Any Experience With Crystal Polymers?

Ellijay, GA(Zone 7a)

Sorry if this isn't the place for such a question. I use irrigation from a property creek through a small pump and garden hose but it doesn't have the oomph to climb more than 15 vertical feet or so, which is where my dry areas are. I've wondered about crystal polymers and if they're effective enough for soil that drains quickly and dries out.

Areas in question...Tulip beds left side of drive(wet in the spring, but not summer)...also area along the fence line going up the drive. I've spent many days improving the soil but it dries out too fast and I'd like to get something substantial in there that grows in full sun(most of property is shaded).

Another thought to retain moisture is remove all soil and line the bed bottoms with perforated plastic sheething(6 mil visqeen)

Any thoughts? Oh and here's one site I've glanced at.


Thumbnail by kdfisher Thumbnail by kdfisher
Rawalpindi, Pakistan(Zone 9a)

Gel or polymer absorbs up to 120% moisture. Yes i live in a arid zone and i do make use of these gel crystals. Very effective. I mix into soil coir for the wick effect. These gel crystals absorb the excess water and as the soil dries out the moisture from the gel is distributed through the wick effect of the coir to the soil. Not a magic bullet but it does help and in a heat wave it is a life saver.
There are other things then gel, Organic mulch for one.

Carson City, NV(Zone 6b)

I have used the crystals in potted plants many times and they do work well but they need to be applied properly. They should be buried next to the plants and only in small quantities since they swell up at least ten times in size when fully saturated. I have seen people use way too much (at a nursery no less) and it just pushes the plant out of the pot and spills on the ground when it gets wet. They are also pretty squishy and slippery when saturated so sweep up any that spill on walkways.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

If you can find a surplus 55-gallon steel barrel, or a 33 gallon garbage can, maybe you could pump 30-50 gallons from the creek up to the barrel.

Then move your pump and push those 30-50 gallons from the barrel to your dry spot.

If you apply 1" of water, 30 gallons would cover 19 sq feet.
So a 10'x10' bed would want around 5 garbage-cans-full. Tedious!

(0.625 gallons = 1" deep x 1 square foot)

Some of that looks like a steep slope to hold much water! I would at least line the bed walls with plastic.

Maybe make a few shallow mini-terraces with 6" wide boards, and run plastic part way up the wooden curbs. Maybe even lay plastic under the soil in a staircase pattern. Got many tree roots?

I've wondered if a few polymer crystals in a raised bed would keep opening up clayey soil by expanding and contracting as they went dry or wet.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)


15 vertical feet of water is 35 PSI, so your pump is no wimp if it is moving a good flow rate against that much back-pressure.

(2.3 PSI per foot of water)

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

If there is any way to make it a bit more level then whatever water you apply will have more tendency to soak in, not run off. Build a retaining wall at the bottom or a couple of walls, terrace the sloped part.
I would mix a lot of compost into the soil. Then plant. Then add drip irrigation for a long, slow application of water with the minimum erosion. Then mulch with more organic matter. Bark chips, shredded bark, mulched leaves, tree company chips... All of these will break down over time and improve the soil.
A bigger pump that can go higher than 15' would be good, but if there is not a lot of water coming out of the pipe then the slow irrigation of a drip system is well matched.

For tough plants that will grow in that sort of setting, are there native plants that already grow in your climate, in the sun?
Are there some native plants available at nurseries?
Often these would need some irrigation through their first couple of years, then natural rains are enough. They are already adapted to your normal annual rainfall patterns.

If retaining walls are not possible, and no larger pump is possible, then plant vines at the bottom of the hill. Polymers, soil amendment, mulch and irrigate. Let them climb the hill and fill it in.

Rawalpindi, Pakistan(Zone 9a)

The slope according to your first photograph is to much, you can grow Tulips etc. but it will only lead to heartache in the end. Get some big stones and make a alpine/rock garden, the plants will take to this place and reward you for your efforts. As to what to grow there, why not raise this question on above thread or succulents thread. There is a tremendous variety of flowering succulents which love free draining growing area and your site is free draining. Instead of fighting with the site, cooperate and make the site work for you.

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