Introduction To Polymers
Water absorbing polymer gels are non-toxic moisture retaining soil additives, offering houseplant fanciers and homeowners help in watering their plants. When dry these polymers look like sugar. But when water is added, they act like sponges in the soil, absorbing water when it comes by and then making that water available to the roots of plants over time. When; the polymers are fully wet they look and feel like small cubes of clear gelatin.
Polymer Gels are synthetic polymers in the form of tiny beads or crystals, again looking like sugar. They have an enormous capacity to absorb water, expanding up to 40 or 50 percent of their size when mixed with water. The polymer material cannot be absorbed by the plant. However, plant roots are attracted to it, gradually migrating toward it and eventually growing right through individual water-filled crystals.
Water absorbing polymers are probably used more in containers inside and outside the house, but do have some value when planting trees, shrubs, and other plants. If put into the soil, they will break down in about 5 years.
Advantages Of Polymer Gels
Polymer Gels reduce the frequency with which plants must be watered, providing a safety net for those times we forget to water or rainfall is scarce. These products help assure a more consistent water supply which promotes a larger root system and improves plant health.
They retard, and even eliminate, transplant shock if soil with activated Polymer Gels is part of the soil ball of the seedling. The more water absorbing polymer in the soil around the roots, the easier it is for the plant to handle the transplanting trauma. Some products include valuable root fungi called “mycorrhiza” in with the polymer material.
Polymer Gels absorb liquid fertilizer just as they do water, serving as food storage reservoirs in the soil. Some products come with a slow release fertilizer already in with the polymer material.
As the Polymer Gel crystals expand and contract responding to water availability, they aerate the soil.
Polymer Gels are valuable in improving very sandy soils; for example the Soil Moist™ brand can increase the water holding capacity of sand by over 700%.
Polymer Gels are non-toxic and neutral in pH. Most will last in the soil 4 or 5 years before they begin to break down.
Important Note - Absorption capacity of polymer gels can vary with the salinity, pH, and other variables of the soil. Do not add lime to soil at the same time that you introduce Polymer Gels into it.
For information about buying Water Absorbing Polymers click here to go to the Yardener’s Tool Shed.