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Old February 11, 2018   #1
brooksville
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Default Soft Water

A few years ago we had so problems with our water heater, it was full of lime. The plumber recommended a water softener. Soon we had soft water.

Last January we had problems with our tomato starts. They refused to grow. I could not figure out what was wrong. We had our worst year yet. This year, the same thing. Starts are refusing to grow.

My dad was having trouble with his keurig coffee maker, so he called them. The first thing they asked was, "do you use soft water?" Of course the soft water was the problem. He switched water and is happy with his machine.

That got me thinking, could the soft water be stunting the tomato starts?
Yes it was.

I had to learn the hard way, so please do not use soft water for your plants...
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Old February 11, 2018   #2
rhines81
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brooksville View Post

I had to learn the hard way, so please do not use soft water for your plants...
Nothing wrong with soft water at all. Check your pH and ammonium levels with a cheap aquarium test kit. Do you have city water with chlorine in it? Ideally you would want a pH of less than 7.0 for your garden water. More info here.
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Old February 11, 2018   #3
Worth1
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I used RO water for tomato and plant seedlings with outstanding results.
Not all soft water is the same as with hard water.
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Old February 11, 2018   #4
clkeiper
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do you have city water along with softened water? How many ppm salts left in the water from the process could be a problem. but go to a water machine and get it for 1.00/5gallons or .25 a gallon. see if that makes a difference. I have a water softener and an iron filter system in my house but the water in the greenhouses is only iron filtered not softened for that very same reason. I water/fertilize with an injector and there are enough salts in that left over that I didn't want to create another issue. I water an entire plant rack..... all my overwintered geraniums, a few houseplants, and thousands of seedlings in my basement with softened water and I don't see a problem with it.
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Old February 11, 2018   #5
brooksville
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Rhines, I should have been more clear, we are not using naturally soft water. We have to add salt to the water softener. The soft water is the only variable that is different. I transplanted yesterday, so over the next few days I should be able to see a difference if it is the water.
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Old February 11, 2018   #6
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I have never used anything but softened water with no real problems (any problems were my own doing, not the water). We do not generally have chlorinated water except in rare instances. Even at that, if you fill a bucket with treated water and let it set for an hour or so the chlorine will dissipate. Even straight from the tap the chlorine residual is minute and will not harm plants.

Our softener has a setting on it so that it cycles only when needed. We have soft water with very little salt residual since that gets flushed out after the recharge which we have set for 3AM and the water then only goes through the ionization medium which collects the minerals that make the water hard. For us it is manganese and iron.
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Old February 11, 2018   #7
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Brooksville, may I ask what you are using to plant or transplant your plants into? new sterile trays or containers? or used?
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Old February 11, 2018   #8
Koala Doug
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Most public water treatment systems have switched from chlorine to chloramine (specifically, monochloramine) as the latter doesn't break down fast or cause harmful by-products.

I just wanted people to know that leaving a bucket out for 48 hours isn't going to remove chloramine from the water (it will still work with just plain old chlorine though).

If you do get a hold of your local water report (all communities should make them available to the public) and see it is disinfected with chloramine, you can remove it by purchasing chemicals from aquarium shops.
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Old February 11, 2018   #9
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Doug is absolutely correct. Our water supplier still uses chlorine rather than chloramine and then only during upset times. 99% of the time we get raw untreated water.
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Old February 11, 2018   #10
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I have well water and a water softener. I have never had a problem with my tomato seedlings.

The amount of sodium in softened water is negligible and it replaces calcium and magnesium ions. Some people think that small amounts of sodium is actually beneficial for plants. I don't believe this but some people actually add salt solutions or kelp to their soils. I really don't think that sodium from softened water is harming your tomato seedlings.

Last edited by brownrexx; February 11, 2018 at 06:36 PM.
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Old February 11, 2018   #11
zeuspaul
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I use Vitamin C to neutralize chloramine. I usually use lemon or other citrus juice because I grow my own. Alternately I use granular Vitamin C from Trader Joes.
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Old February 11, 2018   #12
rhines81
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brooksville View Post
Rhines, I should have been more clear, we are not using naturally soft water. We have to add salt to the water softener. The soft water is the only variable that is different. I transplanted yesterday, so over the next few days I should be able to see a difference if it is the water.
I actually do use Epsom salt on occasion and it perks my plants up if they are wilty. I wouldn't think a little salt in the water would affect them too much. Look at other variables. Maybe even go with distilled water on your started plants if you think the tap is causing an issue. Of bigger concern to me than pH is the temperature of the water ... mine comes out of the tap at around 40-45F. With seedlings I let it sit to warm up before watering.

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I had to learn the hard way, so please do not use soft water for your plants...
I guess I misinterpreted your statement somehow.
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Old February 12, 2018   #13
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It's apples and oranges, but years ago we learned the hard way that soft water is very bad for some plants. When we built our house, I installed a water softener, and made no provision for a "hard water" line for cooking, etc. After awhile, our house plants started becoming stunted and withering. Did a little research, and found that soft water is toxic for African violets and other plants as well as arguably not really good for humans. So I ran a separate hard water line to the kitchen sink and the outside hose spigots. Problem solved.

Bad for tomato seedlings? I would definitely think so, especially since they are fairly fragile. Looking at it from a different perspective, is the extra sodium going to do you seedlings any good? No, especially if you have fairly hard water before treatment!

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Old February 12, 2018   #14
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I also let my water sit in the watering can so that it is at room temperature before using it for watering. My tap water is very cold.
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Old February 12, 2018   #15
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It depends what the water softener uses to soften the water. 'Hard' ions are considered the bivalent ones like Mg and Ca and are commonly replaced with Na for the softening effect, and we all know that excess Na is not good for plants. Soft water is generally not demineralized water as one would be inclined to believe (like RO water which is jolly expensive equipment).
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