How To Fix Hydrophobic Soil

Hydrophobic soil is a common issue this days due to climate change, fires and other natural disasters , our hot climate and unreliable rainfall can cause havoc on our soil. Hydrophobic soil occurs when a waxy residue builds up on the soil particles resulting in it repelling water rather than absorbing it. It is most common in sandy soils, dried out potting mix and soils containing unrotted organic matter. You can identify hydrophobic soil by watering it. If water runs off on the surface leaving the soil underneath dry or as a result of bad draining, you’ve got Hydrophobic soil. Luckily, it is not too hard to fix, here’s a few common ways you can improve your soil to make it water loving again, draining, and   ‘hydrophilic’.

Wetting Agents

Wetting agents are a great quick fix but will not resolve the issue long term. Wetting agents work by breaking down waxy coatings as well as breaking the surface tension in the water making it easier to penetrate the soil. Commercial wetting agents are available at garden centres, or you can make one at home using agar (powdered kelp)*. It is possible to use diluted dishwashing liquid or dish water/laundry water as a soil wetter, the surfactants in the detergent act to break the surface tension in the water in a similar way to wetting agents (use caution when using detergents on your garden, be sure to use environmentally friendly/biodegradable options and check their suitability for use on your specific plant varieties).

Soil Improvement

A better, long-term way to improve your soil is by adding well rotted organic matter, then mulching over the top to help prevent the soil from drying out. This will introduce microorganisms to your soil which will break down the waxy residue and also improve your soil biology. Just be wary of continuously using pine bark or eucalypt wood-chip mulches as these can carry a fungi which negatively impacts soil conditioning. Varying the mulch used on your garden each application not only breaks the fungi cycle but helps to increase the microbiology within your soil as the mulch breaks down. Renowned horticulturalist Jerry Coleby-Williams recommends ‘Succession mulching’ – varying the mulch between mushroom compost, pine bark, composted lawn clippings, tea tree and sugarcane mulches in that order, this will build a wide range of microbes to condition and aerate your soil. More is not always better, care must be taken when using mulches to make sure they aren’t too thick and don’t form a crust on top of your garden which will negatively affect the ability for water to reach the soil. We suggest a mulch thickness of between 3 and 5cm.

How to Improve Pot Plant

You can hydrate potplant soil by placing the pot into a tub of water so that the water covers the entire pot. Add half-strength liquid fertiliser to the water, this will add nutrients back into the soil. You should notice bubbles coming to the surface, soak the pot for at least 10-20 minutes. Pot Plants also require repotting occasionally, add new potting mix when repotting to boost moisture levels and provide fresh nutrients. The use of water crystals or peat can be beneficial to boost the water holding capacity of pot plant soil.

Garden bed design

Flat garden beds are more likely to hold water than sloped garden beds when watered, giving irrigation a better chance to eventually soak in. If you can’t make your garden beds flat then use furrows (trenches) in your garden bed, these will slow the water and help focus the water to stay near your plants rather than running off causing water loss and erosion.

*Soil Wetter Recipe:

Earth-Care technology provides an all-in-one solution for everyday growers and the commercial farmers. The handcrafted natural blend is designed to enhance the biodiversity of the soil ecosystem and to also empower the root system. Earth-Care technology uses no chemicals whatsoever and uses all natural ingredients including Alfalfa Meal, Blood Meal, Bone Meal, Feather Meal, Emulsion, Kelp Meal and other natural ingredients.

  • Certified 100% organic plant nutrition, no harsh ingredients
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  • Quickly greens, and starter fertilizer, Promotes a Lush and Green Lawn.
  • 100% Natural hand crafted blend.
  • Promote bigger root mass and better plant performance.
  • Provides essential nutrients for a healthy plant – 5% Nitrogen, 6% Phosphorus, 6% Potassium
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  • Water absorbing pellets designed to hold water and to keep soil moist.
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