I think I have found the root to my bonsai woes!

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I think I have found the root to my bonsai woes!

Post  rrubberbandman on Thu Aug 22, 2013 4:21 am

Hello,
About 1.5 years ago we moved into out new house.....before that we had a house with well water but no water softener filter system.....the new house has a softener and filter.....after reading the web for several hours I came to the realization that the softened water here has a small amount of salt in it....could this softened water be killing my bonsai slowly????
Thanks!
Bryan

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Re: I think I have found the root to my bonsai woes!

Post  prestontolbert on Thu Aug 22, 2013 4:53 am

Is your outside spigot even hooked up to the softener? Usually they aren't.

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Post  Guest on Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:40 am

Hi Bryan

Saltwater is really bad for the trees...I would buy, or find water elsewere, untill the problem is solved.

Kind regards Yvonne

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Re: I think I have found the root to my bonsai woes!

Post  rrubberbandman on Thu Aug 22, 2013 1:05 pm

Hi,
Even the outside spigots are hooked into system...its a true "whole house" water system......as of last week they are only getting watered with bottled purified water and or rain.
Funny the water taste fine........but it must have some salt in it....my plants vigor has surely gone down hill since living here.
Bryan

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Re: I think I have found the root to my bonsai woes!

Post  MrFancyPlants on Thu Aug 22, 2013 1:11 pm

Get a rain barrel to collect water from the roof/gutters. It'll save you money in the long run and it is the best water for the trees. I am actually in the market for one or two myself having moved in to my first house recently, more for the savings then for the water quality issues.

Good luck,
David

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Post  JADunnagan on Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:19 pm

I actually use a rain barrel made from a large plastic trash can with a spigot attached. I think it's using JB Weld but any good epoxy should do. Then I just cut a rectangle in the lid and fed a flexible gutter section from the down spout in to it. Works great.

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Re: I think I have found the root to my bonsai woes!

Post  rrubberbandman on Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:42 pm

sO GUYS/GAL,
What do you think using my"softened" water has done to my trees.???
This really has me worried.....oh well live and learn.
Thanks again!
How ironic my Fla. brush cherry seems to be doing the best....maybe it is more used to minute amounts of salt???
Bryan

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Re: I think I have found the root to my bonsai woes!

Post  MrFancyPlants on Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:11 pm

As long as they are still alive, I think they will recover. I have attended a few re-potting workshops at the national arboretum and Jack Sustic once gave a lecture before hand that showed the chemical reason that using gysum helps flush salts(I believe sodium in particular), from chemical fertilizers, from the soil. I am not positive if the water softening salts would be effected by gypsum in the same the same way, but some plants grow in pure gypsum, so a teaspoon sprinkled in each pot (I believe) wouldn't hurt. A some thorough waterings with some real rain water would certainly put them on the path to recovery.

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Re: I think I have found the root to my bonsai woes!

Post  JudyB on Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:12 pm

I'm in the process of discovering the same thing. I mostly use rainwater, but there are a few weeks every year that I have to auto-water from my system. I have one spigot that goes thru the softener, and one that doesn't. I'm going to run a new line to the other one, and get away from the softened side when I need to auto. As far as damage, I don't think there is anything that will be long term, just degradation of current health.

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Re: I think I have found the root to my bonsai woes!

Post  rrubberbandman on Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:13 pm

Laughing 
JudyB wrote:I'm in the process of discovering the same thing.  I mostly use rainwater, but there are a few weeks every year that I have to auto-water from my system.  I have one spigot that goes thru the softener, and one that doesn't.  I'm going to run a new line to the other one, and get away from the softened side when I need to auto.  As far as damage, I don't think there is anything that will be long term, just degradation of current health.

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Re: I think I have found the root to my bonsai woes!

Post  Jkd2572 on Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:34 pm

I would hire a plumber and take the outside water off the ro system. Seems like a needless tax on a very expensive system.

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Post  Velodog2 on Thu Aug 29, 2013 3:55 am

Check the alkalinity of your well water also. Very high alkalinity in my well water was sapping the life from my trees for years, and you are not located all that far from me. I use only rain water now.

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Post  63pmp on Thu Aug 29, 2013 7:54 am

You need to be certain it's a water softening unit.

A water softener is put in the water line between the street and the outlets in the house.  It is there because the town water is considered hard, hard enough that soap wont lather and the washing machine won't wash clothes clean.

These systems can put a lot of sodium into the water.  

Someone mention RO, which is reverse osmosis, these "filter" the town water of salts.  2 different things, I'm guessing your initial post is right, and that is in in fact a water softening unit.

This is what I would do,

Do you have a lot of marginal leaf burn on you plants?  This is the usual symptom of sodium/chloride toxicity.  The edges of the leaves just burn off and go crispy brown.  Or does the whole tree go "wilty" in warm weather? Or do you have both?

Adding gypsum to the potting mix can help in flushing out sodium from the potting mix, especially if you use anything that has CEC associated with it, eg zeolite.  About half a teaspoon of fine powdered gypsum per pot will do the job.  It takes awhile though, it's very slow to dissolve.  If your plants leaves are crispy on the edges you will need to supplement the plants with potassium.  I do not recommend regular fertilizer as the ammonium in it will make the problem worse, but I would suggest using potassium sulphate (aka sulfate of potash) which can be bought from a hardware, use at a rate of a half teaspoon per watering can (9l here in Oz, or 4 gallons I think in US), do this every second watering. This will also flush out the sodium.

It's possible your trees are also suffering from salinity (different to sodium) as water softeners just add more salt to the town water.  Do switch to rain water, it's the best, but if you can't, buy some demineralized water from the hardware/supermarket.  If too expensive or too many trees,  use the untreated town water.  

Don't expect magic results, it will take weeks for things to stabilize.

Some pictures would be beneficial.

Definitely get a water test done on the untreated town water, usually these are done by state agricultural extension services (called Dept of Primary Industries here in OZ). You need a comprehensive agricultural water test, this should give pH, EC, total alkalinity, dissolved solids, all the elements, as these tests are for stock drinking water quality.  

Regards

Paul

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Post  JudyB on Thu Aug 29, 2013 1:28 pm

Excellent information, thank you Paul. If the damage has already been done to the leaf, and rain water is used in the future, is there any advantage to using the potash at this point of the season?

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Re: I think I have found the root to my bonsai woes!

Post  63pmp on Thu Aug 29, 2013 2:01 pm

Yes, potassium is essential for plant health where it is used in many different cellular functions, and especially in stomata guard cells. Of all the elements it is one of the most important.

I think it would be beneficial as it will improve plant health, and speed recovery.

Regards

Paul


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Re: I think I have found the root to my bonsai woes!

Post  rrubberbandman on Thu Aug 29, 2013 7:32 pm

Thanks everyone!

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