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masaccio

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With the recent uptick in my orchid numbers, I'm using more water, which means more trips to the store to buy it, and more shlepping of gallons and gallons of water into the house. My unsoftened well-water will practically take the skin off your hide, and a few years ago I noticed a Phal. schilleriana objecting to the softened stuff.
Given my light fertilizing solution of roughly 25ppm nitrogen used continually for watering 2-3 times a week as needed from plant to plant (which I've noticed over a few years seems perfectly adequate for a general mixed collection and with no ill effects - Thank you, Ray), I wondered if I could get away with mixing half spring water with half of the softened stuff out of the tap.
Long ago I bought an Omega TDH-5031 which I used today to perform tests. I calibrated it to 0.0 using distilled water. I tested my fertilizer solution with spring water at 250ppm. Then tested the water out of the tap at 350ppm. Not really knowing what I was doing I expected a half and half solution between the two to be 300ppm. But no. It was 270. Interesting. I repeated the test with the same results. My conclusion, based on available knowledge (admittedly weak) and measuring implements, is that mixing my store-bought stuff with half tap water at a 50/50 ratio would be acceptable for any but hyper-sensitive species.
 

Ray

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1) Do not - EVER - use softened water. The sodium content can be toxic, and even if it’s not immediately, the NaCl will build up in the medium over time.

2) Your meter is an inexpensive electrical conductivity (EC) meter with an arbitrary conversion to TDS. The EC of the solution is the net of all of the conductivities provided by the positive and negative ions in solution. By mixing two different solutions, apparently some of the ions in one counteracted the conductivity of those in the other, giving you an EC different from the average, which is “converted” to the TDS..
 

eds

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Depending upon where you are in the world, either collect enough of the stuff that falls out if the sky and use that from a nice clean roof or get an RO unit (or do both as you'll inevitably run short of enough rain when you need it most!)

The initial outlay will soon be recouped compared to purchased water, not to mention the savings in petrol costs and chiropractor sessions when you don't have to fetch it from a store...
 

abax

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I placed a 50 gal. plastic barrel under a down spout and covered it with two layers of plastic mesh and a top and it
stays filled most of the time in KY. It's worked well for years.
 

monocotman

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I have four rain barrels linked together in a series so when one is filled, the overflow from that fills the next one, then the next one etc.
works very well,
David
 

Ozpaph

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i have a 5000l rainwater tank draining from our roof (compulsory where we live). Small RO unit for the misting system.
 

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it's a one time setup deal.... well worth the initial hassle... remember that depending on your needs, rubbermaid makes a lot of different sized trash cans that are pretty cheap (besides re-using plastic 50 gal drums used for food grade transport - they are 15$ in my area)... and pump options from sump pumps to a simple all in one shallow well pump rig can work... depends on how you like to water...
 

masaccio

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I decided to go ahead and mix a half and half gallon of my regular solution with my softened water. I thought that since paphs ought to be repotted annually anyway, how bad could it be. Then I remembered something about "salts" bonding with sphagnum so they can't be leached. I have some of my favorite paphs in sphagnum. The result is that I realized the folly of taking the risk. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and my current solution has been outstanding. Rainwater makes sense. I can pursue that. RO would be great, but I can't justify the waste on a well system.
 

Mike_B.

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I only have 25 plants (mixed genera) , so I buy distilled water from the grocery store. I spray it on clay pots to keep the humidity up and mix with MSU for fertilizing. Winter is my biggest demand for keeping humidity up, but even then I don't use more than 4 gallons per week. At 80-95 cents per gallon, it's a pretty good deal for my set up (except for the "schlepping" :)
 

masaccio

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Thank you for sharing! I've been guarding my clay pots for years - I will not give them away even when I want to move an orchid on to someone else. But in my current space, like yourself, I struggle many winter days for humidity between 35-40%. For me, clay pots are just a no-no, except for vandacious types that tend to want a quick wet-dry cycle. My catts languish in clay pots. We're comparable in the number of plants. I have an even 30 now, not counting two paphs that I'm expecting. When I go to the store, I buy at least 16 gallons of spring water, which is all that will fit in the grocery cart, and that I feel I can get away with without raised eyebrows from the checkout person. Is distilled cheaper? It really isn't a matter of cost - roughly a buck a gallon where I am. I have this illusion, though, that I have better things to do with my time. I don't know about that. My fear is that I'm going to run out of good water at a critical point. That hasn't actually happened but it could. Contingency plans are always good. That's really what I'm after. Cheers!
 

masaccio

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"Shlepping" Where are you/from?
Anyway. Get an R.O. System make/store gallon bottles of water if you have the room.
NYC. Not from there, but spent 35 years there. La même chose.
 

masaccio

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it's a one time setup deal.... well worth the initial hassle... remember that depending on your needs, rubbermaid makes a lot of different sized trash cans that are pretty cheap (besides re-using plastic 50 gal drums used for food grade transport - they are 15$ in my area)... and pump options from sump pumps to a simple all in one shallow well pump rig can work... depends on how you like to water...
Excellent support. Thanks!
 

masaccio

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I have four rain barrels linked together in a series so when one is filled, the overflow from that fills the next one, then the next one etc.
works very well,
David
Dude! Very cool. I'd sort've thought about that. I have a good setup for that design. One wonders what happens during the winter. I guess you just drain them all and make do until spring happens again.
 

abax

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Depends on the size of the catch tanks. My 50. gal. doesn't completely freeze in the winter. Sometimes I. have to knock
a hole in the top crust.
 

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If you don't like waste water from RO, get a deionizing column. They are fast, as well, and a big one won't require regeneration TOO often.
 

monocotman

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Winter is no problem, we only have a few frosts. No problem with ice. The excess water from the last barrel drains via a hosepipe into our pond,
David
 

Ray

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Then I remembered something about "salts" bonding with sphagnum so they can't be leached. I have some of my favorite paphs in sphagnum. RO would be great, but I can't justify the waste on a well system.
The “salts can’t be leached” thing is a myth. Sphagnum acts more like a natural sponge than as an ion trap. The salts might be readily available to redissolve when wetted, allowing them to be concentrated to toxic levels, but are very difficult to remove without repeated soaking and squeezing, which we don’t do to potting media.

I don’t understand the concern over RO system use on a well. You can always run the flush water back into the well, giving you zero waste, but most folks find use for it elsewhere - spilling onto the greenhouse floor for humidity, use it to water less-sensitive yard/garden plants, etc. I was on a well in PA and used mine to fill an artificial pond outside of my greenhouse, which the local fauna loved. For in-the-home use, there are “zero waste” kits that use a pressure pump to inject the water into your hot water lines.
 
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