E/Quality of water
I’m often asked what sort of water is best to use. I always reply “rain water” but is all water equal for the plants. Do they really care? The answer is – yes but not for the reasons you might think.
Rain water has special qualities that can give your plants a boost. Especially after a thunderstorm. While the wind and hail are not wanted in the garden, the lightening chemical reaction adds nitrogen to the water and explains the extra flush you can see after a thunder storm. Nitrogen is important for plants to produce the green pigment chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is used in by the plant when making food from the sunlight in a process called photosynthesis.
Nitrogen actually makes up 78% of the atmosphere but in a form the plant cannot access. Plants get their nitrogen from other sources. Nitrogen can come from added fertilisers, the decomposition of organic matter in the soil, and organisms that can break down atmospheric nitrogen into something usable. Plants can also get their nitrogen from high-energy processes in the atmosphere, like solar radiation and lightning, which is where thunderstorms come in. The enormous heat and pressure that lightning generates provides enough energy to break down and convert atmospheric nitrogen into a reactive form of nitrogen. When mixed with oxygen and water in the atmosphere the resulting rainfall will contain greater levels of nitrates and ammonium. The total amount of nitrogen in rainfall varies depending on where you live and the season. Once the raindrops reach the ground, they release the ammonium and nitrates into the soil can then be used by plants. Bacteria and fungi in the soil can further transform the available nitrogen in a process known as nitrification. Legumes are particularly helpful for this and that’s why we plant legumes as a manure crop.
So how does tap water compare? Some tap water is more alkaline (a higher pH) or saltier (have a higher ionic strength) than others. Tap water has often been treated to be safe as drinking water and may have higher levels of chloride and to a lesser extent, fluoride. Prolonged watering with this can stop the plant from taking up available nitrates. Letting water sit for these salts to evaporate is effective with small amounts of water but not so much with a larger reservoir.
As gardeners, we want a slightly acidic pH because it makes nutrients more available for plants and is better for overall soil health. Rainwater varies depending on where your drinking water is sourced but is generally slightly acidic (pH 5.6) – Tap water is more alkaline (between pH 6-8.5). So certain tap waters can work against you and your plants. Having a water tank from your downpipe into a holding tank for watering the garden is one option to ensure you have the best water for your garden. This also buffers you from the water restrictions we seem to be having every summer. Make sure the tank is light proof to ensure it doesn’t grow unwanted algae and you will keep your plants happy in more ways than one.
Water is termed Hard when there is a high mineral content. Usually a build-up of calcium and magnesium in the water. Hard water is formed when water percolates through deposits of limestone and chalk which are largely made up of calcium and magnesium carbonates. This tends to leave the calcium and the Magnesium in a form that will leave mineral deposits on the plumbing. Boiling is one way to soften water but is often impractical in larger quantities. Depending on the type of water hardness you can soften the water by adding hydrated lime (limewater) – Calcium hydroxide – sounds counterproductive to add a calcium based product I know, but what is happening is that the hard water contains charged calcium and this reacts with the lime water and causes the excess calcium to now precipitate from the water leaving it softer.
We are now down to our last few cartons of Rok solid – 4Kg. We have a couple of 10kg Rok solid bags left so for the months of April and May we have decided that for each month we will have a competition. The prize will be a 10kg bag of Rok solid as the first prize and a 10Kg bag of Rocket lime as the second prize. To enter you will need to come in store, every $25 spent will give you one entry into the draw.
We have had a huge month with the Autopots. The XL pots and the fabric Smart pots have been very popular both for growing hydroponically with the Autopot Nutrient and also for growing organically with a good quality potting mix and plain water in the tank.
This year I tried using the organic way of growing using Autopots. At first, I’m sure I overdid the liquid top feed and actually knocked my plants back. I then ignored them and I have been rewarded with a stunning crop of orange tomatoes – the Orange Grape variety given to me by one of our customers.
My favourite tomato this year in the AutoPot has definitely been the Black from Tula. Potentially an ugly looking tomato if not pollinated fully, these tomatoes are large and tasty. I will definitely be growing them again. The orange Grape variety is another I will definitely grow again. They have beautiful trusses, are tasty and have a long production period. They are still going strong after 5 months with little care.
My “Ghost” chilli – variety “Bhut Jolokia” has also been a star performer – in fact it had so many chillies on it that it toppled over last weekend bringing its season to an untimely end. Next year I will be growing one in an XL pot for a little more stability and using some trellis netting as well as the frame we tried in the pots. If your interested in these chilli come in the store and for a gold coin donation to HUHA you can grab some.
Currently in the greenhouse I have an Okra growing. I also have some in the outdoor garden but these are not performing outdoor as well as in the Autopot where it gets more heat. I’ve never grown these before, so I am fascinated with the way the flowers and fruit are developing. I’m also on the lookout for some recipes on how to use them.
One customer emailed us the interesting results of his chilli trial comparing soil to Autopot growing. This is what he sent ….
Thought I might send you some feedback about my first serious run with the autopots.
I bought the 2 pot starter kit, then expanded with a 4 pot kit off the same reservoir. Medium was a 50 litre bag of clayballs + 50 litre compressed block mixed up in a wheelbarrow.
Really interesting result for the superhot chillis (closeups are of the Yellow Carolina Reaper pods and leaves) I’m growing Trinidad Scorpions, Yellow Carolina Reapers and Chocolate Bhutlahs.
All the plants were germinated from seed at the same time, same packet, same method and basically treated the same way until they landed in the big pots. Difference is that I moved the plants in dirt pots from 18 litre to 33 litre pots after they got massive root balls. The dirt pots have been getting doses of Fish,Blood and Bone (Yates Thrive) and some tomato fertiliser. Once they started fruiting they got a shot of potash.
For the autopots, I used the Easy2Grow liquid until the flowers started opening, then went to Mr Bloom.
The dirt pots have don’t have as many pods, much smaller leaves but fruiting very slightly earlier (about 2 weeks ahead of the autopots at a rough guess)
The photo with the many large and evil looking pods are from the autopot plants. That photo is 4 pods coming off the same branch point.
For ease of care though, the autopots have been a dream. Peer at the water level, top up when required, 10ml/litre of nutrient. As for taste..I have no idea. These badboys are in the 1million+ on the SHU heat scale…you don’t have a whole lot of time to ponder the “fruitiness and delicate undertones” before it blows your head off ?. Going to make some awesome sauces though.
The pride and joy of one of our customers is a Munzano Chilli hedge. I love the way customers come in for a chat about what they are growing. We had been discussing the joys of chilli sauce when he showed me his chilli hedge. Unfortunately I lost the copy I tried to take of it. So Next time he comes in I’ll try to get it again.
Heather tripped on the stair at work in early February. Ponics and I have missed her terribly and the Garden is in dire need of her care and attention. Hopefully the bumps Heather has had in her recovery are now in the past. We’re definitely looking forward to her return.