What is Zeolite and How to Use it in the Country

What is Zeolite and How to Use it in the Country

Often in the composition of soil for plants, such a natural improver as zeolite is mentioned. Why is it needed in soil mixtures, what function does it perform and how else can it be useful in the country? Let’s get to know the mineral better and give answers to these questions.

Zeolite is a group of minerals of sedimentary or volcanic origin, including up to 30 items. These are aqueous sodium and calcium aluminosilicates, which outwardly look like small sharp pebbles with a slight glass luster and are distinguished by a unique structure of the crystal lattice. The mineral is permeated with thin channels and cavities, which makes it look like a kind of molecular sieve.

Zeolite was discovered in 1756 by the Swedish mineralogist and chemist Axel Kronstadt. Currently, the main natural deposits of zeolites are located in Europe, Russia, the USA, and Japan.

Zeolites have two valuable qualities: they are able to absorb and release water, depending on temperature conditions and humidity indicators; due to ion-exchange activity, they selectively absorb and release various substances.

The mineral zeolite is actively used by environmental services for water purification in natural and artificial reservoirs, for the disinfection of wastewater and radionuclide-contaminated soils. It is used in household and industrial filters for water – as one of the absorbing layers, and in medicine, enterosorbent preparations are created on its basis.

Zeolite has also found application in agriculture (animal husbandry and crop production), and it is this fact that interests us most. In agriculture, crushed stone is used, which is obtained by crushing and dividing zeolite tuff into fractions. Granules can be of different sizes: large, pebble-sized, used as decorative dumping in landscape work and for mulching the soil, and a fine fraction, like river sand, is introduced into the soil to improve its physical characteristics.

In addition to zeolites of natural origin, there are synthetic analogs – they are obtained artificially through complex technological processes. However, such zeolites are not suitable for use as soil improvers.

What is the use of zeolite

As you might have guessed, zeolite is an ideal soil additive, capable of performing the same function as sand or perlite. But in comparison with the latter, zeolite has several indisputable advantages.

  • Zeolite improves the physical properties of the soil.

The mineral loosens heavy, dense, floating clay soils, makes them porous and breathable and prevents the formation of lumps and crust on the surface. When added to sandy soil, it increases moisture capacity – retains water and trace elements, gradually, as needed, giving them to plants. This saves water and optimizes irrigation.

  • Zeolite granules neutralize nitrates and heavy metal salts.

Due to the ability to ion exchange, the mineral converts some chemical compounds into a bound form and retains them, preventing them from being absorbed by the roots of plants. Thus, this natural absorbent reduces the content of toxic substances in the yield of horticultural crops.

  • Zeolite is a fertilizer and regulates the movement of elements in the soil.

Small granules of zeolite are added to the soil as a mineral fertilizer since it contains calcium, potassium, magnesium, silicon, zinc, and other trace elements in a form that is available for assimilation. In addition, due to its absorbent properties, zeolite prevents the leaching of other applied fertilizers (for example, organic matter) from the soil, keeping them in the root zone of plants. Thus, nitrogen leaching is reduced by 4-5 times, and the assimilation of fertilizers in general increases by 30%.

  • The mineral enhances the effect of pesticides.

Zeolite is able to increase the effectiveness of drugs for pest and disease control. Due to its porous structure, it accumulates and retains pesticides and biologically active substances, which means it prolongs the protective function of drugs and allows you to reduce the number of treatments. Thus, the presence of zeolite in the soil provides long-term protection of plants from fungal and viral diseases, harmful bacteria, insects, and rodents.

  • Zeolite reduces soil acidity.

Since the mineral has optimal acidity (pH 5.5-5.6), it can be added to the soil for growing a most garden and horticultural crops. The introduction of zeolite into acidic soil is likely to save you from the need to use other deoxidizers.

  • Promotes increased crop yields.

Thanks to all of the above properties, zeolite significantly improves the microbiological composition, health and fertility of the soil. Plants growing in such conditions develop better: they grow green mass and root system faster, get sick less, tolerate stressful climatic influences and disturbance of agricultural technology more easily. This means they give an excellent harvest!

How to apply zeolite to plants

You can use zeolite for growing garden, vegetable, and ornamental crops in a variety of ways. In almost any work where you traditionally use sand, it can be replaced with a volcanic mineral.

For the preparation of soil mixtures

Zeolite is added to the soil for any plants – both growing in open ground and greenhouse crops. The average rate of its application is one part of the mineral for three parts of the soil. For seedlings, a mixture of equal volumes of zeolite, peat and humus will be optimal.

You can add zeolite when planting plants or during the growing season, while it can be used as an independent additive or mixed with other fertilizers.

Vegetable crops growing in soil with zeolite are able to give an increase in yield up to 50%, the content of vitamins in fruits increases, and nitrates and toxic substances, on the contrary, decreases.

For preparation and germination of seeds

Often, small seeds are mixed with sand before sowing to facilitate work with them and to ensure an even distribution over the soil surface. Zeolite can be used for the same purpose. Any seeds after sowing can be sprinkled with a thin layer of zeolite, and then with soil. This method will prevent the seeds from drying out and waterlogging, and will also avoid the appearance of mold, fungal infection, and increase the seedlings’ resistance to root rot.

It is also convenient to germinate seeds in zeolite – it is poured into a thin layer on a damp cloth, the seeds are spread over it and covered. Zeolite in this case performs all the functions described above and, moreover, does not allow seeds to germinate into the tissue.

For the treatment of bulbs and plant roots during planting

Bulbs and tubers of plants are treated with fine zeolite powder before planting in the ground. The consumption of the mineral in this case is 50 g per 5 kg of planting material. The bulbs are laid out on the ground, powdered with zeolite and left for 2 hours, after which they are planted in a prepared place. It is not necessary to get rid of excess mineral matter.

In preparation for planting seedlings of vegetables, flowers and berries with an open root system in a permanent place, their roots are also sprinkled with zeolite – this reduces the stress from transplanting, provides readily available nutrition for the first time, strengthens the immunity of plants and keeps the roots from damage. The same technique can be used when planting trees or shrubs with ACS.

For growing indoor crops

Zeolite shows excellent results when added to soil for indoor plants. For most crops, its amount should be equal to 1 / 3-1 / 5 of the total volume of the soil mixture.

Soil for succulents is prepared by replacing half of the volume with zeolite.

There are different options for preparing a substrate for home plants. For example, you can mix equal parts of zeolite, humus and peat (this mixture is perfect for seedlings as well). Or you can take one part of zeolite and two parts of peat or purchased soil – you get the optimal substrate for succulents and cacti.

In addition, the mineral is good as a mulch additive and is suitable for decorating the soil surface of potted plants.

For sanding the lawn

Lawn sanding, as the name suggests, is renewing the soil by adding sand. The procedure increases permeability, facilitates the flow of air to the roots of plants and prevents stagnation of water on the lawn.

Usually, fine river sand is used for this purpose, mixing it with fertile soil and peat. The resulting substrate is evenly distributed over the lawn using a metal mat with holes or a simple rake. But instead of sand, you can (and even better!) Add zeolite to the mixture – it will not only make the soil looser, but will also retain water and fertilizers, and also improve the condition of the lawn grass.

In addition to being used as a soil improver, zeolite in summer cottages can be used as a sorbent to purify the air and eliminate unpleasant odors in basements and cellars.

Zeolite application rates for different crops

Culture Zeolite amount, kg
Vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers) 25-50 kg / 100 sq.m
Berries (strawberries, currants, raspberries) 25-50 kg / 100 sq.m
Shrubs (berry and ornamental) 0.5-1 kg per plant
Tall trees 1-3 kg per planting pit
Container plants 1 kg / 4 kg soil
Lawn laying 25-30 kg / 100 sq.m

What zeolite can be used for plants

Only volcanic zeolite is suitable for plants. Oceanic (or sedimentary) zeolite dissolves in water and turns into slurry, therefore it is not recommended to use it in crop production. When buying, carefully study the packaging – labels like “oceanic” or “zeolite clay” indicate an unsuitable material.

You can buy this mineral in garden stores in the form of a ready-made component of a substrate for plants. In terms of price, it is comparable to its usual counterparts – perlite and vermiculite. However, other things being equal, zeolite is more practical – it does not wash out of the soil and does not float to the surface during watering, like perlite, moreover, it does not accumulate salts and does not compress the soil, like vermiculite.

In this case, zeolite can be “mined” not only in the garden center. Experienced gardeners resort to a little trick – instead of special zeolite granules, they buy cat litter based on this mineral. Barsik Standard and Barsik Effect are mentioned as examples, as well as Pussy-cat Zeolite. These options can be excellent low-cost substitutes for specialized plant zeolite. The main thing is to remember that before use, such a filler must be rinsed in water to get rid of dust.

If during washing, the granules began to dissolve or “lather”, losing their shape, then such a mixture is not suitable for adding to the soil. Real volcanic zeolite retains its physical properties when in contact with water – after washing, you should get sharp gray-brown stones with a pearlescent sheen.

Zeolite performs several important functions in crop production at once – it is simultaneously a loosening agent of the soil, fertilizer, and a protective screen for plants. Depending on the characteristics of the soil, adding zeolite to it increases the yield of crops grown by 15-30% in the first year and up to 40-50% in the second. In this case, zeolite is able to favorably affect the composition of the soil for 5 years.

Considering the various useful properties of this mineral, it is worth trying to use it in gardening and gardening work, right?


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