(9, Sunset 12)

I love it.
Let us know how it works!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2003 at 11:45AM
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sqlguy(z7 GA)

I've used these crystals in my dry soil (Dry for Georgia, that is. My sandy clay is more stable than your sandy soils, but still, it has never migrated to the surface. part of the reason is that I NEVER put it above the level of the root ball, always below. I dig the hole deeper than "necessary", and water rarely but deeply, with a slow trickle from a hose, once a week or oncc every two weeks, even when establishing a plant, and not at all after that. It is my belief that doing this creates a moist zone BELOW the roots of the plant, but not TOO FAR below. This encourages the plants to root more deeply than they would otherwise, and makes them more drought tolerant. This is all uneducated theory (speculation) on my part, I have no scientific evidence, but the plants I have done this well have prospered. Uf the crystals migrate upwards later, and there aren't too many of them, it won't be a problem. Their main purpose, in my mind, is to encourage the deep penetration of roots. Perhaps choosing an organic mulch to mix in BELOW the root ball might help do much the same thing. I generally make a 3 to 4 inch layer of "treated" soil below the root ball of a small plant, or as much as a foot below a small tree that I plant. This is partlally because there is rock below a very thin vineer of very poor soil in my front yard. I'm basicly building a container with a pickaxe. I've gotten around this problem, to a large extent, by building terraces on my steep hills, and filling in the level by adding organic rich garden soil trucked in a dump-truck load at a time. I've used 1 1/2 so far fir the largest terrace in my front yard, and am ready for one more load for a terrace in my back yard. I'll need 1 more, to finish my third terrace later this winter. Then my problem will become too much shade, instead of too much sun, and my new environment will render many of my plants inappropriate... Lots of my plants are relatively easy to move. Yucca, Iris, Carolina Jasmine. I actually like AZ plants, since they're drought tolerant, and many are freeze tolerant. I'm growing red yucca from seed, and hoping that they will prosper in my sunny dry areas. They did very well the first year. No flowers yet, but I can't wait to see how they do.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2003 at 12:23AM
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DClews(Western Qld)

I am learning to garden in sand (having recently moved to western Queensland) Our vegetable garden is barely 3 months old and is producing something, though probably not for much longer as all annuals die off (or so I am told) after Christmas. We made raised beds of sand topped off with a layer of compost. Before the small log edged beds were filled we lined them with plastic, after making drainage holes. then the beds were saturated with water. The seedlings were mulched very deeply - 30+cm. and protected with milk cartons or yogurt pots with the bottoms and tops removed. Seeds were also directly sown and covered with damp hessian (these areas were watered once a day until the seeds sprouted and the seedings established.I find that I only need to water every 5 to 7 days once the seedlings are established depending on the humidity which can be very low.
I have only used the granules in a few hanging baskets, which are going to be the basis of a cooling bush house/fernery when we buy a house in the near future. The granules seem to work well and I water these only every other day, without the granules I do not think the soil would retain the moisture at all and would have to be watered several times a day, even with mulch, and deep shade.
Mulching hay is prohibitively expensive at the moment if it is available anywhere, and we have collected mulga leaves from the bush which is better than nothing. I have also started a worm farm - would that be possible for you to do, the worm castings have a great affinity to water.
I forgot to say that the raised beds help to drain the salts out of the town borewater eventually in our permanant house garden we want to use rainwater only, or at the worst diluted town water.
Pits lined with platic might work with you if you have no problem with qater quality
Charleville, Qld

    Bookmark   December 21, 2003 at 12:23AM
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JayEmVee(z9 SF Bay, CA)

I live in the SF Bay area and had to have a lawn for my day care kids (this was 20 years ago). Before we laid down the sod we added polymer granules to the topsoil. It was a huge success. I had to water about a third as often. I used them also in raised beds to good effect. Polymers break down over time and dissipate, but I've found them clinging to roots of shrubs I'm pulling out or moving years and years later. I find that they move to to top more frequently in pots. If you do buy them, go to the manufacturer and buy in bulk. My friends and I bought a 50 lb sack, divided it up, used it and I still have a 5 gallon laundry tubful in my garage.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2004 at 1:23PM
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I unknowingly have been using these crystals to make "air gel" room fresheners. I had no clue they were really from the garden world. I hear two ounces absorbs up to a gallon of water, (and a little fragrance oil) and are poured into small and wide mouth mason jars with a round lace top for ventilation. I feel they work well for dorms and areas that do not allow candles.

But recently, I travel allot and was desperate to incorporate some kind of water retention system in my container gardens. I simply pre-mixed the Polymer, waited and hour and then mixed it in with rock 1/2 way up my containers. I mixed nutrients in that, to be sure. I then added the potting soil and plants. So, far I think my garden's can withstand a good week without me, and I have not seen any crystals floating up. I think they are an awesome attribute if used right and CHEAP!

I feel they have the attribute of absorbing nutrients and other controls, that may operate under a kind of "timed released" theory if you mix them up first and wait for them to expand. And yes, I am also working with sand, in Florida.

I see florists also use them to make water gardens and fresh cut floral designs around them.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2004 at 8:23AM
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