Aeroponic Vertical Gardening success depends on two things, water and air.
You take your glass and put it under your kitchen sink faucet and turn it on. A stream of clear, cool water fills your glass, you raise it to your lips and drink a big, satisfying gulp.
Refreshing for you…but your plants may disagree.
Tap water may be safe for you and me (some may disagree), however it’s not always the best water for plant growth. In this post you’ll learn why – and more important, what you can do about it.
The (Possible) Problems with Your Tap Water
If you have filled your aeroponic gardening system straight from your water tap and never noticed negative consequences, that’s awesome – keep doing what you’re doing.
For those of us who have been growing but can’t seem to be able to completely solve leaf discoloration, diseases, stubborn pH, and other problems, less than ideal water source can be the problem.
Chlorine, Chloramine, and Fluoride
Most of us are on city water systems and know that we have chlorine in our tap water, keeping it contaminate-free.
What most of us don’t know is that chlorine is one of the eight micronutrients plants require for healthy growth. But, in excess a good mineral can be troublesome.
Your tap water may contain too much chlorine for your plants to handle.
Chlorine toxicity can harm leaf growth causing plant growth to look scorched or bleached.
Over the past five years, Linda and I have been filling our aeroponic vertical gardens with chlorine freewater. We lleft five gallon buckets of tap water uncovered in the sun for at least two days. This causes the chlorine to break down.
Many major cities now treat their water with a mixture of chlorine gas and ammonia called chloramine. This solution is harder to eliminate compared to chlorine alone.
Your tap water is most likely to also contain fluoride, which doesn’t do plants any favors. In fact, it can inhibit photosynthesis and result in necrosis, or death, of leaf tissue.
Because hard water affects 85% of the United States , it’s likely you have hard water.
Water is considered “hard” when it measures high in dissolved minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, which it picks up naturally as it tickles through deposits of limestone and chalk.
Characteristics of hard water are
- Tastes strange (e.g metallic)
- Causes rust like stains in sinks and toilets
- Leaves water spots on glass and dishes
- Doesn’t mix well with soap (e.g. no lather)
The high mineral content in hard water poses an interesting problem for plants.
Plants need minerals right?
They need nutrients like calcium and magnesium, right?
But when they’re already getting them from tap water and you feed them a plant food such as Tower Tonic Mineral Blend, a nutritional imbalance occurs.
High pH is also a common symptom of hard water because the extra minerals act as a buffer, reducing the water’s acidity. Having high pH for an extended time can inhibit your plants’ ability to absorb nutrients.
If all of that isn’t enough, hard water may also cause scale deposits, or mineral build up on your aeroponic vertical garden growing system’s pump and irrigation system.
Tips for Improving Tap Water
Now that we have discussed the problems, lets look at a few solutions.
Activated Carbon Fiter
This fix is the simplest and least expensive: activated carbon filters. You may already have these in use in your home and not even realize it. They’re often built into water purifying pitchers, refrigerator water and ice dispensers, coffee makers, and more.
You can also buy activated carbon filters as under-counter systems and garden hose attachments. The garden hose attachments are typically marketed as “RV water filters.”
Activated carbon filters water through activated carbon, which traps:
- Chlorine (and some chloramine and fluoride)
An activated carbon filter usually makes your water smell and taste better.
Linda and I have had an activated carbon filter installed on the cold water line of our kitchen sink for over 10 years now. We not only drink from it, but also use it to water our house plants. When we need to give our house plants some fertilizer, Linda uses Tower Tonic Mineral Blend on her house plants…and on most plants outside.
We now have an ‘RV water filter’ on the yard hydrant near our aeroponic vertical gardens. We no longer have to put water in buckets for a couple of days before using it in our vertical gardens.
When I got home with the RV filter and opened the box I learned that it required a water pressure regulating valve to reduce the water pressure to 30 pounds before entering the filter. Check the brand you purchased if this is needed before you leave the store.
Activated carbon filters trap most of the particles in your water when used with low pressure, the reason for the water pressure regulating valve.
They don’t last forever. Plan on replacing your outdoor filter at least once a year. Our under the sink filter is replaced every four months, since it is used a lot more often.
Reverse Osmosis System
An activated carbon filter will solve most aeroponic gardening system water problems for most gardeners.
There aree some locations where the activated carbon filter just is not enough to filter your water source.
Your next recourse is to use a reverse osmosis water treatment system. This option is expensive, a several hundred dollar investment.
RO systems often use both an activated carbon filter and a cellophane-like membrane to effectively remove calcium, magnesium, chlorine, chloramine, and fluoride – basically all of the troublemakers present in hard water.
Most professional aeroponic and hydroponic farmers use RO systems. The RO system eliminates mystery variables in the water.Creating a controlled, predictable growing environment.
RO systems do have a major flaw, they waste water – as much 95% of the water that goes into it.
Many homes located in an area with hard water have water softener systems. These systems are fixing the hard water problem, but…
Most water softeners use either sodium chloride (salt) or potassium chloride to remedy hard water. Plants are very sensitive to sodium and excess levels of potassium.
Remember the old cowboy movies of the alkoxide water hole surrounded by animal skeletons? That is what soft water does to your plants!
If you have a water softener it is best to have your water go through a RO system before using it on any of your plants, including your Aeroponic Vertical Garden.
Just because you are using an activated carbon filter or an RO system doesn’t mean you don’t have to do some routine maintenance. Make the water in your aeroponic growing system as good as possible.
First it is important to drain and refresh your nutrient solution every two or three months.
Over time plant roots and other plant debris tend to fall down into thereservior. As this organic material decomposes, it opens the door to a host of issues, including plant disease and stinky water.
Second, try to keep your nutrient solution temperature in the 65-85 degree fahrenheit range. Also keep your pH level somewhere around 5.5-6.5.
Fluctuations are inevitable, and there’s no need to panic. But your plants will be able to consume the Tower Tonic Mineral Blend nutrients most efficiently when optimum conditions are met.
At the end of every growing season always clean and disinfect your aeroponic vertical garden. Tap Here to learn more about how to clean your aeroponic vertical garden.
If you have any more questions about the relationship between your water and your plants, leave a comment below.
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