Is it worth the effort to remove chlorine from municipal water when watering your organic garden?

If you’re gardening in dead soil (dirt) and using chemical fertilizers, chlorine at the levels that are typical in municipal water (around 5 parts per million) won’t make much difference to your plant health and yield. But if your growing your plants organically, chlorine and chloramine should be a concern.

Chlorine at high levels in municipal tap water are toxic to plants, but some research has shown tap water to have little or no direct effect on plant growth and soil microbes. Some researchers say that microbes are killed only near the soil surface and since chlorine tends to bind rapidly to soil particles, many gardeners tend to regard chlorine in municipal water as a non-issue for plant health and yield.

That’s fine for growing plants in dirt but killing microbes in the soil’s top layer may be significant to the overall health of the soil ecosystem in an organic garden. Wiping out even an inch of topsoil microbes with chlorinated water could mean killing billions maybe even trillions of organisms in a home garden that are directly or indirectly helpful to plant growth and yields.

Isn’t it a contradiction in logical thinking to create a soil web of living microbes and then water those microbes with a chemical designed to kill microbes? Hmmm, sounds like a subject for a Democratic debate.  If you are gardening organically, I recommend you remove chlorine and chloramine as much as possible from irrigation water.

So, how do we do that? There are several ways. One way is to let water sit and aerate for 24 hours or shorten the time by injecting air creating bubbles. Works for small gardens but not very effective for chloramines. Another way is filtering the water, but filters can get expensive. You can use vitamin C 1000 mg per 30 gallons of water for eliminating both chlorine and chloramine. A simple and low-cost way is using Humic acids which rapidly binds or neutralizes both chlorine and chloramines.

You can buy Humic acid and add it to your water, a rather expensive method or you can use mother nature by creating conditions for a humate-rich garden.

Humic acids are naturally produced by decomposing mulch and organic matter, such as compost or vermicompost worked into the soil along with the root hairs that plants constantly grow and shed within the soil. Then create a filter layer made of moderate-to-high level decomposing organic soil matter covered by a thick mulch layer thick enough to maintain a moist, decomposing layer above the soil which will make Humic acid that in turn will breakdown the chlorine and chloramines. In addition, you’ll get the benefit of the minerals and trace elements being carried down through the compost layer to the plant’s roots.

Finally, water once a week with worm tea that will replenish any microbes killed in your filter layer which helps the decomposing of the organic soil matter that makes the Humic acid that eliminates the chlorine and chloramines from future watering. It’s such a simple process that even a caveman or woman could do.

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