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Water: Grow to the Last Drop

It should go without saying that water is one of the most important factors in your hydroponic system. It should go without saying that water is one of the most important factors in your hydroponic system.


Water. Most of our cellular composition, and that of the crops we grow, consists of water. In fact, the overwhelming majority of our planet consists of water, yet it is one of the most overlooked and underestimated factors when it comes to growing success.


As an experienced grower, you understand the consequences that using poor-quality H2O can have on important factors like the pH and chemistry of your plant-feeding solution. When it’s out of whack due to the minerals present in the water, plants suffer and so does the grower’s bottom line.

Even if you are new to growing, you are probably aware of the distinction between hard and soft water. And you can probably guess that hard water from your tap, which contains dissolved minerals, is less suitable for intensive growing practices than the soft water that comes from rain or filtered sources.
Consumers are beginning to understand that water quality affects everything in our bodies, and poor-quality water—whether sipped from a glass or present in our aromatic medicines or food crops—can lead to illness.


While water quality varies throughout the world—even from municipality to municipality—it seems that overall quality is on the decline globally. Cleaning up our shared water supply is an important objective we all face. What can you do today as an individual grower to improve the quality of the water you feed your plants? It’s an important question, because besides affecting your yields, the quality of the water you put into your plants can play a role in determining the healthy effects that come from your harvest. Factors like aroma and flavor can also be affected.

Consumers are beginning to understand that water quality affects everything in our bodies, and poor-quality water—whether sipped from a glass or present in our aromatic medicines or food crops—can lead to illness. It’s no wonder more and more conscientious growers are paying attention to their water supply as part of their efforts to offer an alternative to the corporate foods and medicines that dominate our society.

Most growers have heard of (or are already using) reverse osmosis (RO) water-filtration methods, whereby water travels through a sediment and activated carbon filter before passing through a selective membrane. The process generates nearly pure, unadulterated H2O. The downside is that only one liter of water is collected for every four liters that pass through the system. While producing highly pure, healthy and palatable water for plants, this process also creates a lot of wasted water.

To find a balance between using the purest water possible and not sending too much down the drain, growers can insert a reducer plug into their drain line. While this leaves some impurities in the water, it still does a remarkably good job of purifying tap water for plant nutrient friendliness. Most importantly, it saves a lot of water that would otherwise be wasted.

RO is the gold standard for water filtration and should always be used in purely hydroponic systems like NFT, ebb and flow, aeroponics and deep-water culture. Growers who use outdoor soils, which can act as natural water filters, can sometimes skip RO but still must beware of substances like chlorine and chloramines, which are often present in municipal water and cannot be filtered by soil alone. These contaminants can actually harm the beneficial life found in the soil and will often render ineffective any micro-biological ingredients added by the grower to improve plant health. For this reason, soil growers, even those lucky enough to have a fairly clean water supply, should invest in activated carbon and sediment filters in order to achieve acceptable purity levels.
Water runs in a cycle, so allowing contaminated water back into the environment means more contaminants you’ll eventually have to deal with in your incoming water supply.


Even low-tech, low-budget backyard and patio growers can get better results by incorporating some easy, inexpensive practices to improve the quality of the water they use. Simply catching rain water in a barrel or bucket is an easy place to start. Be sure to cover your collection receptacle with a mesh screen to keep out debris and the occasional drowned rodent (yuck!). If you insist on using water straight from the tap, for a very small investment you can add a special inline magnet that helps remove metals from your water. Anyone opting for a garden hose will also be pleased to learn that there are finally certified non-toxic lines available almost everywhere.

Besides treating the water that goes into our plants, growers should always be conscious of the waste water that goes back into the environment. Don’t let nutrient runoff find its way into our water table by dumping it down the drain. Outdoor gardeners need to be extra careful not to let runoff hit rivers or streams due to careless applications of fertilizers. Water runs in a cycle, so allowing contaminated water back into the environment means more contaminants you’ll eventually have to deal with in your incoming water supply.

Be a good global citizen and use the used nutrient solutions from your indoor gardens to fertilize outdoor plants. Or how about pouring it on some new trees you planted to help offset the carbon footprint that growing inevitably leaves behind? These little things can add up.

The next time you water your garden, consider exactly what you are feeding your plants and what it means for your crop, your consumers and ultimately the giant spinning sphere we live on. After all, the earth looks like a big blue ball because of all that water.

© Copyright RosebudMag.com, 2012



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Songs and stories about water have abounded in human culture throughout history.
Last modified on Wednesday, 12 September 2012 12:34

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