Water quality

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Having been growing paphs for about 2 years, I still have a lot to learn. I’v frequently read that paphs and phrags are fussy about what kind of water you use. Is this true? For every variety or just plants with certain species in their background? I have too many plants to be able to use distilled water and can’t afford an R/O system, but I could maybe filter the tap water. I finally decided to get a TDS meter, it just hasn’t arrived yet. I also ordered some pH test strips. We don’t have a water softener, so I’ve been using water straight from the tap. Thanks
 

tomp

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Having been growing paphs for about 2 years, I still have a lot to learn. I’v frequently read that paphs and phrags are fussy about what kind of water you use. Is this true? For every variety or just plants with certain species in their background? I have too many plants to be able to use distilled water and can’t afford an R/O system, but I could maybe filter the tap water. I finally decided to get a TDS meter, it just hasn’t arrived yet. I also ordered some pH test strips. We don’t have a water softener, so I’ve been using water straight from the tap. Thanks
First question is are your plants happy?
 

Ray

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All orchids appear to do better with low-EC water (i.e., low dissolved solids content), but that doesn't necessarily mean they require it. A great deal depends upon the quality of your tap water. Where do you live? Have you checked with your water provider?

Be wary trusting the numbers as-is from your TDS meter. Read this.
 

mormodes

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It's been my experience that paphs are picky about water. I say that because my tap water is crap. So to me they are 'picky' because I can't just hose them down like many of my friends that live in different water districts can. I have to amend the water. But having said that I use tap water and sometimes I get my paphs to bloom. Things like villosum and spicerianum regularly bloom for me. Nothing else does. When I dilute the tap water with 50% r/o that I buy from a water store I get better growths. Still waiting on blooms.

That said there is absolutely nothing wrong with going through the exercise and learning as much as you can about your water, its pH, minerals, hardness etc. Familiarize yourself with your water district's annual report. Understanding your water will make you a better grower, it will make you understand what compromises you can make in growing your orchids if you choose to depart from optimal conditions and give you a reference point to understand (or discount) advice. For example, once you put fertilizer in your tap water the pH changes, and it might drop to an acceptable level for nutrients to be absorbed by the plant. The TDS might be OK or OK-ish too. So maybe you find out it's not your water, Great! Now you can focus on things like temp and light and top dressing and all the other bs that drives us batty about growing paphs. But at least you did the work and ruled something out.

The AOS had a webinar by John Salventi that finally made sense to me about how fertilizer and water quality go hand in hand and made me understand why water quality was important in letting plants uptake nutrients. I found it on their webpage, and of course it's members only (darn them). But I think you can go back through discussions here and find decent advice on what water quality levels to shoot for. Or go to the St Augustine Orchid Society website and noodle through their culture sheets. They tell you the straight dope. Dyna-Gro had a decent couple of pages about fertilizer and water quality, too. If you like books a basic book that will give you standard quality levels for culture is the Rebecca Northern book Home Orchid Growing. Or the Ortho book argh, I think it's called All About Growing Orchids. I mention books because are a reference guide that can be available you when the internet isn't.
 

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If you look on the used market you can get a good RO system fairly inexpensively, there are always aquarists upgrading or leaving the hobby with gear for sale.

I used RO for the 2019 and 2020 growing seasons with excellent growth, last year I switched to carbon filtered tap because my water line to the greenhouse failed and I didn't have time to deal with it. I've seen a distinct reduction in mature growth size and bud count this year, though I also wasn't as diligent with feeding so I can't pin it completely on water. That being said I'm working now to get my RO system back up and running in hopes of 2022 being a better year of growth.
 

gego

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Rain is good and free, just need to catch it. Make sure you don't have any metallic component that may contaminate the water.
pH meter, a good one is very important.
Check the website of your water supply and find the quality report.
A TDS of 300- to 350 is good enough...the pH is normally maintained at 7 by your water provider...with your fertilizer, you will need to adjust the pH. The value depends on your media.
Make your mix then document it. What you added to come up with the right pH should be recorded and the final TDS...Now you can make your mix everytime you need it...no need to check pH all the time. Checking TDS is a good test if you have doubts you forgot what you mixed..LOL...Checking pH once a month is good...when you get a good one with a probe, you will understand what I mean, cleaning and storing the probe is a pain.
Check the micros in the report, iron, Fe is usually higher than others...something to consider in your final mix. Sodium and chloride are usually high in water with very high TDS...
Experiment...goodluck.
 

gego

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Then you have a lot of rain and snow. Get lots of plastic container to store them. I use those big trash plastic container. Any plastic container will do...if you don't need alot. I take fresh snow in a container when it melts you get good water. Do not trust the rain you get from your gutter from your roof. Unless you know nothing is dissolving in it. If it's raining hard,
don't catch the first 15 mins.
Use this water to mix your tap, 50/50 is good.
But if you have a lot if rain, most likely your tap has low TDS.
 
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Having been growing paphs for about 2 years, I still have a lot to learn. I’v frequently read that paphs and phrags are fussy about what kind of water you use. Is this true? For every variety or just plants with certain species in their background? I have too many plants to be able to use distilled water and can’t afford an R/O system, but I could maybe filter the tap water. I finally decided to get a TDS meter, it just hasn’t arrived yet. I also ordered some pH test strips. We don’t have a water softener, so I’ve been using water straight from the tap. Thanks
First Rays has an RO for $175. Changed my orchid life.
 

Ray

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Probably not an issue.

The only thing to possibly be wary of is the zinc from the roof, but truthfully, I don’t know how much of a concern that is, considering that the zinc is tightly bonded to the steel substrate, and the exposed surface will oxidize a bit, making it insoluble, plus, the contact time is minimal.
 

Happypaphy7

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First of all, you don't want to use water softer. It just adds more chemical to the water and can't be good for plants.
Second, while pure water with a little bit of mineral and nutrients dissolved (as orchids would get in the wild) may be ideal, if your plants grow and bloom well for you, then, I don't think you need to be concerned too much.
According to an article I read, Huntington Gardens in California use tap water (or well water) with very high mineral content on their plants. They have some amazing specimen sized things like Paphiopedilum stonei and micranthum to name just a few.
Also, although not to this degree of excellence, my family in Germany also grow great plants (Phalaenopsis hybrids, complex bulldog paphs and maudiae type hybrids, Brassavola nodosa) using their tap water which has several hundred ppm mineral contents.
So, there is something to think about regarding your water.

I use my tap water but I live in NYC where the water has only around 40ppm TDS and add fertilizer to this water every now and then.
To me, improper temperature range and low humidity are the main hurdle being an indoor grower in a city apartment.
 
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