Many people enjoy the benefits of having softened water in their home, including easier cleaning, better skin and hair, and longer lasting appliances. However, softened water is not ideal for houseplants, lawns, and gardens.
A water softener works by removing the minerals that cause hardness, such as calcium and magnesium, which plants benefit from. Also, when a water softener regenerates, the softening media is cleaned by the salt water stored in your brine tank. This process leaves trace amounts of salt in your softened water, which are not noticeable or harmful to humans. However, these trace amounts of salt are a cause for concern for gardens, lawns, and houseplants.
Using softened water on plants and gardens can interfere with the water balance and can damage them by fooling them into thinking they have taken up more water than they actually have. Softened water essentially causes the plants in your garden to die of thirst. Not only can the salt in softened water hurt your plants, but the salt can build up in your soil, making it difficult for future plants to grow.
What Are Your Options?
The good news is that you do not have to choose between the benefits of having soft water in your home, and your lawn and garden. There are many options that allow you to have the best of both worlds.
1. Use the bypass valve on the water softener. Close the bypass valve on the back of the water softener prior to watering your lawn. Once your lawn is watered the bypass valve can be opened, allowing softened water to your home.
2. Have a bypass installed. A dedicated tap can be installed on the outside of your house or your existing outside taps can be connected directly to your untreated water line, prior to the water being treated by the water softener. This allows you to water your lawn and garden with untreated water that has maintained the calcium and magnesium and is free from salt.
3. Collect rainwater. Collecting rainwater with your own backyard rain barrel is a great way to water your outdoor garden. Installing a rain barrel is an easy, economical, and ecological choice to collect water, and many municipalities offer rain barrels to its residents. The rain barrel will fill up on rainy days and give you a supply of water to use when watering your gardens.
4. Use Reverse Osmosis water. If you have a Reverse Osmosis system installed in your home, this is ideal water to be used on house plants. The RO system will remove the excess sodium in your water and therefore is a good choice for watering plants. When using Reverse Osmosis water it is recommended to add a fertilizer to ensure the proper nutrient levels are delivered to your plants.
Correcting Salt Levels in Your Soil
If it becomes necessary to correct the salt levels in your soil you will need to leach the soil by frequently watering it with untreated water. This will help to draw the salt out of the affected soil; however it will also draw out nutrients and minerals that plants need to grow. This means that you need to make sure to add these nutrients and minerals back into the soil.
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