Ask a Question forum: Well water is not well received

Page 1 of 2 • 1 2
Views: 1497, Replies: 24 » Jump to the end
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
dyzzypyxxy
Sep 16, 2013 10:07 PM CST
My well water is pretty high pH, (alkaline) and a lot of my plants get very chlorotic in the spring and fall months when I irrigate a lot. They are all beautifully healthy and green now because we had such a rainy summer, but I am looking sadly forward to the dry weather that's coming.

Is there a good way for me to treat the well water to lower the pH? Preferably without breaking the bank . .. Surely farmers must address this problem in some places?
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Julia
Washington State (Zone 7a)
Garden Photography Region: Pacific Northwest Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Dog Lover Foliage Fan Greenhouse Container Gardener Heucheras Sedums
Image
springcolor
Sep 16, 2013 10:30 PM CST
I think baking soda will lower the PH. That's what I use in the hot tub. Let's see if you get a better answer.
Sempervivum for Sale
Baltimore County, MD (Zone 7a)
A bit of this and a bit of that
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Herbs
Composter Container Gardener Seed Starter Vegetable Grower Dog Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader
Image
bitbit
Sep 16, 2013 10:30 PM CST
A lot of organic matter breaks down into acidic compounds. Around here, pine needles are abundant, and mulching with them will make for acidic soil over time. I'm not sure if you have a source of pine needles or similar organics, but no price beats free, and mulching has a lot of other benefits as well. I don't think regular leaves are quite as effective as pine, but given that you're in Florida, it makes me wonder if palm fronds would have a similar effect.

If you need a stronger, faster acidity boost, you can work a bit of aluminum sulfate into the soil surface. I find it pretty inexpensive at my local garden center, but I could see the cost adding up if you are farming large-scale. Since my soil is naturally acidic due to the decades (centuries?) of pine needles that have fed it, I only use it on acid-loving plants (blueberries), rather than the whole garden. Be careful with it - too much can easily burn plants, especially those that prefer a slightly alkaline soil, so I'd limit it to plants that you know suffer from the well water.
Baltimore County, MD (Zone 7a)
A bit of this and a bit of that
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Herbs
Composter Container Gardener Seed Starter Vegetable Grower Dog Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader
Image
bitbit
Sep 16, 2013 10:35 PM CST
Julia, a baking soda solution (because something has to be in solution to have a pH) is actually somewhat alkaline (pH around 9), so it would probably not help Elaine.

(Sorry for the double post. You replied while I was typing, or I would have mentioned it above.)
Name: Julia
Washington State (Zone 7a)
Garden Photography Region: Pacific Northwest Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Dog Lover Foliage Fan Greenhouse Container Gardener Heucheras Sedums
Image
springcolor
Sep 16, 2013 10:38 PM CST
I was thinking of treating the water but I was going the wronging way. Shrug!
Sempervivum for Sale
Baltimore County, MD (Zone 7a)
A bit of this and a bit of that
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Herbs
Composter Container Gardener Seed Starter Vegetable Grower Dog Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader
Image
bitbit
Sep 16, 2013 10:53 PM CST
Yeah, it would be a good solution to raise pH Smiling

I'm not sure whether the aluminum sulfate I mentioned can be added to water or not. I irrigate with rain water, which is naturally acidic, so treating the water is something I haven't considered. That brings me to another thought - Elaine, would installing a rain barrel be an option for you? Atlantic-derived rainwater is around pH 5-6, and it can be much lower if your clouds form inland, but I couldn't find info on the Gulf.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
dyzzypyxxy
Sep 17, 2013 8:23 AM CST
Thanks, ladies. Good thoughts all. I do have rain barrels, and two 600gal. rainwater cisterns. That water is 'reserved' for the orchids, vegetables and fruit trees. Even with well over 1000 gallons in reserve I run out of rainwater on a regular basis in the hot, dry months in spring and fall. The fatal flaw of collecting rainwater, it doesn't replenish itself when you need it the most, right? Spring and fall are the main growing season for vegetables here, and also the driest times of the year. Rolling my eyes.

But the rest of the landscape - about 1/4 acre - is watered during the dry months with the well water that comes from 150ft. underground, and runs through Florida's fabulous limestone aquifer. I was thinking of something as simple as a drip system into the pump, with vinegar or something else acidic. But it would probably use gallons and gallons of the acidifier and be high-maintenance and expensive. Maybe if I post my question in the Farming forum somebody will have an idea, do you think?

Treating the acid-lovers with some aluminum sulphate might be my solution if I can't find a way to balance the well water reasonably. Thanks!
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Evan
Pioneer Valley south, MA, USA (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member Plant Database Moderator Forum moderator Aroids Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tropicals Foliage Fan Bulbs Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge)
Image
eclayne
Sep 17, 2013 8:58 AM CST

Plants Admin

Elaine, a recent article by LariAnn (Aroideana vol. 36) refers to a product called Take Down, 70% phosphoric Acid, to neutralize her water. Purchased at a local farm supply store. Pine Needles, once brown, they don't add significant acidity to soil, even over time.
Evan
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
dyzzypyxxy
Sep 17, 2013 9:23 AM CST
Ah ha! Thanks Evan. Perhaps the 'Take Down' product is what I'm looking for. Will check farm supply for more info on how to introduce it into the system.

I don't have pines in any case, but there are 4 huge old oak trees around the house that have been dropping leaves for a century or more. Their leaves are acidic, too. But even in the shady border under these oaks, the Heliconias and some other more sensitive plants turn chlorotic after a couple of months of well water irrigation. I 'mulch' those beds with the oak leaves, too! (i.e blow all the leaves into the beds with the leaf blower . . ) Obviously the slow break-down of the acidic leaves isn't enough to buffer the fast introduction of alkaline well water once I start irrigating regularly.

I'll bet the Ears are pretty sensitive to pH level in their water too, but seems that mine are not in that active growth until the rain starts, so I haven't seen chlorosis on them particularly.

Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Image
dave
Sep 17, 2013 9:35 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

Our well water has high pH as well as a high "total alkalinity" number. The latter is the bigger problem because it has longer lasting effects. A high alkalinity number means that the water resists acidification. Essentially it is like watering with a mild liquid limestone. That's been okay for us in East Texas because our soil is extremely acidic, so watering with high alkalinity water is fairly preferable, as far as I've been able to see. I'm guessing it helps to counteract the acidity in the soil. But if our soil wasn't acidic to start with, I know we'd have a big problem on our hands. Our water has over 600 ppm total alkalinity.
Name: Evan
Pioneer Valley south, MA, USA (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member Plant Database Moderator Forum moderator Aroids Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tropicals Foliage Fan Bulbs Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge)
Image
eclayne
Sep 17, 2013 9:43 AM CST

Plants Admin

Good luck and please keep us posted. I'd wager many FL gardeners have this problem. On the bright side there are some really cool Amorphophallus which grow naturally on limestone. Green Grin!
Evan
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
dyzzypyxxy
Sep 17, 2013 10:20 AM CST
Ah, yes! Total alkalinity . . Just went and did a quick test with my swimming pool test kit, and it's not good, the test strip I used only went up to 720, and the reading was at least that high. <sigh> It might be cost-prohibitive to do what I'm wanting, considering the acidic additives seem to run around $26 per gallon. But I really only irrigate with the well water for about 4 months of the year, in the hot weather in spring and fall.

But I am sure that at least greenhouse growers (of which there are thousands in FL) must address this problem so there is a relatively simple solution. That's where I've directed my quest.

Our soil is basically sand, so slightly on the alkaline side to begin with. Miles from the beach, you dig up shells in your garden here.

Amorphophallus? Rolling on the floor laughing Evan! You know what I think about stinky flowers. Rolling my eyes. A flower's gotta smell nice or it has no place in my garden!
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Image
dave
Sep 17, 2013 10:30 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

There are fertilizing programs that commercial growers use to address this issue. As for me, I just grin and bear it. As you said, one only irrigates for a few months out of the year.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
dyzzypyxxy
Sep 17, 2013 11:32 AM CST
Yeah, the option of just treating the sensitive plants in question with something like ammonium sulphate is looking more attractive.

I put my DH on the problem, and he (a mechanical engineer) is now all wrapped up in fancy complicated computerized dispensing systems and the projected cost is going into the stratosphere. I shoulda known better . ..

Hilarious! Shrug!
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Sep 17, 2013 12:10 PM CST
Pure elemental sulfur might be cheaper than aluminum sulfate. I see there are sulfer products that are OMRI listed (organic).

Straight sulfur Is probably not very fast acting. Microbes gradually oxidize it and combine it with water, which in effect produces sulfuric acid (H2SO4). That immediately counteracts some of your alkaline water (OH-).


The most finely powdered sulfur you can get is better - or rather, faster. Whatever is cheapest is probably best. I see "CSC Wettable Sulfur - EPA Approved for Feedstock" and a fancier products called "Disper-Sul® ". $2 to $4 per pound. 99.5%+ Ground Yellow Sulfur Powder

In the lab, it was called "flowers of sulfur" but that might be ancient terminology.

HERE we go! A 50 pound bag for $22.50. 45 cents per pound sounds better.
http://www.arbico-organics.com/product/sulfur-tiger-organic/...

"TIGER 90 CR® Organic Sulphur 0-0-0-90 is ideal for soil amendment purposes when a soil test result shows a high pH (above 7.0 and especially above 8), as well as high sodium and high lime (above 1.0%). Soil with such a high pH value is considered alkaline, and its high pH value causes essential nutrients to be unavailable for crops. One of the most cost-effective ways to lower pH is to apply Tiger Organic 0-0-0-90, a granulated product made up of thousands of tiny particles of sulfur per granule. Tiger 90 CR is mixed with Bentonite clay in a special time-release formula. It is OMRI listed and WSDA registered for use in organic farming.

As TIGER 90 CR® Organic Sulphur decomposes and lowers your soil pH, it will react with the free lime in the soil, which will add gypsum (high in calcium) to the soil and free up the sodium to be leached out by watering.."



[Last edited by RickCorey - Sep 17, 2013 2:42 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #484734 (15)
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
dyzzypyxxy
Sep 17, 2013 1:13 PM CST
That sounds like some great stuff. Thanks Rick.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: virginiarose
Virginia
Money talks but Chocolate Sings!
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Level 1 Avid Green Pages Reviewer Hibiscus Dragonflies Daylilies
Bee Lover Dahlias Butterflies Hostas Birds Lilies
virginiarose
Sep 17, 2013 2:06 PM CST
What about Epsom Salt's? doesn't that lower PH? Also works wonders as a foliage spray. Green Grin!


http://www.garden.org/articles/articles.php?q=show&id=68
Susan

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.....Margaret Atwood
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Sep 17, 2013 2:44 PM CST
You're very welcome! I used toi wonder how soemthing as boand as elemental sulfur could become an acid, until someone told me or I looked it up. then it seemed like magic.

In fact, one pound of pure sulfur (S) would become the equivalent of 3 pounds of 100% sulfuric acid, or 61 pounds of 5% sulfuric acid ... call it 6 gallons of dilute acid from one pound of sulfur powder.

Respect the sulfur- oxidizing bacteria! (e.g. Beggiatoa and Paracoccus).
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
dyzzypyxxy
Sep 17, 2013 3:09 PM CST
Yes, Epsom salts is Magnesium sulphate, and it does have the potential to lower the pH, but I think you'd have to use way too much of it to neutralize my pH 8.5 well water, irrigating half my garden.

I have a half gallon of my well water sitting on the kitchen counter, so maybe I will experiment and see how much Epsom salts I have to add to it to get it down to a pH of 7.

Good thought! Thank Susan.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: virginiarose
Virginia
Money talks but Chocolate Sings!
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Level 1 Avid Green Pages Reviewer Hibiscus Dragonflies Daylilies
Bee Lover Dahlias Butterflies Hostas Birds Lilies
virginiarose
Sep 17, 2013 3:32 PM CST
Well, what if you just spray it on the leaves. Green Grin!
Susan

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.....Margaret Atwood

Page 1 of 2 • 1 2

« Garden.org Homepage
« Back to the top
« Forums List
« Ask a Question forum
You must first create a username and login before you can reply to this thread.

Today's site banner is by Paul2032 and is called "Chrysanthemum"