What are Zeolites?
I had never even heard of zeolites before I was recently asked to research and write some articles about them for a freelance customer, but that is part of the fun of writing for others; you learn something new every day! So, if you are a gardener, who hasn’t changed his socks for a while and your fridge smells a bit, then you need to read on as I reveal all that you ever wanted to know about zeolites.
Zeolites – What are they?
First discovered by the Swedish mineralogist, Axel Fredrik Cronstedt, in 1756, zeolites are a naturally occurring mineral, the largest producing countries of which are China, South Korea and Japan. The name ‘Zeolite’ is derived from the Greek ‘Zeo’ meaning to boil and ‘lithos’ meaning stone. Cronstedt chose this the name for the mineral because he noted that it produced large amounts of steam when heated, from water that had been absorbed by the mineral. This ability to absorbed water, gives the first clue as to why zeolites are so useful. They are used widely in industry for many different purposes from water purification through to nuclear reprocessing.
Zeolites – What they do
Zeolites have a honeycomb, porous structure, which behaves in a similar fashion to a sponge, but unlike a sponge, they can be selective in what they absorb and what they re-release later, which accounts for some of their uses as filters, soil enhancers and purifiers. Scientifically speaking, zeolites are members of a family of micro-porous solids known as ‘molecular sieves’ which, to cut a long story short, means that they have the ability to sort molecules by size and selectively absorbed and release those molecules.
Zeolites – Uses in agriculture
This hub has been extracted from some blog posts that I originally wrote as a content writing assignment for Zerodour.com where you can purchase the zeolite based products mentioned here for your garden, your feet and your fridge. The original articles can be found here.
With the ever growing demands on the world’s food resources, agriculturists are constantly searching for cost effective ways to increase crop yields, especially in developing countries and countries with limited water supplies.
Researchers have focused a great deal of effort, in recent years, on the role that zeolites can play in aiding plant growth, particularly in areas of poor soil quality. However, research into the minerals uses in agriculture was first conducted as far back as the 1960’s, but the research was only published in a few and somewhat obscure publications, so the full possibilities are only just being recognised. What the Japanese farmers involved in the early studies found was that zeolites, when added to fields, controlled the moisture content of the soil, the acidity and the ammonia content. When used with conventional fertilizer, the mineral trapped the nutrients and released them slowly, meaning that far less fertilizer would be required than before.
There has been a growing awareness, since then, of the potential benefits to be gained from the use of zeolites and scientists in many different countries around the world have been conducting further research into the huge potential of zeolites in agriculture.
An eminent expert in the field, Dr. Peter Leggo of Cambridge University, explained the benefits of zeolite very simply when asked why you should use them in agriculture, he replied ‘To reduce the use of fertilizer or soil amendments and to reduce the amount of water necessary for growing’. You can’t get a much clearer recommendation than that.
Zeolites – Uses in the Garden
Zeolites are now available commercially for use in the garden. They absorb and hold onto harmful elements in the soil whilst, at the same time, holding onto and then slowly releasing water and fertilizers.
Gardening Tips – Using zeolites in your Garden
In your vegetable garden
You can dramatically increase your garden crop yields by sprinkling a little zeolite and mix it well into the soil, below the root level. It will retain water, for later slow release, and encourage much better root growth.
In your flower beds
Add zeolites to your flower beds and you will see the improvement. Mix it in with fertilizer or manure and it will help to improve the soil structure and feed and water your flowers with its slow release properties.
On your lawn
You can help keep your grass greener for longer by spreading a little salt over it after aerating. The mineral will lock in nutrients and water and release it slowly, just as your grass needs it.
In your compost
You can improve the quality of your compost by adding some zeolite to your compost heap. Not only does it improve the quality by retaining moisture and nutrients but is also cuts down on the smell because it is a natural deodoriser too.
So know you that these little miracle minerals are good for the garden, what about your fridge and your feet!
Zeolites for your feet
As well as all the benefits for agriculture and horticulture, zeolites are now also used in foot and shoe care products. Insert zeoilite pouches, such as the ones in the image, at the end of the day and they will absorb both the moisture and the odour too to give you nice, fresh and dry shoes the next morning. Apparently they last for up to six months and you can even cut them open and spread the zeolite on your garden when you’ve finished with them!
Zeolites for your fridge
You can also get zeolites for your fridge and make use of their odour killing properties. Particularly useful, if like me, you are fond of garlic sausage. Boy, can that stuff pong if you leave it in the fridge!
Zeolites – A truly multi-purpose mineral
So, there you have it. From your feet, to your fridge, to the garden; zeolites, a mineral that I had never heard of that seems to have so many different uses.