Most gardeners rarely think about the quality of water in their garden

For the eager urban gardener, by now you may have done your research on good soil amendments, the right food to give each plant, the right sunlight and the amount of water needed for each of your plants.  You may have even started your own compost and a drip system that’s timed just right.  Why are your indoor or outdoor plants are still struggling if you have done everything garden books have told you.  Have they mentioned to look into the water quality?

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I’ve noticed most resources just mention to water deeply, water sparingly, not too wet and not too dry, let the soil dry out between watering, etc.  Have you read what type of water to use during these instructions?  Very few will mention what type of water to use.  So, if you’re a beginner to an intermediate gardener, you will eventually find out that quality of water matters just as much as the quality of soil, plant food, location and the amount of sunlight.

For a lot of us starting a backyard garden in the city, attaching a garden hose to the outside water spigot makes the most sense to get that perfect amount of water you researched to your plants.  It’s almost like that’s really what that spigot was meant to do as well as wash your car.

Maybe the spigot tapping into the city water used to be a good source of water for your plants, but not anymore.  Let me explain why.

What is in your tap water

What is in your tap or city water depends on your location.  There are only a few cities in the US that uses untreated water from snow cap runoff and watersheds.  Those cities have the cleanest water if there is no severe flooding and contaminants from the soil and surrounding areas.  The majority of city water comes from rivers, lakes, and groundwater that is treated.

Many cities in the West are now using recycled wastewater.  This wastewater needs extra treatment to be reused as wastewater is coming from our toilets, dishwashers, washers, irrigation, runoff, etc.  This method is being used more and more as natural water sources are quickly dwindling due to climate change.

Here is a list of what could be in your tap water most likely in small amounts that are acceptable to the EPA but could very well be present.

Each contaminant has a link with interesting information you should read.  Not only should these concern your garden, they should concern your health as well.

What tap water is doing to your plants

Now that we know the possible contaminants in the tap water, what could they be doing to your plants?

Tap water can cause chemical buildup in the soil and in your plants over time.  It can kill the good microorganisms in the soil much like it can affect the microorganisms inside your gut that are beneficial to you.  It can also make it hard to absorb the plant food given to them.

The growth of your plants can become stunted.  They may look burnt at the tips of the leaves, some yellowing leaves and leaves drying up and falling off.  If you have done everything else right and still using tap water, the water quality may need to be evaluated.

Not only are the plants absorbing these chemicals from the water, if you are eating the vegetables from these plants, you may be absorbing these chemicals as well.  The thought of using organic soils and fertilizer for fruits and vegetables is the same logic when choosing the type of water to use.

What type of water should you be watering your indoor or outdoor garden now?

What water source should you be using in your garden

Rainwater is the best choice.  This is how plants have always been watered naturally.  The ph is at optimal levels for most plants, it’s free of chemicals unless you live in an area that has acid rain and it could have some good organic matter from running off the roof into a rain barrel.

The problem with rainwater, it is not always available.  Drout could be a problem for some.  Another problem is rainwater collection in any form is illegal in some states.

Filtered water could be another choice.  I have seen good reviews with a water hose filter for outside gardens.  The Boogie Blue PLUS High Capacity Water Filter for garden, RV and outdoor use – Removes Chlorine, Chloramines, VOCs, Pesticides/Herbicides  sounds very reliable to use.  It connects right to the hose and filters an amazing amount of contaminants from the water.  I would consider using something like this in between rainwater collection.

Sometimes filtered water can be too filtered.  Distilled water especially depletes water vitamins and minerals too much.  I have seen some great reviews to add Earth Juice Elements Cal-n-Mag Plant Food to make up for what the over filtered water is lacking for the plants.

Bottled water is another choice but not as highly recommended.  If you have a few indoor plants, this might be a good choice if you recycle the bottles and use spring water.  Purified water is just purified tap water.  It is still missing some key elements to be preferred.

Choosing the right water for your garden is a matter of preference but the alternatives could be much better for them than using tap or city water.  Do some research and let us know what water works for your garden.

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