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Product Review – SaturAid

Alison Aplin

Alison Aplin

April 14, 2012

OVERVIEW: SaturAid is a surfactant, working by breaking up the surface tension of the soil. Made by Debco. Rating: ★★★★ [4 out of 5 stars]

SaturAid’s big 30litre bag costs about $35 but can treat 600 square metres

FEATURES: Most Australian gardeners would be aware of our hydrophobic soils during summer and autumn. These soils repel water by either pooling the water on top of the soil or running away from the desired spot. During these months it becomes increasingly difficult to get any moisture to penetrate through the topsoil to any depth.

SaturAid has been thoroughly tested in university studies comparing the effectiveness of different wetting agents on the market. The outcome showed in these studies that SaturAid is a highly effective product, being absorbed into the soil at a faster rate than other brands.

It is a non-toxic product even when used at above the recommended rate.

Besides enabling water to penetrate the topsoil more easily, its primary function is to reduce the amount of water needed to the irrigated area. Debco claim that this can be reduced by 50% by increasing the water holding capacity of the soil.

SaturAid contains no detergents which are harmful to the environment.

It is also recommended for use in potting mixes that repel water when they dry out.

LIKES: Once again, this is a product that we, as landscape designers, use with every garden that we install as well as our own on a regular basis. As the product literature states, it is fast acting and lasts for up to 6 months, depending on the amount of water that is applied. I like the fact that it is environmentally safe, being certified devotees of sustainable landscapes. This is important to the ethical stance of our business.

The 2.5 litre SaturAid tub is handy for treating pots, to aid water penetration through the whole root ball

We have been using the product for at least 17 years, so can really vouch for its effectiveness; our clients also continue to use it once we have handed over the maintenance of their gardens to their care.

It is effective in garden beds and also lawns where pooling of water can form as well. Gardens with eucalypts in particular develop hydrophobia in late spring as so many of them are allelopathic, so this is a great product to use for gardens at the base of gum trees.

We have only used the granular form which we find is very easy to use. We just broadcast very finely the granules around the base of the plant. A liquid form is also available.

DISLIKES: Because we use so much of it, it seems expensive. Clients tend to be too frugal with its use because of the expense, but so many things associated with gardening are expensive. Gardening has become a relatively expensive hobby – especially when these added products are required. But I find that the cost of this outweighs the cost of water in the long term. Good gardening really does include the use of these value adding products – just like the need for fertilisers to soils that are nutrient deficient.

USED BY WHOM AND WHERE: As stated previously, we have been using this product for at least 17 years with all client’s gardens and our own private gardens.

Through my gardening experience I have worked many different soils in different climates. Sand, clay, coastal, inland and hill country; these are all experiences that I have enjoyed. SaturAid has been an asset to all of these gardening experiences.

The most difficult sites have been those with sandy soils which are exceptionally prone to hydrophobia, and inland – I think this is because of the decreased rainfall and the need for more frequent applications of mulch to reduce evaporation.

Kevin Handreck, in his book ‘Gardening Down-Under‘ states

Despite what advertisements state, wetting agents are usually needed only on sandy soils. They are unlikely to improve wetting or water use efficiency on heavier soils.

From considerable gardening experience I can argue this statement. In our former garden in the Clare Valley, we had minimal access to water while also gardening a large 3 acre garden. The topsoil was a light to medium clay. The plants used were predominantly exotic, the high phosphorus levels in the soil making the growing of indigenous plants too difficult; but the plants were from regions of a similar climate. In order to keep the soil temperature more stable, large amounts of regularly reapplied pea straw were used, sometimes up to 30cms thick in exposed parts of the garden. The soil under this thick wadding of straw remained a constant temperature with the plants coping with extremes of heat really well. But the soil under this mulch became more hydrophobic as the microorganisms started to break down the straw.

Granular SaturAid was applied to the top of this mulch, considerably reducing the prevalence of hydrophobia. With deep irrigation, of a minimum of 4 hours with either a butterfly head sprinkler or Wobbler, not only was the mulch penetrated but a considerable depth of soil as well.

PERFORMANCE: I believe that SaturAid granules do what they claim to do, very effectively. When we use it we apply a small handful scattered around the base of each plant and then water it in. This seems to be sufficient for 4 to 6 months. With lawn we would use 2 handfuls per square metre and then water in. We just broadcast it lightly over the top of the lawn area. For spot fixing in lawns, a mere handful will do the job when applied to the affected area.

SPECIFICATIONS: Available in 30L, 10L and 2.5L

WHERE TO BUY: All independent nurseries sell this product, Masters Home Improvements Australia-wide; Home, Timber & Hardware; and Flower Power. It is available in both liquid and granular form, though I have only tested the granular form.

PRICE GUIDE: RRP 30L -$35, 10L – $20, 2.5L – $11.

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5 years ago

Hi Alison, do you know the chemical name or the type of chemical used as the wetting agent. I have seen this product foam when watering in and slightly worried now that it is a surfactant which I hope isn’t a fluorchemistry based surfactant. Would appreciate your view on this as I want to keep using an effective safe wetting agent on my native landscape garden.

Alison Aplin
5 years ago

Hello Dave
Thanks for your comments.
We continue to use Saturaid with our client’s gardens, at the time of planting. And yes it does froth up for the first water application. This is changing the surface tension of the soil.
It is mainly sandy soil that experiences extreme hydrophobia, and gardens where straw is used.
If you are using plants suited to your soil-type, after one or 2 applications, you should not need to use the Saturaid any further unless in a really dry summer season.
Saturaid is an organic product; it cannot have chemicals in it which would invalidate the organic claim.