Lawn Care – Surfactants

Q: What is your opinion about using surfactants (wetting agents) as part of a residential lawn care program? I recently used a surfactant lawn care product (bought on the Internet) on my yard. I hoped for better water penetration into my hard clay soil. I have read that this breaks up compacted clay, in essence “aerating” your soil and allows for better absorption of minerals and fertilizer. I have learned that golf courses are regular users of surfactants. If its good enough for a golf course is it good enough for use on a home lawn?

A: Your question was way beyond my experience so I turned to Clint Waltz, Extension Service turf specialist, for an answer. He says that wetting agents are used as a means of correcting hard-to-wet soils.

“In my experience, surfactants work best on sandy soils with some organic matter, like that found on golf course putting greens. Contrary to promotional claims, I am unaware of research that has shown these materials to alleviate soil compaction on sandy or native clay soil.

“I do not see wetting agents as a need for most homeowners. If they are having problems with soil compaction and water infiltration, the soil should be aerated with by core cultivation and, if possible amended with organic matter. Wetting agents may act only temporarily and not correct the real problem.”

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