These are the best Hydretain alternatives for people that can’t access Hydretain for whatever reason. For some this might be because hydretain is out-of-stock, too expensive, or even because of shipping restrictions between states.
In my yard I use Hydretain usually from the hose end sprayer. I actually only use it when temps are forecasted to get particularly high (90+ degrees) which where I live doesn’t happen all that much through the summer.
But whenever it looks like we’ll have sustained temps over 85 with warm nights then these products give me the freedom to water deeply but not quite as often. When I can’t access Hydretain however the following products serve as great alternatives because they work in similar ways. They hold water without letting it evaporate away as quickly.
► AquaSmart – These guys make a granular product called Lawn Saver, it’s similar to granular Hydretain in that you simply spread it on the lawn with your broadcast spreader. Once you water it in it will hold onto moisture that would otherwise evaporate away.
This bag only cover 750 square feet so it’s pretty expensive if you are going to use it over a large area but it can save the areas of your lawn that are most susceptible to localized heat or drought.
You can price out this option through this Amazon affiliate link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08YM43MYN/?tag=turfmechanic-20
► Soil Moist – These guys make a product that’s similar to AquaSmart. It’s a polymer that can be spread on the soil surface that will hold onto moisture and nutrients. Your water will slowly be released into the soil over time minimizing evaporative loss.
This bag covers 800 square feet so again, it’s an expensive product but the polymer remains active in the soil for a few years time so a single application can give you benefits for a couple of seasons.
You can price out this 8LB bucket through this Amazon affiliate link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001O895VM/?tag=turfmechanic-20
But Here’s My Favorite Alternative To Hydretain
In my opinion these types polymer types of products are good options for water retention but they are man-made versions of natures best water retention product – Bio-Char.
What Bio-Char Is (And More Importantly) How It Helps Lawns Through The Summer
Bio-char is a type of charcoal; the difference is that it is formed when wood (primarily) is burned under a zero-oxygen environment. No ash is produced and you are left with an exceptionally rich product that at the microscopic level resembles the pores of a sponge.
Bio-char has enormous holding capacity for water and nutrients and it can also house beneficial bacteria and when incorporated deep into the soil over time can improve the root systems of your grasses and other perennial plants.
In the future I’ll prepare a full write-up on why this product is so important for me and my lawn but for now that will have to do.
Generally speaking Hydretain works by preventing moisture loss due to evaporation. It also works via chemical attraction – similar to gravity. Water molecules are attracted to it so it can even pull some moisture in from the air while also limiting evaporative loss.
With bio-char however moisture enters the pores of the char and stays put; as the char works it’s way deep into the soil root systems of your turf grasses and the michorizal partners that extend their reach can tap into these moisture and nutrient stores inside the bio-char giving you a healthier and well hydrated lawn even during periods of heat and drought.
The Anderson’s company offers a great lawn-spreadable bio-char product called Humichar but it does contain a bit of NPK fertilizer which I don’t want to blanket recommend over the course of the summer to just everybody.
You can price out Humichar through this Amazon affiliate link: https://www.amazon.com/Andersons-HumiChar-Organic-Builder-Biochar/dp/B0843NQR9J/?tag=turfmechanic-20
Alternatively you can price out a bag of pure Bio-Char from Wakefield. They recommend (just like I do) applying this product to a lawn that has been recently core aerated to experience maximum benefits however raking it into the soil surface and watering it in deeply will give your soil surface a lot of moisture holding potential even if it’s sitting between the leaf canopy of your lawn and the soil surface.
Wakefield bio-char is a lot less expensive than the other options on this page and it’s one of my favorite options. You can price it out through this Amazon affiliate link: https://www.amazon.com/Wakefield-Biochar-Soil-Conditioner-Certified/dp/B00Q044LZK/?tag=turfmechanic-20
Lastly for a higher quality bio-char that you apply as a top dressing to the lawn after core aeration there is a new company called Willow that sells the good stuff. Their bags are small but their product is dust-free and should be spreadable on lawns by regular broadcast spreaders that we all own.
Willow bio-char recommends 2-3 bags of their product to be spread over a 2500 square foot lawn space. I’ll be using Hydretain this summer in my lawn but by the end of summer I’ll be core aerating and top-dressing my entire lawn with Willow bio-char to help me prepare the soil for future summers down the road.
Willow bio-char can be priced out through this non-affiliate link: https://plantwillow.com/products/organic-biochar-soil-amendment