Why Soil Wetting Agents are a Temporary and Unsatisfactory Solution to Your Sandy Soil Lawns and Gardens.
It's early December in Perth and already it is heating up. Today it has already hit 40 degrees Celsius and it's still more than 2 weeks until Christmas.
I'm lucky as I have a bore and can water 3 times per week using my sprinklers, but my neighbour is on mains water and can only water twice per week.
Technically at 80 years old and having suffered a stroke it's not really possible for her to hand water her lawn on these hot days to mitigate the scorching suns drying effect.
As I drive down the street to come home, I can see the stark contrast of my lawn, still green and coping well, while my neighbour's grass stems have already turned a blueish tinge (bad sign) with brown and dying patches already starting to appear.
With only being able to water so infrequently, and the consecutive hot days drying out the topsoil under the grass and the garden beds, I see the same process each year where my neighbours lawn browns off, the soil underneath becomes hydrophobic and doesn't hold water, and I end up pouring lots more water on my neighbours garden (Our lawns are joined) to get it back to being green. I feel I'm wasting more water here because the government watering arrangements have allowed it to dry out.
And yes, I will use some wetting agent on her soil to temporarily get it back to absorb and hold some water. But I have to do it a few times across summer. This is not ideal and the costs of wetting agents add up.
However, on my own lawn, I have experimented with adding clay via soilsolver clay plus amendment and spreading this out and watering it in. Ideally, it would have been mixed into the sandy base before I laid my Sir Walter turf but back when I laid it, but I didn't know about the magic of clay for Perth's sandy soils.
The lawn around my home keeps my home cooler, the ambient temperature outside is hot but it does not feel like a furnace heat blasting me like the vacant block with crisped vegetation up the road.
Eventually, I will start on my neighbour's lawn with the clay additive but I've still got my own projects to complete. If I was forward-thinking enough I would have already done it and saved money already. But like most people, sometimes it's hard to spend a little more upfront to save a lot more down the track. But I'm getting better.
The Kaolin clay component in soil solver comes from a WA farm and has been mixed with silt. It still clumps a little from out the bag but does seem to spread when I run the hose over it and fine clay particles falls between the sand cracks. Eventually, it dissipates and disappears into the garden.
If I'm not using soil solver clay plus on the lawn, I dig and mix it into the garden beds wherever I'm planting something new. If it was a new home, I would get a bunch bulk delivered and have it mixed in to all the garden areas but my garden is mostly established. A garden full of soil solver would never need a wetting agent ever again.
Wetting agents are a temporary soil amendment to increase water and nutrient retention. If you want a permanent soil amendment to increase water and nutrient retention then Kaolin clay and silt amendments such as Soil Solver Clay Plus are my recommendation.
Gardens and trees are critical to reducing heat and increasing rainfall. Unfortunately our WA state government promoted statewide vegetation destruction for farming leading to salinity and rainfall reduction across the southwest. Our councils and developers now build homes so close together in suburbs where no trees have room to grow and keep our suburbs cool. Fortunately I still have my own little green oasis in Perth's growing urban desert.