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Do You Need Softened Water for Your Veggie Garden?

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If you live in an area where hard water is more common than not, you may have considered the installation of a whole-house water softener to help give the water in your home a better feel and taste (not to mention to avoid the heavy wear and tear on your water-using appliances). However, extending an interior water softener system to your outdoor spigots can be a bit more of an involved process. Is it worth having softened water available for your lawn and garden needs, or should you concentrate only on softening the water inside your home? Read on to learn more about the effect of softened water on most plants and vegetables. 

How does soft water impact plants?

Hard water is "hard" because of its high mineral content -- usually calcium, lime, magnesium, and sometimes even iron. These minerals, in moderation, are an essential part of a healthy diet for humans, and plants are no different. In fact, one of the most common types of water softeners is the ion-exchange softener, which swaps out the calcium or magnesium molecules with sodium molecules from salt pellets. This process tends to raise the sodium content of the water slightly, which can actually make it worse for plants and flowers than the original hard water.

A reverse osmosis water softener is a better option when it comes to softening water without changing its other properties. This type of water softener forces the hard water through a permeable membrane, where the larger mineral molecules are strained out. You'll need to change this membrane periodically to ensure it maintains its filtration qualities, but shouldn't need to perform much other maintenance to keep your reverse osmosis water softener in good working condition. Because this system does not raise the sodium content of the water, the water will be safe to use on your garden as well.

Should you install a whole-house water softener to cover the outdoor spigots or sprinkler system as well?

Even though hard water isn't harmful to plants, it can cause mineral buildup and corrosion on the interior of any pipes or hoses routing water in (and around) your home. Over time, this buiildup can lead to expensive and hard-to-fix problems. For example, if you have an outdoor sprinkler system, you may find that it doesn't spray water with nearly as much force as it used to because the nozzles are clogged with debris and mineral residue.. By filtering out calcium and lime before the water is pushed through the tiny nozzles, you'll extend your sprinkler system's lifespan.