Chlorine Removal Gardening

Chlorine Removal Gardening

Understanding and How To Manage Chlorine in Gardens

Chlorine removal gardening is often misunderstood. Most gardeners are aware that Chlorine can prove to be harmful to their plants, choosing rain water as a means to keep their plants healthy and hydrated over tap water from the spigot.

[quote]Chlorine kills—that’s why it’s added to municipal or city water sources, so that water does not get contaminated easily as it travels to the end and out of your tap.[/quote]

For organic, soil and soilless growers Chlorine removal gardening means plants perform better because the natural healthy soil web of life that transforms organic matter into nutrients for plants relies on microbial life that is killed off by Chlorine. Brewers and Pond Enthusiasts are other people that often count on water quality.

Chlorine kills—that’s why it’s added to municipal or city water sources, so that water does not get contaminated easily as it travels to the end and out of your tap.

Levels over 0.2 PPM (parts per million) kill off microbial life, making Chlorine removal gardening important.  Most tap water is formulated and engineered to come out of the tap end at around 0.5 PPM and retain near 0.2 PPM four to twenty four hours after coming out of the tap, ie to help keep the cold water jug in your fridge from contamination. For organic growers, whether soil, soilless or hydroponics Chlorine will harm the living forces that make these methods work.

Now what about the other end of the Chlorine spectrum?  Conventional hydroponic growers often prefer to keep recirculating nutrient solutions free of microbial activity, as the nutrient they supply in careful formulations are already in forms available to the plant (no microbes required)

Some studies actually show that plants grow the fastest when there is no microbial competition at the roots—however that is typically not a sustainable situation…build it, and they will come: microbes are in the air and water already.  It’s more about keeping populations in check or conversely, keeping populations of beneficial microbes, leaving no room for the “bad guys”.

So how exactly does Chloride (Cl-) fit in with hydroponics?

Most experienced hydroponics or water culture growers agree that the most practical and effective way to use Chloride (the base molecule in chlorine) is to Zap the water free of pathogens before it is introduced to the cropping system, and from there either:

i) keep the solution sterile or

ii) introduce only populations of beneficial microbes or organic nutrient sources and maintain optimal conditions favouring beneficial microbes.

How to REMOVE Chlorine for Hydroponics and Gardening

Most tap water sources will contain some form of chlorine, requiring chlorine removal gardening.  Chloramines are more prevalent as of late in City water supplies because it is cheaper over the longer term to consistently treat larger volumes of water.  The persistence and stability of chlorine in Chloramine form makes Chloramines harder to remove—and to measure at home.

More traditional and common forms of Chlorine additions are easier to remove, although not any less important to do so for the health of micro-biology assisting in the health of your soil and the food crops you grow.

If you leave water out overnight, especially if stirred or aerated, a lot of the Chlorine (so long as it’s not as Chloramines) will be reduced significantly.  However, it doesn’t take much to harm microbiology for plants, and unless you can teat for Free Chlorine levels and Chloramines you are only guessing.

The easiest and most effective way to do this job is via Activated Carbon filtration.  Depending on what kind of filter you choose, it’s totally possible to water from your hose by turning the spigot while removing Chlorine to at or near Zero levels in real time.  No waiting overnight to water the garden!

KDF Activated Carbon is intended for removing or greatly reducing Chloramines—if you have a City Water supply, this is probably what you will need.  Otherwise, a good quality activated carbon water dechlorinator filter will do the job and costs a little less to buy.

Selecting a Water Filter for Chlorine Removal Gardening:

How often will you be using it, and do you need to use a lot of water?

If not often and not much, a simple and inexpensive inline type like a GroGreen will get the job done, and on a budget.  Usually, you’ll want to fill your water barrel with this type, as flow rates are restricted (what is needed for effective Chlorine removal, ie sufficient contact time).

Above: Professional level dechlorinators will also have a sediment filter

If you are really into your gardening, you don’t have time for slower flow rates to keep up with cropping demands.  In this case you’ll want to step up to something like this Tall Boy DeChlorinator available with Regular or KDF Carbon.  Besides having very high flow rates while offering super effective Chlorine removal it also has a sediment filter that makes your carbon filter last longer while removing things like metals from tap water.

Note: the junior version of the Tall Boy, ie the Small Boy offers exceptional value with pro-level performance and components.

Above: Not so Ideal? This filter was shipped to us with the Sediment Filter AFTER the Carbon Filter, significantly decreasing the potential life of the Carbon Filter used to remove Chlorine. Easy to fix with the Filter Wrench supplied.

Following the manufacturers directions, as they can vary slightly from model to model and brand to brand, you will be set to build and restore the natural microbiology and fertility in your soil.  Make sure to change the filters as recommended. 

How to ADD Chlorine for Hydroponics & Gardening

Now after all that discussion about REMOVING Chlorine, why would somebody want to ADD Chlorine for water intended to cultivate crops?

In some situations, particularly in water culture growing methods for hydroponics (ie no growing media, bare roots), having micro-biology may not be welcome.  In warmer growing conditions, bare rooted plants are highly susceptible to outbreaks of pathogens, ie root disease causing micro organisms.  Remember, they don’t have a healthy living web of soil or soilless media to protect them.

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Keeping it clean counts in water culture.  Hypochlorous Acid is a more recent offering to mainstream hydroponic producers and is showing to be effective in keeping pathogens from multiplying to disease causing levels in warmer temperatures. It is added to reservoirs during change outs with levels being topped up in between. Stay tuned for more experimentation in this area via Grozine.

Above: UC Roots helps keep bare roots hygenic and clean

How to ADD Beneficial Microbes for Hydroponics & Gardening

Now that we have mastered Chlorine removal gardening,  what about a healthier living web of microbiology for plant growth, kick starting or re-charging populations of healthy living microbes?

For sure!  This is a great thing to do, and here’s a few great easy ways to do it:

compost; biologically rich and active compost can be top dressed and worked into medias or pre-mixed into blends.  example: earth worm castings

microbial inoculants; these are specially formulated for growing crops and contain the right types and proportions of healthy Colony Forming Units (measured in CFUs on the product label). example: liquid formulations like Root Igniter are easy to apply directly to plants with watering

brewing aerobic compost teas; this combines aspects of both Compost and Microbial Inoculants; organic materials like earth worm castings, kelp meal, unsulphated molasses are brewed in a highly aerated vat, sometimes with the addition of beneficial microbes, to create a very rich and active blend of microbes and micro nutrients that nourish both plants and soil (or soilless) beds and containers. NOT recommended for application through drip irrigation.

-use organic nutrients; build it, and they will come!

Click HERE for more on Aerobic Tea Brewing for Your Gardens

About Erik Biksa 247 Articles
Erik Biksa has been writing about and discussing hydroponics growing, related technologies and cropping methods since 1999 in a variety of professional publications and platforms globally Erik has travelled the world learning and teaching modern growing techniques and technologies and is appreciated by many growers for his informative yet hands on approaches. Presently, he is the Editor at Grozine Hydroponics Mag.