Soil PH and Hard Water
I know many on this forum are blessed with more rainfall than we are here in SW KS and the OK Panhandle. And so I'm sure you may not experience to the extent what I have. But thought this might be of interest to some of you.
I have gardened over 40 years. In 08 and 09 we had record setting droughts here. I saw problems I hadn't seen before to the extent that I did in these years. I've always known problems here are worse in years of drought. And overall I had what I would term good plant health. But I started noticing more disease issues and signs of less than optimum plant health. So in the fall of 08 I had a soil test ran by the Kansas State horticulture lab. It showed a high PH level and also high levels of N-P-K and most minerals. I blamed it on all the manure and mulch I'd been adding. Followed their suggestions and retested last fall. This time I had samples tested by two labs. One is an independent lab. PH levels were better but still high. The same with the other levels they were still high also. The independent lab said to flood the garden area and the Kansas extension service said not too. I was puzzled. After more research I found the reason the KS lab says too use flooding as a last resort is that the water here is very hard. When buying headstones if you mention the Elkhart cemetery they all warn you about the very hard water here and what too do and what to avoid so headstones don't get ruined.Although this whole area has hard water. Ours is the hardest around. I've since read several articles on hard water and garden irrigation. I will attach a link to just one of the articles I've found. Hard water often has calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate which are components of limestone. So in effect every time you water you are adding liquid lime to the soil. So flooding with my water if anything will make it worse unless you add something to the water or to the soil beforehand. I've learned many of the farmers use soil consultants and there are commercial fertilizers and other treatments that help to lower the PH and other high levels or in effect counter act the hard water. There are some organic means also. Of course the best thing is rain and snow. And letting it leach it out. Also the hard water is one reason for some of the other elevated levels. After reading the water report from the city that I have tossed in the past I can see a correlation between what mineral levels is high in the water and also in my garden. One research site even says Miracle Gro fertilizer works well in potting soil and in the garden to offset the hard water and PH issues. But didn't mention what is has that makes it beneficial. So I never flooded like the independent lab said. I'm sure they had no idea my water is this hard. And I didn't even think about the two being connected so didn't mention it. Will follow and combine many of their other suggestions. Guess knowing an area has it's benefits. Hopefully like the KSU horticulturist says if rainfall amounts return to normal the levels will moderate. In the mean time will add the additives and see how things do. I'm trying to use organic methods if possible.
I did see what I called variegated foliage on several tomato plants last summer during one period. Yellow or partially yellow leaves with bright green stems and veins. Although I don't overhead water. I now know what it is and what causes it. Would of been pretty except I knew those varieties shouldn't be variegated and that I had a problem. At that time I didn't know what.
This is the first time I had connected hard water(akaline) water with PH and mineral levels and problems. Maybe I'm the only slow one around. But decided to share what I've learned. And possible ways to at least control it and garden successfully. Jay
Here is a link that might be useful: Hard water irrigation