Author: Katrina Savell
You could be forgiven for thinking the word Zeolite is the name of the next Hollywood hero out to save the world, or an ancient Greek god. The reality is that when it comes to improving your vegetable garden, this fascinating mineral supplement is actually a bit of an organic superhero…
What is a Zeolite?
Zeolites are naturally occurring porous minerals that look like honeycomb in structure and act like tiny sponges. They can absorb and modify some harmful or unwanted elements from soil, water and air. In the garden, they are well known for their ability to absorb heavy metals such as lead and chromium. Interestingly, however, they can simultaneously absorb beneficial nutrients, especially nitrogen and ammonia for soil, and then release them back at a rate more evenly and effective for plant root development. Due to their anatomical structure, they do not lose nutrients easily from leaching.
What can Zeolite do for my vegetable garden?
Zeolites have become a common and useful additive to garden and agricultural fertilizers. They are prized for their role in both releasing nutrients for plant use and absorbing free nutrient particles which prevents leaching.
In short, they can:
- Act as a natural wetting agent (Zeolite is used as the major ingredient in high quality wetting agents) and as a distributor and moderator of water – they are very effective in helping to distribute water around dripper lines and are particularly effective in sandy soils. Zeolites have the ability to absorb up to 55% of their weight in water and then can slowly release it under plant demand. This prevents root rot and moderates drought cycles.
- Increase the effectiveness of fertilizers – also termed a fertilizer ’battery charge’ Zeolites store nutrients, prevent them from leaching and then release them to your vegetables when they feel the plant needs them. This aids in long-term soil quality improvements and better yields.
- Act as an effective odour eater, and is useful on any kind of manure, including that of your pets.
How do I apply Zeolite to my vegetable garden?
Zeolite usually comes in a powder of granular form. When applying Zeolite, wear gloves and goggles to protect the eyes especially in windy weather.
Whether you are applying Zeolite to detoxify your soil, prevent leaching, or as a fertilizer boost, as a rule, measure 250-500 grams of Zeolite per square metre of soil, together with fertiliser (if it’s required) and water in well.
Zeolite can also be added to soil for potted plants before applying liquid fertiliser: for your potting mix, add 5% of powdered Zeolite to the mix volume. For example, 50kg of zeolite per m3 or approx 2.5kg of zeolite to a wheelbarrow full of potting mix (approx 50L mix).
Even better – it’s environmentally friendly too!
Worth mentioning again, not only does Zeolite detoxify your soil of harmful heavy metals, recharge your plant fertilizer, prevent leaching, absorb odours AND act as a natural wetting agent, it is a natural and cost effective alternative to chemicals in your garden.
We’ll keep you posted on more great ideas to help your vegetable garden flourish with organic applications soon.
Katrina Savell is a freelance writer based in Sydney, Australia