Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Air layer using synthetic medium, or Cloning trees in a brave new world.

So, My brother was playing with these gel balls. He showed me these tiny colorful beads. He dropped them in water and a about an hour later they had soaked up water and had expanded to a relatively large size. We grabbed handfuls and started flinging it at one another. We had a very good time.

I got to thinking that this might be something I can use with my plants. When I did my research I found that it is already used in horticulture. Apparently it has more uses than a gitchy water source for bridal center pieces.  

The name of this polymer is Polyacrylamide. I am going to use this for air layers. Last year I made some air layers, but I forgot to water them and they failed. With these little babies in place even if I forget to check the air layers it will not result in catastrophe.

The following is a time lapse of about one hour. I did not add any more polymer balls after the initial portion. I did have to add lots of water though.

Colored balls and clear ones

Total number of balls used n the experiment

After thirty seconds there was a size change

Ten minutes in water

Final outcome
So I prepped this apple tree for the air layer (How to Air Layer). I added the polymer balls and pulled the bag fairly tight.  I checked it the next day. It had condensation but no pooling of water. Prognosis, satisfactory. Ill cross my fingers on this experiment. Cheers.  

polymer gel air layer
see the condensation?
Japanese Green Maple

  • One pound of Water Jelly Crystals will absorb up to 35 gallons of rainwater or snowmelt, and 20-25 gallons of tap water, depending on the salt content of the water.
  • Water Jelly Crystals can be applied wet or dry. Dry granules are usually easier to use, but soak them thoroughly to fully fill them with water (hydrate). When hydrated, the granules look like chunks of clear gelatin about 1/2 inch in diameter.
  • Dry Application: For large quantities of potting soil or backfill around trees and shrubs. – 1.5-2 pounds/ cubic yard of potting soil or backfill – 1 ounce/ cubic foot of soil
  • For small quantities of potting soil – 1/2 teaspoon per quart of soil. Note: Since dry granules swell to many times their original size when water is added, 15-20% swelling room must be left in each planting hole or flower pot to compensate.
  • Wet Application: Best for small applications such as repotting house plants and planting shrubs, small trees, and bedding plants. 1/2 teaspoon of dry granules absorbs approximately 1 cup of water. – 1 ounce of dry granules absorbs approximately 1 1/2 cups of water. – 1 pound of dry granules absorbs approximately 30 gallons of water. Mix the granules in water and allow the mixture to stand for 60-90 minutes (Hot water works faster). Once you have the polymer all soaked up, the application rate is roughly one part hydrated polymer to four parts soil.
  • House/Office Plants – 6″ pot (2/3 gallon) 1 teaspoon dry or 2 cups hydrated – 8″ pot (1 1/2 gallons) 2 Tablespoons dry or 6 cups hydrated – 5 gallon pot 7 teaspoons dry or 1 gallon hydrated Note: Mix Water Jelly Crystals in the lower half of the pot, because the water tends to flow quickly through porous potting soil, before the granules near the top have time to rehydrate fully.
  • Repotting: Using the above rates mix granules or hydrated gel (the hydrated gel works the best) thoroughly in the lower half of the pot. If using dry granules, fill the soil only to within 1 inch of the pot rim to prevent swelling out of the pot.
  • Existing Plants: Depending on the container size, use a pencil or wooden spoon handle to poke 4-6 holes around the plant, going to the bottom, Divide the correct amount of dry granules evenly among the holes, pushing them to the bottom. Water the plant slowly to hydrate the granules. Wait at least 2-3 weeks before changing watering intervals, to give feeder roots a chance to grow down into the granules.
  • Vegetable and Flower Gardens: Use 4-5 pounds/ 100 square feet for low-water adapted flowers, and up to 10 pounds/100 square feet for water loving vegetable and flowers. Hint: The addition of weed-barrier fabric will further reduce the need for water or weeding. Application suggestions… By hand, or using a spreader, distribute the granules evenly over the leveled bed, and then turn the soil back under. Bedding plants may be given a quick start by mixing a handful of hydrated gel in the back fill of each plant, taking care not to leave clumps of gel. Water the bed thoroughly after planting.
  • Trees and Shrubs: Dig a hole 5 times the diameter, but no deeper than the root ball or container. The table shows the amount of dry granules needed to mix in the backfill of round holes 2.5 to 5 times the diameter of the container. Container Size 2.5 times 5 times – 1 gallon 1/3 cup 1/2 cup – 5 gallon 5/8 cup 3 1/2 cups – 15 gallon 1 2/3 cup 7 3/4 cups. If you don’t want to dig such a big hole just calculate the amount of backfill and figure one once per cubic foot. The bigger the hole the more polymer you can use and the more water storage you’ll gain.
  • New or Seeded Turf: Watering intervals can be extended approximately one day for each 7 1/2 pounds of Water Jelly Crystals per 1000 square feet given evaporation rates of .25 inch per day. For example, 15 pounds of granules normally stores 1/2 inch of extra water (two additional days between waterings) and 30 pounds stores 1 inch of water (four additional days between watering). Warning: To avoid making a soft lawn, never use more than 5 pounds of Water Jelly Crystals per tilled inch per 1000 square feet. Thus, 20 pounds must be tilled in 4 inches; 30 pounds 6 inches. Increase the application rate roughly 10% over sloped areas. Save one pound to spread over the top of each 1000 square feet before laying sod (but not if you are seeding, as it just breaks down in the wet phase if not covered by soil.) Water thoroughly and slowly. Application: By hand, or using a spreader, distribute the granules evenly before roto-tilling to the appropriate depth.
Update March 10:

The gel balls turned to mush. I am going to call this experiment a failure.

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