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Water Gardens: Iron water

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Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

May 13, 2011
6:37 AM

Post #8559846

I have water that has just enough iron in it to affect the taste, but not the color from the sink water. I also have a well that puts out about 1 1/2 gallons a minute, so I have been filling a 500 gal Rubbermaid tub, and just pulling water out in buckets to make things faster. I am also considering using the tank for some water plants and fish someday. But I think the iron in the water is making the water in the tub off-color after it sits in it for awhile. So, the questions are:
Is that bad for my plants?
Is there anything I can add to the water to clear it up? Borax (boron)?
Thanks,
Julia
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 4b)

May 13, 2011
7:14 AM

Post #8559916

I doubt the iron will hurt your plants. Where I grew up the water came out of the spout brown (from our own well). I was 15 before I knew that all water from a spout wasn't brown. We joked that there was so much iron that when we died all that would be left was our 'innards' cast in iron. We used it to water our gardens and they did just fine. We didn't drink it, but we did bath in it and wash clothes in it. Had quite a water softener iron extractor set up though. Fish, I don't know.
Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

May 13, 2011
8:28 AM

Post #8560088

Do you remember how exactly the iron extractor set up worked? Filters, or something added to 'neutralize' it? I'm glad I'm not dealing with that quantity of iron! It's good to be assured that the plants won't be affected by it.
Cast iron innards! LOL!
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 4b)

May 13, 2011
11:32 AM

Post #8560460

I was 18 when I left home but I remember the set up in the basement right next to the coal furnace and auger set up. The regular softener was right next to a another upright tank of about the same size. Remember, this was almost 50 years ago so I am sure they have miniaturized and improved the set up. I know that the water heater had a heck of a time because the heating element would get encrusted with iron and become less and less effective. I will ask my husband as he is a water/waste water engineer what the current 'state of the art is', then what about the average home owner. Bottom line is that the water won't kill you, just tastes and smells awful, and ruins your enamel sinks and commodes. Dad watered his gardens with it all the time. He ran a line direct from the well and bypassed the softener and iron filter.
Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

May 13, 2011
2:15 PM

Post #8560808

Thank you, I look forward to his info:>) I will experiment with a couple of things to see if I can clear up the water in the tub without bleach. And if I can't, I won't worry about it!
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 4b)

May 14, 2011
9:47 AM

Post #8562356

Hi there. Have to be careful what I ask DH for. Here is his response. Get out your chemistry book and dictionary, but hope it helps. He has been working with water (specializes in Arctic and sub-Arctic conditions), like duh, we live in Alaska. lol

Two step process to precipitate iron and then neutralize or rebalance the water.

Chlorine (Clorox or other brand of bleach) will combine with the iron, causing it to drop out of solution. Any excess chlorine will result in remaining water becoming slightly acid and, of course, any free chlorine will attack whatever biota it comes in contact with. In other words, you don't want to water your plants with it unless the residual is very low (like watering your garden from a municipal water supply). You need some contact time, maybe stir it a little, let it settle, then decant the treated water off the top. If you don't get a lot of iron precipitate, you probably don't need to worry about it going on the plants or in the pond.

In wastewater treatment works, we use sodium bisulfite to expunge excess chlorine. In drinking water treatment it is common to use quick lime (NOT recommended for DIY; can be dangerous), hydrated lime, and sodium carbonate (soda ash) for neutralization and pH adjustment. The former is most difficult to handle (chemical burns), while the latter is easiest to handle. However, effectiveness is greater with quick lime. Treatment plant operators consider handling and shipping expense when they decide which of these chemicals they will use. E.G. Fairbanks uses a LOT of lime in the water treatment process; I'm fairly certain they use quick lime. It's stored in a 10' or 12' diameter silo that's 50 or 60 ft tall (I can't remember; it's been too many years since we erected it). Were they to use soda ash, they'd need to ship chemical much more frequently...at great expense.

At Eagle River, we're installing new equipment to batch soda ash into a liquid slurry for metering into two flow streams to increase alkalinity in the biological treatment process and to raise the effluent pH at the end of the treatment process.

For a DIYer, I think I'd buy those large bags of Arm & Hammer baking soda you can get at Costco or Sam's. That's sodium bicarbonate. It will clear the chlorine and, I think I read in one of your pond pages, the excess carbonates can be good for your fish and some water plants.

You can adjust quantities of both chemicals until you find the "sweet spot" for your raw water conditions. Either have the water tested, perform the stoichiometric calculations, and add your chemicals or...just use trial and error. But get a pH test kit (real one, not paper strips) so you know what your putting on your plants and in your pond.

End of DH's lecture.
Mary
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 4b)

May 14, 2011
10:12 AM

Post #8562386

Further (more practical thoughts):


I didn't give her a starting point. a 5 ppm (parts per million) dosage in her 500 gallon tub is 1/3 of an ounce. Depending upon iron content, I can't see her using even that much, so she might start with 1/10 ounce just to see if she gets anything. Actually, rather than "queering" the whole tub, she should test in a 1 gallon bucket. She can slowly add a drop of chlorine, one at a time, stirring in between. As long as iron falls out, she can keep adding drops. When the iron stops, so do the drops.

Now, having counted drops, she can add that number or drops (of water!) to her baking utensils (tsp, tbsp, or whatever) and determine the dosage applied to her gallon of water.
Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

May 14, 2011
10:21 AM

Post #8562398

I love it! Please thank him for me, and thank you for relaying that too! I will do a little experimenting, and it sounds like it shouldn't be difficult.
Again, thank you,
Julia
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 4b)

May 14, 2011
10:24 AM

Post #8562403

My pleasure, and his too, to be helpful. I bet your place is beautiful. And quiet...
mothermole
Deer Park, IL
(Zone 5b)

May 14, 2011
7:02 PM

Post #8563216

I have heavy iron water-it is clear in color we drink it and the koi and the plants are fine with it. My washing machine and dryer are permanently stained and white clothes don't stand a chance of staying white.
Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

May 14, 2011
10:56 PM

Post #8563452

mothermole, since you don't filter your water, do you notice if it clouds up when it stands in a container for a week or so?

mstella, yes, it's very quiet here. Most of the beauty is in the view of the wilderness beyond my property fence, but I'm working hard to 'tame' what lies within! So there are little spots of color and greenery surrounded by a lot of bare decomposed granite and/or clay. But I love a challenge:>) And I know I'm making progress!
I bet beauty and quiet are pretty normal up in Anchorage!
mothermole
Deer Park, IL
(Zone 5b)

May 15, 2011
12:07 AM

Post #8563465

Well, I don't have a reason to let water stand in a container for a week or so BUT my pets water dishes get a film on them because I just rinse them out each day with water but don't wipe them. I have to weekly wipe them or put them in the dishwasher to keep that film out. I also have very hard water and it is difficult as well. My dishwasher is stainless steel inside because the old one was white inside and all stained with rust and it looked bad.


My pond water gets that film on the liner but because I filter it with a biofilter and it's moving it is crystal clear.

Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

May 15, 2011
11:07 AM

Post #8564388

Thanks mothermole (what an interesting name for a gardener:>) ) My dogs' water is a huge water tub outside, which I only have to refill once a month in the winter, more often in the summer, when they use it for a bathtub. I usually empty it every six months or so, pour in a splash of bleach, and scrub the algae off the interior, and it stays clean for a few more months. I don't want to have to do that with the 500 gallon tub, so I'm going to try the advice of mstella for maintenance. If I decide to really put that tub to work as a fish/plant tank, I'll be using a biofilter too, I guess.
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 4b)

May 15, 2011
1:11 PM

Post #8564606

Unfortunately we have no more peace and quiet than any other city with around 300,000 people. My yard backs on a fairly heavily traveled two lane, plus the largest airplane float pond and our international airport are almost within spitting distance. I swear I have skid marks on my roof from some of the pilots who are doing touch and go's. Maybe around 5am-7am it is fairly quiet. And sometimes on Sunday.
Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

May 15, 2011
3:57 PM

Post #8565080

How funny! Here in sunny SoCal, which at one time was the 7th largest economy in the world, I have peace and quiet in a little town with a population of about 5,000, spread out over a valley about 10 miles by 25 miles. And you live in the last frontier, (unless you count the ocean?) in a city!
I can't tell if that sentence sounds rude...the internet is so expressionless! But it's only meant to be funny.
I once lived just out of March Air Force Base, and I can relate to those skid marks, though:>)
I checked out your garden pics-beautiful! Do you do any gardening indoors during the snow-covered months?
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 4b)

May 15, 2011
5:12 PM

Post #8565292

No offense taken. I agree, life can be odd. When I was growing up, as noted by my info on wells, iron water, etc, we lived out of town. Hauled water for a while before the well, used a honey bucket, bathed in a tin tub also used to wash dishes. Winter was better because we packed the tub with snow, melted it on the oil stove, then could bath in it. No water to haul. Except out the basement door and up the dirt stairs to dump it.

I spend a lot of time researching stuff, working on my garden and pond database. I have a few plants but no many. i am not much of an indoor gardener. Read and dream of our brief summer.
Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

May 16, 2011
4:39 PM

Post #8567773

My DH and I are planning to move to some remote place and build that dream cabin he's been wanting all his life. And...no electricity. So I will probably be doing my share of hauling water too, but hopefully the well won't be far from the door! As for snow, only a little, please, and it needs to melt quickly!

It sounds like you have a balanced life, enjoying what you have, not regretting what you don't. Thank goodness for the internet, and how it allows us to live in a much larger world!

Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 4b)

May 16, 2011
7:29 PM

Post #8568141

I agree. But with no electricity you really should have a generator for the refrigerator and occasional internet use. :)
and you can have a well with a pump in the kitchen so you don't have to haul water very far. Dad sunk his own well with a pulley and a weight; just pounded the pipe into the ground.
Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

May 16, 2011
7:51 PM

Post #8568192

The plan is propane for the fridge, and a once a week trip to town to enjoy the conveniences of society-restaurant, internet at the library (there better be a library!) etc.
How deep was your water table? Here in Anza our well is drilled to 400ft. I'm hoping for a happy compromise of something under 200ft, but even then we'd have to have the well drilled, then build the cabin over it. Maybe a gravity fed situation from outside, if necessary?
DH has always dreamed of the 'hermit with the donkey and gold pan' retirement. We met sorta late in the game. I'm fine with that cabin in the desert thing, as long as I have enough water for a garden, and enough grass for a cow. It may turn out that we try this for a couple of years and hot foot it back to civilization, but I want to try, at least.
In the meantime, this is my latest project, and effort to have a garden that is critter proof, and when necessary windproof.
Obviously, a work in progress. I just got it erected Friday. When it is finished it will be wrapped in chicken wire, filled with raised garden beds, and have some shade cloth on the windward side, depending on the season. I've seen one finished, and can't wait to have mine!

Thumbnail by Mountaindweller
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 4b)

May 17, 2011
4:57 PM

Post #8570051

that's right. I had forgotten about propane. Silly me. When the power would go out when I was first married we would turn on the oven in our little (24" wide) propane stove to partially heat the house. Dad slammed down the well after the house had been built, or rather after the basement had been roofed so there wasn't much head room to get a good slam on the pipe. My memory was he only went about 20 feet - right through a dinosaur's, well, tail end -- to account for the awful water. Our water table was obviously pretty high. We lived fairly close to a slough so that would make sense.

I like your frame. Wish I had room for a real greenhouse with raised beds. No critter problems except the dratted mice. So what critters do you have to fend off?
Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

May 17, 2011
8:43 PM

Post #8570728

Mostly my cats :>( They are great for catching mice and other rodents, but have no respect of boundaries when it comes to...well. And since we have relatively short and nice winters temperature wise, but very warm summers, a greenhouse would be a waste. But the wind is horrible, and almost constant. I'll have to take a picture of our pine by the house-almost no branches on the windward side. If I put up shade cloth I might be able to protect the more delicate things, which sometimes get windburned. And I can use the wire 'walls' to grow climbing things on the north side, too.
When I was researching options I found many different sized 'hobby' greenhouse frames. Maybe you could get a small one and beef it up a little?
Have you always lived in Alaska?
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 4b)

May 18, 2011
7:40 AM

Post #8571293

Don't think I would care for the wind. I have rhododendrums and they are easily burnt with sun and wind in the winter so I wrap them in cloth over the winter. I am afraid just about every squire inch of the ground is taken up with something, and any possible places would block sun to flowers and plants.

I have pretty much lived her my whole life. Came when I was 7 with my folks; lived in Oakland Calif for four months, Paris Tenn for five months, and spent a winter in Houghton Lake Mich. Other than that Fairbanks (37yrs) and Anchorage (20 yrs), Alaska. We talk of moving 'south' but have no family outside so it would be pretty much 'throw a dart.' I learn a lot about different places here at DG so that helps. But I suspect that if we were to move it would be out to the toolies, not further south to more people and government.
Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

May 18, 2011
3:07 PM

Post #8572205

That's what DH says "Anza would be GREAT if it wasn't in California!" He hates all the bureaucracy too. They are actually going to make our old light bulbs illegal now! And it costs about $500 to ride the public school bus in this district. And if they knew my cats were eating the kangaroo rats, I'd be in trouble! Thinking for yourself went out the window years ago. Are things really less 'governed' up there?
You know, with all this climate change, Alaska might be opening up for a lot more people!
But seriously, can you tell if there has been any big change in the weather there? I know we have had some wetter and cooler seasons recently, but the changes they are describing in the Arctic are kinda scary. Although being warmer probably would be nice, yes?
I've been in CA far too long to enjoy being cold for more than a month or two at a time. We traveled a lot when I was a kid, and I always missed those palm trees eventually! I remember each time we would return to SoCal, in the 70's and early 80's, we'd come over the Cajon pass and drop down to San Bernardino, and I'd see that ocean of smog, and think YEA, we're HOME! Thank goodness there's a lot less smog now-I guess I'll give the government credit there. But that's the only place!

Hope I'm not 'talking your ear off'. The weather has kept me inside for two days, and I'm not used to it!:>) I need to get outside and work off some energy! Another reason those long winters wouldn't work for me!
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 4b)

May 18, 2011
4:53 PM

Post #8572425

Damien rants about the light bulb thing also. Just the other night he said he was going to 'invest' in light bulbs because they would become worth a fortune someday. I would say that we are less 'regulated' than you. We have the same greedy idiots in our senate and house (wonder who the heck votes them in -- sure isn't us) spending the oil money like it's going out of style. And they want even more to blow on stupidity. And I am not particularly political. I get to angry and that is a waste of time and energy. We always vote for whatever good that does. Too many re motivated to vote that want the handouts, and too many of who are conservatives don't vote out of disgust. but overall, we don't have them breathing down our necks too much. If it were so, we would simply move further north.

the winters are warmer than they were in the past (another hot topic with Damien who says global warming is a myth). He says it a cycle. I don't know. In Fairbanks when I grew up it was not at all unusual to have -25 to -40 on a regular basis, with dips to -50 and lower many times during the winter. Ice fog was terrible. Couldn't see a car length ahead. People left their cars running so they wouldn't freeze up when they went anywhere, and being a valley with no wind it just settled on our heads, along with the stuff from furnaces (oil, wood, etc). I had to change a tire on my way to work in 1982 once and it was -40. Not fun. Now Fairbanks sees -35 or -45 about as often as we used to see -50 to -60, with -20 being more the norm as the average cold. People new here complain about the cold but they really are clueless what real cold is and how long it can last. And that doesn't even address the long dark 'days' of winter.

Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

May 18, 2011
9:46 PM

Post #8573050

I can't even wrap my mind around the temps you are talking about! I was in Missouri for a while, and one morning I had to defrost my car's window to go to work, so I poured a gallon of hot water on it! (I know-stupid!) I watched in awe as it froze right back from the bottom up! And I know it wasn't below 0, or even close! So I can't imagine -40 or 50! Lady, I'd have moved south long ago! But I think you might be a little tougher than the average gal, too!
As for politics, I will here admit that I have NEVER voted, and I'm over 40. I've just never heard anybody say they were happy or pleasantly surprised by the results. My hubby says that means I have no right to whine. For the most part, I don't, but sometimes...
I was going to ask you about those long dark 'days'. How long to you have no sun?
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 4b)

May 19, 2011
8:44 AM

Post #8573645

It isn't really a question of 'no sun', at least not as far north as Fairbanks. Now on the Arctic coast that is different. I believe that they do indeed have days of no sun at all, but they also have days that they have sun at midnight, hence "Land of the Midnight Sun". It is more a matter of, from June 21st, the longest day of the year, the duration of which depends on where you live in Alaska) to December 21st (the shortest day) you gain or lose about 2 to 7 minutes of light a day. So it is gradual. And in Anchorage, 19 hours and 5 hours respectively. Check out this URL on daylight around the state:
http://www.absak.com/library/average-annual-insolation-alaska

I feel pretty much the same as you do about voting, but I DH would divorce me if I didn't at least vote, no matter the outcome. And yes, he says the same thing: No vote, No gripe!! Well I vote, and his griping is enough for both of us. lol

I am no tougher than the average person. I think about people who live in inner cities and shudder. Give me -60 any day. I can dress and be careful for that. Other people out to get me? ummmm, don't think so.
Mountaindweller
Dolan Springs, AZ
(Zone 9a)

May 19, 2011
8:20 PM

Post #8574965

Edited in memory of the victims of the Joplin tornado, to remove a careless and callous 'joke'. I apologise to any and all who have lost family or friends.
We used to laugh at my brother-in-law, who was raised in this little town. If we went anywhere considered a city he would lock the car doors and get totally stressed out if we had to stop for a red light! I'm not talking down town LA, I'm talking the nice parts of Riverside! Because my sister and I grew up in some pretty rough areas, we felt no fear, because we were used to it all.
Well, today I got the footings dug for my garden frame. It's on a slope, so the low end holes are only about 6 inches, and the high ends are almost 18 inches. Leveling it all out, front and back, side to side, was a bit of a trick, but it looks good. Tomorrow I'll pour the fence post mix in, and hope it doesn't rain for a bit. It's been such a wet spring! I haven't seen the wildflowers this thick in a long time.

This message was edited May 23, 2011 6:36 AM
Oberon46
(Mary) Anchorage, AK
(Zone 4b)

May 22, 2011
4:43 PM

Post #8580254

lol. I can understand. There are times when I am in the car be myself and have to stop at a light and some strange panhandler is on the corner, and I have locked the door. Weird stuff happens.

Good luck with your greenhouse. Sounds like a fun project.

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