The “stuff “arrived in a large container at the Up With Trees office about twenty years ago. These crystals were described as being about the same stuff that is in disposable diapers to absorb and contain fluids. The instructions were simple, “Add to planting hole “. The amount to use for each tree seemed to be missing from the instructions. My suggestion was also simple, “If a little does a little good then a lot would surely do a lot of good”.
Our Saturday morning planting went very well, we added “the magic crystals” cup full’s at a time. Once the trees were planted we watered them in and decided to stake the trees the next day. The staking teams arrived Sunday only to find that the trees had “popped” out of the ground and were lying over. The staking team thought that we had been vandalized; however they discovered that we had vandalized ourselves! The magic crystals had expanded so much that they actually unplanted the trees!
The Horticulture Industry is constantly inventing new products designed to make the growing, planting and maintenance of trees and plants easier to manage. Additives to enhance water preservation are now common to our industry. Polymer crystals or, “the magic crystals” are used to extend the presence of water around the roots during dry periods.
Surfactants are also becoming common to help in the effort to “get more bang” for each gallon of water. Surfactants are basically a specialized soap product that allows water to coat each particle of soil with water before the water runs deeper into the ground. Surfactants are especially valuable in clay soils that tend to dry and shrink causing a loss of contact, in some cases, to the root.
The drought that the Western United States has been experiencing has left a toll, however it is amazing what innovation results from times of crisis. Words like “surfactants”,” polymer crystals”, and words yet to be discovered, will soon be common in our tree vocabulary.