Chris85

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I’ve done some searching on here can’t can’t seem to find the info I’m looking for...

As I understand things,

Tap water is the worst type of water to use for trees. A bunch of dissolved solids that can accumulate in soil and prevent the plant from absorbing nutrients.

Distilled water is second best. It has nothing in it at all which means you need to fertilize (doesn’t everyone do that anyway?)

Reverse Osmosis is best. It filters bad dissolved solids and leaves the good nutrients.

Please tell me if I’m way off base or if that’s correct for the above.

I read on here distilled water can become acidic sitting in a container. How acidic? Enough to be harmful?

Am I okay to use distilled and fertilize as normal? (Heavy during growing season and light/ not at all during dormant season)

What nutrients are present in mineral water that may not be present in distilled water?
Basically, is there a fertilizer that covers all those bases?

I was planning to use Ozmocote slow release pellets in combo with a liquid miracle grow. (Indoor tropical plants because of apartment living=no fancy/stinky organics). Also because of my sink set up and apartment life I can’t install a RO system unfortunately, but I was gifted a distiller.

thanks for any help you can provide!
 

Paradox

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You're way off base. Trees can use the minerals and in fact need some of the minerals in your water. Rain water also has minerals in it, in some cases more than your tap water which is filtered. Except in cases of acid rain, no trees have ever died from it.

The cost of making reverse osmosis water for your trees if you have more than just a few would be into the stupidity range.
I have been watering my trees for 10 years with tap water that is chloronated ( :eek: ) from our county water authority from the hose ( o_O ) and not one died from it.

Now if you for some reason have super acidic tap water or super hard tap water, then you will have to do some adjustments. There are house hold sized water conditioner that would still probably be more cost effective than an RO unit.

I use RO water that I make for my salt water tank that has corals in it because the minerals in the tap water could definitely cause issues with the tank water chemisty to the detriment of the corals only.

In order to know what is in your water, youll have to have it tested of if you have public water, go look at the annual/semiannual reports that your water authority puts out. You can probably find them on their web page. Its public knowledge and I believe all water authorities have to make the info available.

Your tap water is probably fine. This is a solution in search of a problem. Dont make it harder than it has to be.
 
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Dav4

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It completely depends on your local water quality. Here in the metro Atlanta area, we've got decent municipal water- slightly alkaline and low tds/mineral content. Some consider the added chlorine/chloramine additives to be unhealthy, but I seriously doubt any harm could be inflicted with the low levels used to disinfect the water. Any way, I use my tap water without a second thought.
 

Chris85

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It completely depends on your local water quality. Here in the metro Atlanta area, we've got decent municipal water- slightly alkaline and low tds/mineral content. Some consider the added chlorine/chloramine additives to be unhealthy, but I seriously doubt any harm could be inflicted with the low levels used to disinfect the water. Any way, I use my tap water without a second thought.
I live in Metro Detroit and honestly don’t trust the water in my ancient apartment building haha. I use a crazy water filter for myself.

What is ideal for plants? Would it be, as you said, “slightly alkaline and low TDS”?
 

Chris85

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You're way off base. Trees can use the minerals and in fact need some of the minerals in your water. Rain water also has minerals in it, in some cases more than your tap water which is filtered. Except in cases of acid rain, no trees have ever died from it.

The cost of making reverse osmosis water for your trees if you have more than just a few would be into the stupidity range.
I have been watering my trees for 10 years with tap water that is chloronated ( :eek: ) from our county water authority from the hose ( o_O ) and not one died from it.

Now if you for some reason have super acidic tap water or super hard tap water, then you will have to do some adjustments. There are house hold sized water conditioner that would still probably be more cost effective than an RO unit.

I use RO water that I make for my salt water tank that has corals in it because the minerals in the tap water could definitely cause issues with the tank water chemisty to the detriment of the corals only.

In order to know what is in your water, youll have to have it tested of if you have public water, go look at the annual/semiannual reports that your water authority puts out. You can probably find them on their web page. Its public knowledge and I believe all water authorities have to make the info available.

Your tap water is probably fine. This is a solution in search of a problem. Dont make it harder than it has to be.
Thanks for the info. The reason I ask is, since I moved into this apartment a little over a year ago (one with better light), I’ve noticed a steady, slight decline in the health of my plants and more chalky mineral build up on my pots than before. While I’m sure my tap water will keep my plants alive, I’d like them to thrive, if possible.
 

JoeR

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This is one of the most important things about water for bonsai, and as long as your citys water is close, id just roll with that

I just looked at my city's website and it said the pH was 6.9, a little too high but not bad. Everything else looked good.
 

Japonicus

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You guys ever think about the pH of your substrate?
Quick look at bonsai jack.com pumice 8.63 and lava rock 9.22 pH

I use RO water to drink, but rarely ever for my trees since my system runs about 3-4:1 waste to product water.
My tap runs ~150 TDS and places in AZ runs 800+ TDS, but I thoroughly understand not trusting Detroits water.
https://www.npr.org/2019/04/25/717104335/5-years-after-flints-crisis-began-is-the-water-safe
Now I can tell you that having ran a distiller for drinking that it takes a LOT of energy, electric, to supply
a family with drinking water, and trusting distilled water from the store hah! I've tested freshly opened jugs
at 21 TDS!!! WTH!? Water accidents from running an RO system I'm no stranger too. My wife and I came back from a local
neighborhood walk only to see water pouring like a waterfall out out entrance door, and ran 25 feet across our kitchen into
the living room. A connection had busted, but I've also forgot sometimes to set a timer (not using a float valve) and ran the
wash machine over...ugh.

If I were you I would consider a simple carbon filtre. Be it a slow Britta or add on at the tap for your trees
where there are chemical residues since you probably don't have to use 25 GPD to water your plants.
 

Wires_Guy_wires

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We have some of the best tap water in the world. As for TDS and minerals, it's comparable to mountain spring water. Except that our tap water contains a bit more fluoride and magnesium.

Keep in mind that plants can secrete bases and acids to regulate the rhizosphere pH.
 

Bnana

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It doesn't make sense to think about pH without considering alkalinity. You can have a pretty extreme pH but with a very low alkalinity this will not change the pH in your pot, the effect of the potting soil and the plant will simply overrule this.
Having very hard water might be an issue as it results in the accumulation of salts. But even than it should be okay if your plants drain regularly.

Chlorine/chloramine are unlikely to be a problem for your plants but I would not consider that decent drinking water. If the water production is clean and well controlled the water is safe anyway. If they need to add this it means they are not doing their job properly.
 

Wires_Guy_wires

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Chlorine/chloramine are unlikely to be a problem for your plants but I would not consider that decent drinking water. If the water production is clean and well controlled the water is safe anyway. If they need to add this it means they are not doing their job properly.
Decent drinking water is communism, haven't you heard?
 

MGTT

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Chris85, I also live in the metro Detroit area, and use tap water for my trees with no issues. Personally, I notice less mineral deposits (and better tree health) when I ’properly’ water, I.e., fully flushing whenever I water versus just getting the soil wet.

i notice more deposits on my indoor tree pots in winter when I can’t do a good watering (without having the runoff all thru the house!).
 

Bonsai Nut

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It doesn't make sense to think about pH without considering alkalinity. You can have a pretty extreme pH but with a very low alkalinity this will not change the pH in your pot, the effect of the potting soil and the plant will simply overrule this.
Having very hard water might be an issue as it results in the accumulation of salts. But even than it should be okay if your plants drain regularly.

Chlorine/chloramine are unlikely to be a problem for your plants but I would not consider that decent drinking water. If the water production is clean and well controlled the water is safe anyway. If they need to add this it means they are not doing their job properly.

Not pointing fingers, but I'm reading a lot of posts from people who have never lived in an area with extremely bad water. :)

Southern California - high pH, hard water with moderate alkalinity, high dissolved sodium, high chloramine. Put 6" of untreated city water into a 5' deep koi pond, and watch it kill 24" koi... but it is supposed to be ok for you to drink. 8.5 pH out of the tap... going into naturally high pH soils like pumice and lava with limited/no organic matter that would naturally suppress soil pH rise. When people think about alkalinity buffering pH swings, they often lose sight of the fact that soil in containers can rapidly see their buffering capacity exhausted by repeated applications of water. Yes, the first watering might have minimal impact. But after twice daily waterings over the course of a year or more? Have you ever seen a bonsai pot in Southern California and all of the insoluble solids crusting all over its surface?

I'm not trying to knock anyone in this thread, but all tap water is not equal. And you have to consider the soil in the container as well. High pH soil and high pH water? Where do you think you are going to get your acid to drop the pH into a healthy 6.0 range so you can grow acid-loving trees like maples and oaks?

In California commercial growers will often add sulfur to the soil to lower the pH. Here in North Carolina, you will often find people adding lime to their soil to raise pH. No one would hopefully suggest that you would follow the same rules for both locations.

Just saying that I moved over 100 trees across the country from SoCal and saw the majority explode with healthy new growth - looking better than I have ever seen them. Meanwhile I had a minority of desert natives that prefered alkaline conditions that immediately went into decline. And of course... olives that didn't give a crap either way :)

[EDIT] Quick edit. Also understand that in some parts of the West, irrigation water makes up 95% or more of your annual bonsai water. Until you experience it, it is hard to appreciate what it is like to go 9 months straight without a DROP of rain. pH rise in container soils is probably less of an issue when 50% or more of your water comes from naturally acidic rain.[/EDIT]
 
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sorce

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It's not Flint though. I heard Detroit has high Iron content.🧐

Sorce
 

Bonsai Nut

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This reminds me of Brawndo, the Thirst Mutilator.

In all seriousness... I have purchased distilled water before (when in SoCal) to use in a planted freshwater aquarium. There are a lot of people on this site who are aquarium aficionados. Go ahead and try to have a marine reef aquarium in SoCal without a lab-grade reverse osmosis filtration unit for your makeup water. Let me know how it turns out :)
 

Michael P

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The take-away from this thread is any discussion of tap water for bonsai is meaningless unless you know the chemistry of your tap water. If you can't get good information from your water supplier, send a sample to a lab that tests water for horticultural use and tell the lab that the target crop is woody ornamentals.
 

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