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Watering Less with Water Absorbing Polymers

With limited water supplies affecting many states throughout the United States, water conservation in the garden is becoming more popular than ever. If you’re interested in reducing the amount of water you use when gardening, there are a number of techniques that you should consider.

The most popular, xeriscaping, is a landscaping philosophy that involves using low water-use plants, modern and old-fashioned water saving gardening technologies, and inventive garden design to help you save water in the garden. Applying a few xeriscaping techniques will help protect your municipal water source and can save you big money on your water bill.

While the use of drought resistant and low water-use plants is an essential part of xeriscaping, modern technology has made available numerous safe and innovative products that will help you conserve water in your garden. Among these products are drip irrigation systems, rain barrels, and super-absorbent gel polymers. In this article we will focus on the use of super absorbent gel polymers as a simple and effective way to save water in your garden.

History of Water Absorbing Polymers

Water absorbing polymers (water crystals) have actually been around since the 1960’s. The company Union Carbide first used them to help grow plants in arid conditions. The first versions of water crystals were expensive and not necessarily efficient for home use. However, the technology gradually improved and now these water-saving hydrogels are widely used by professional horticulturists, farmers, nurseries, and home gardeners. Water absorbing gel products, such as Greensense Solid Water, can help reduce the number of times you water your landscaping by up to 50%. Greensense Solid Water is also completely safe and non-toxic, and poses no health risk to you, your family, your pets, or your neighbors. Solid Water is potassium-based and is specially designed for use in agriculture, gardening, and horticulture.

How Water Absorbing Polymers Work

Water absorbing polymer gels work by absorbing high quantities of water, in addition to beneficial nutrients, and then slowly releasing the water through osmosis. When mixed into the soil, the gel polymers come in direct contact with the roots of your garden plants and grass, thus making the water easily available to your plants. This translates to extremely efficient use of water in your landscaping or with your potted plants.

You can use gel polymers for a variety of plants and growing conditions. They work great on lawns, potted plants, annuals, perennials, vegetables, fruits, etc. In addition to storing water and reducing water use in your garden, water absorbing polymers have other benefits. Because they expand and take up space in the soil, they can help with soil aeration and soil porosity. If you have clay soils, gel polymers can help increase soil porosity and the amount of oxygen in the soil. Gel polymers are not affected by extreme weather conditions or soil compaction.

If you’re concerned about problems with root rot, gel polymers can actually help with this problem. The slow release of water doesn’t necessarily mean that your roots will be super-saturated for extended periods of time. Even if they stay wet for extended periods of time, gel polymers will never mold or mildew.

Additionally, the added air pockets reduce problems with root rot, and the gel crystals only absorb to their capacity. If you use fertilizers or pesticides, gel polymers will not have an effect on the functioning of these products. Another excellent benefit of these products is that once applied, they can continue to work 5 to 7 years with just one treatment.

If you’d like to use some non-xeric plants in your garden, the hydrogels will help decrease the amount of water they consume. While this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use a wide selection of low water use plants in your garden if you want to save water, it does mean you can cheat a little and grow a few aesthetically pleasing high water use plants. Note that using gel polymers with drought tolerant plants further increases their water saving benefits.

You should keep in mind that the use of water absorbing polymer gels and xeriscaping techniques is important no matter what part of the country you live in. Although xeriscaping originated in the arid West, gardeners throughout the country are utilizing xeriscaping to help reduce their water use, and the amount of time they spend watering and maintaining the garden. Products like Solid Water can make a big impact on your garden, no matter where you live!

Tips for Using Water Absorbing Polymers

If you decide to use Solid Water in your landscaping or for you potted plants, you’ll need to follow the application instructions very carefully. Here are some basic tips for applying Solid Water.

For new landscaping, you should apply 1 lb. per 1000 sq. ft. of area. Spread evenly with a spreader or by hand so that a light blanket covers the treated area. Once evenly spread out, you’ll need to cultivate the polymer about 6” deep into the soil. If you’d like to use the hydrogel on an existing lawn, you should first aerate your lawn. You can then mix 1 lb. of polymer with 50 pounds of humate and distribute the mixture over 4000 square feet of your lawn.

For new potted plants, you should mix the hydrogel into the soil before planting. Follow the chart on this website so that you apply the correct amount of hydrogel depending on the size of your plant. For potted plants that you already have growing, you’ll need to make holes in the soil and then add the polymer. The chart on this website can help you determine the amount of polymer to add.

For more information on xeriscaping, solid water polymers, and water saving techniques, please see the following websites:

Colorado State University Xeriscaping Guides: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/PUBS/GARDEN/07228.html http://www.ext.colostate.edu/PUBS/GARDEN/07234.html

Greensense Solid Water Application Rates and Information: http://www.greensense.net/pdf/folded/solidwater.pdf