We have a National TV broadcaster (ABC) that screens a National gardening show each week called 'Gardening Australia'. They only use organic applications, and here's one for a home made wetting agent:
While there are many soil additives and wetting agents commercially available, it has been shown that these don’t biodegrade readily in the soil and can cause issues with sensitive animals and plants (including members of the Proteaceae family and animals such as lizards).
To combat this, Jerry makes his own wetting agent from readily available food grade agar, a gelatine made from seaweed.
Dissolve agar in warm water (not hot) to dilute to consistency of runny custard.
Take 2 cups of this dilution and add to 9 litres of water (a watering can is ideal).
Apply with a watering can - this will treat 6 sqm of soil.
Watering the soil before you are going to add the wetting agent will aid both the dispersal and effectiveness of the wetting agent. You can expect the effects of this application to last around three weeks, which while shorter than the commercially available products, means that it is readily biodegradable and far kinder to the soil. It is also the perfect amount of time for a tender young seedling to establish during the warmer months.'
Also, if you add a few millilitres of fish or seaweed liquid to the mix, it gives plants a bit of a kick along.
[The 'Jerry' mentioned in the article is a noted Horticulturist with quite a prestigious background.]
'Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain.'
Yes, quite. I think I just found something I would like to experiment with.
I wonder what would happen if such an agar solution was applied in an arid environment. I would expect it to break down faster, but I have no reason to believe that unless the breakdown is accelerated by dessication or heat.
I also wonder if agar could be used to gley seal ponds, or to augment the sealing action of, say, bentonite clays used for the purpose.
Is the mechanism of action strictly chemical, or does the agar work as a growth medium, as it does in a petri dish, hosting microorganisms that make soil hydrophilic, I wonder?
Imagine employing this in an arid situation, where seasonal rains only come once, and last only a few days. I wonder what would happen if, instead of, say, three days of flash-flood followed by a slow dessication, the water stayed in the system much longer?
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
I recently had occasion to look into these products and was horrified to discover:
1) there are residual acrylamides (a fairly notorious toxin) allowed to remain in these products from the manufacturing process at levels 1,000 to 5,000 times higher than is allowed in, say, cosmetics; and
2) when they break down in the soil over the years, they break down into those same acrylamides, which you will encounter when you work the soil. Likewise every living thing in your garden will be exposed to this fairly potent toxin.
Here's the post I made about it with the sources I found: