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Zeolite Amendment for Sandy Soils

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Finca Loco:
Most people with sandy soils should know that their biggest challenges with working in sandy soils is low water retention and nutrient storage (low CEC). I have experimented with using kitty litter (bentonite) in my sandy soil with great results, and now would like to expand to my tree area. One negative I will say is that when I added to just the top of my soil, no tilling, I could get a slimmy top layer until enough time has passed to allow soil critters to work it into the soil (1+ year in some cases).

I'm thinking about using Zeolite because of it's high CEC, 100-140 milliequivalents/g, where some Georgia red clays can be 5-10 milliequivalents/g, so if I'm going to pay to have a large quantity (1 ton per acres as recommended by zeolite supplier), I might as well get a high CEC product. I've found mines in Idaho and Nevada with prices around $300 to $350/ton, and shipping around $600-800. 1 truck can haul about 21 super sacks (1 ton).

Does anyone have any experience with using clays in sandy soil?

I know people say mixing clay and sand is like making concrete, but haven't found this to be the case especially if you have a reasonable amount of organic matter in your soils.

Interesting idea. I wonder if you could get your clay from one of the phosphate mines in central Florida. Clay is a byproduct of their mining operation. It might save quite a bit on shipping. I remember reading an article where they talked about tilling it (the phosphate clay) into our Florida sandy soils to improve them.

are you not able to top dress with compost and mulch?  Just curious why zeolite would be preferred to using organic dressing or using cover crops.  I have use zeolite or something similar called sweet zdp used to keep odors down in horse stalls.  I think its the same stuff, a natural crystaline volcanic product.  They sell it at the feed stores and Ive used it in potting mix in the past.  At least on paper, it sounds like a miracle product.  Not sure it makes sense in a large orchard operation though.

Clays should help, but as you've found out, clays are better at binding to themselves(clumping) than evenly sorting themselves in a mixture. They will also sort themselves out into a layer (even subsurface) given enough time/water.

Not all Zeolites are equal, pore size will determine which ions are sorted out (caught) versus released into the soil. They vary by orders of magnitude in porosity as well.

You might try mixing it into a compost since that process already involves mechanical mixing processes and distribution. One advantage of a mineral is it may not decompose.
Checking I see this is being used in Australia.


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