Well water provides a natural, clean way to grow amazing food. However, it poses a few extra problems for gardens that many people don’t consider.
Testing Your Water for Gardens
Here’s the short version: if your water is tested annually and safe for drinking, it’s probably safe for gardens as well. Plants are a lot more robust than human digestive systems. They can take on minerals and certain bacteria without any change to their growth.
However, contaminants in water can definitely cause plants to grow improperly. You can even make your vegetables unsafe for consumption—but like we said, if you’re drinking the water, filtering it through a plant isn’t going to make it worse.
Watch for fertilizer runoff from crops into wells. This can introduce pathogens into the plant and therefore the crop. Fertilizer next to the plant is great, fertilizer in the water supply is bad.
Water Temperature Issues
Gardens are used to water that is about the same temperature as the environment. When you pull well water, you’re pulling cool water. Plants that like warm climates will have to work harder to heat up the water, and the cool water can stop roots from growing deep. You may have to move well water through a heating system before feeding it into your irrigation system.
Careful With Fertilizer and Pesticides
Fertilizer and pesticides can be a lifesaver for a home garden, but if your garden is close to your well you could contaminate the water supply! Try to use fertilizer and pesticides downhill from the well, and make sure to test the water after using them.
Using a Drip System With a Well
If you want awesome vegetables and herbs that are flourishing, you’ll need to install a drip irrigation system. While municipal water systems often standardize pressure which can make it easy, you’ll need a bit more know-how to take on a drip system with a well.
Buy an Extra Filter
Even if you have a well that has a filtration system, it can’t hurt to buy an extra filter for only a few bucks. Since drip systems rely on small openings and precise pressure, you can create big problems if there is even a bit of rust and debris build up in the plumbing. Don’t skip the filter. Don’t let your emitters get clogged!
Make Sure You Have Plenty of Pressure
Drip irrigation relies on the ability to quickly open and close small valves to control pressure. Without enough pressure, things won’t close or open properly. Checking the flow of your system is essential to a good garden irrigation system.
Additionally, you should have a pressure regulator installed to ensure the drip system gets the right amount of pressure. Well tanks are usually above 40 psi, but a drip system needs around 30. With too much pressure you can start damaging your system or even spring a leak that drowns your bell peppers!
Make Sure You Get Enough Water
Wells have a limited amount of output. A drip irrigation system doesn’t need much water, but it can be the final strain that puts you just over the edge.
You can calculate roughly the amount of water your well produces by using a 5 gallon bucket. If you fill it in about a minute, it’s about 5 gallons a minute. Irrigation systems put a longer strain on your well system by using gallons per hour. A well that produces about 5 gallons every minute is going to output nearly three hundred gallons an hour. Most drip systems put out between a half gallon and a gallon every hour—and you have to multiply that by the number of emitters which are on the line.
Bottom line: irrigation systems aren’t going to add an obscene amount of water usage, but they will certainly bump it up. If you’re already straining your system, you may want to consider adding capacity to your system.