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I'm wondering what we know about using altered water on seedlings. I still have everything indoors and because we will still get freezes my garden hose water is not opened yet for the season. The house taps are softened (Hey Culligan Man!) and I happened to have several gallons of distilled water that I would like to use up. Any idea if using softened tap or distilled water has long range negative effect? I have to assume the distilled will be missing something. Not sure what added salt does.
You will have no problems with either distilled or softened water. Softened water does not have a higher salt content. Water softeners work by water passing through resin pellets which iron and other minerals then attach to. The salt is used to flush (recharge) the resin and the salt water (with minerals washed off the resin) is then drained away leaving the resin ready to soften more water.
Softened water does have a higher sodium content (salt = sodium chloride), however if I was going to be concerned about it, I'd be more concerned about ingesting it (if anyone was supposed to watch sodium intake for health reasons) than about watering plants with it:
Although plants need a very tiny trace of sodium, in excess it can be harmful to plants. It can also be harmful to people. I wouldn't drink softened water for the reason that altagardener mentioned -- I am on a low sodium diet and it would be bad for me. Actually, most people ingest more sodium than is healthy for them.
When I lived in Maine I used to melt snow as a cheap source of "rainwater" for my plants. We had snow in great abundance. Here in Kansas, we had essentially no snow this Winter. Freaky weather.
Distilled water would be ideal for indoor gardening, provided that you added the needed plant nutrients to it, and that is not hard to do. I just wish I had a cheap source of distilled water.
Zen_man: Thanks for your input. As long as you mentioned it, I wonder what nutrients you would add. I always have trouble locating the MICRO-nutrients and of course I'm always concerned about over doing it. Right now they're all looking pretty tall and green and healthy looking. How to keep them that way. In a week or two they will be drinking from the garden hose,
Many folks down here are switching to Potassium Chloride in their water treatment systems - better for humans (if you have heart/BP problems let your doctor know) and much better for plants. The big complaint is the cost $$$...
Sorry for the delayed response. I'm not quite sure how that happened. I guess your plants are "drinking from the garden hose" by now. For indoor growing I use urea-free complete nutrient formulas from Better-Gro. They, like several "complete" nutrient formulas, have trace elements, but lack calcium. Actually, calcium in not a micro-nutrient, it is a macro-nutrient. I use calcium nitrate to supply calcium inside and gypsum and lawn lime to supply it outside. For extended indoor growing, I also compound some trace element formulas of my own, including cobalt and nickel. And I usually add some silicon. Even though it is not required, silicon helps strengthen cell walls and confers some disease resistance. I add it as potassium silicate in my combined complete nutrient formulation.
Incidentally, calcium is omitted from "complete" nutrient formulas because it will precipitate with phosphorous (and silicate) in concentrated form. But if you pre-dilute your nutrients, as I do, you can combine the diluted components without precipitation problems. Some water supplies contain enough calcium to make its absence in the nutrient formulas a non-problem.