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pH and nutrient availability to your orchids

This is a discussion on pH and nutrient availability to your orchids within the General Orchid Culture forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; I would be interested in a discussion regarding the pH of your water - whether ...

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  1. #1
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    Default pH and nutrient availability to your orchids

    I would be interested in a discussion regarding the pH of your water - whether you review and adjust that pH when watering your orchids.
    The pH of water determines the availability of many nutrients. I have read that Phosphorus is only available to the orchid where the water pH is between 6.0 and 7.5. Many nutrients, including zinc and others are only available at pH readings between 5 and 6 or slightly higher. I adjust the pH of my water supply to 6.0, after adding any fertilizers.
    Do many of you also adjust your water pH before using?

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    Absolutely. After testing our tap and finding it having a pH of 10.0 I just could not believe it. I went to our water company's web site for a water properties print out, and sure enough, our water pH averages 9.8 to 10.0. I think everyone should test their water source. You can get the test strips from aquarium supply stores, among other sources and they are relatively inexpensive. The way I see it, without the proper pH, you are simply wasting your time feeding your orchids.

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    Mitch, that is also my feeling. If a plant can not take up the nutrients due to the alkalinity or extreme acidity of the water - you might as well just give them water.
    I have found that extreme alkalinity in the Midwest to be common - you in MO and myself in IN. Would also be interesting to hear from other regions as well as other countries.
    I use a liquid test kit which will give you hundreds of tests for pennies per test. I then employ a liquid pH down product that brings my pH from over 8.5 to around 6.0 with only 2 tsp. of product in 3 gal. of water. And, as you know, the results are instantaneous. Just do NOT use a pH product like this to alter the pH of aquarium water - lethal to aquatic animals.

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    Don, this is a very subjective matter, which will encompass many other properties like growing media for instance and also general growing practices. For eg. water can be hard without without having an alkaline pH. Water can also not be hard or alkaline, but still unfit because of ions like sodium. Alkaline water (but not very hard) can be used for orchids, if they are grown in pine bark, peat or coconut fibre products as these substances are acidic and slowly leach out their complex organic acids and neutralize the pH. Also orchid roots themselves produce chelating compounds like humic and fulvic acids which will solubalize the nutrients in the local environment of the root. If you want to be precise, then I like water which has a electrical conductivity of 600-800Ás (roughly 400 to 600 mg/l total dissolved solids TDS) and a pH of 6. This water will be the best in respects of ionic strength and nutrient availability. Raw starting water can have a conductivity between 50 to 100ÁS (mine has 65ÁS) The remaining should be contributed by your balanced water soluble fertlizer roughly 0.5 g/l.

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    Don another interesting fact for you, would be that most commercial pH down products are nothing but phosphoric acid buffered with potassium phosphate, you can actually use coke (yes contains a lot of phosphoric acid and can dissolve your teeth and bones if you let them stand in it for a couple of hours !!!) (Coca cola) to do the same at much less cost. Coke also has pesticides in it, so it serves dual purpose. I have been using it for a long time for my orchids, also the sugar is a plus. Just dilute 20 ml coke per litre of water and it is really good for orchids.

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    Whoa Amey, you just made my head explode. Looks like I have some serious research to do. In the mean time I think what we are striving for, on a novice level, is correcting what we can for improved results. Factors such as cation exchange capacity, for example, may have little or no relevance in what potting medium is being used. In other words, I have no idea but I would certainly enjoy learning!

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    Good question. Thanks Amey for the explanation!! Question - since the coke products here are not made with real sugar, will that matter?

    Cheers,
    BD

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    I hope cleaning up the brain splatter was not much work Mitch LOL ! To make things simple for you what I mean is that, adjusting pH can or cannot be a good idea. The products that lower or increase the pH are also some kind of salts, so they will increase the salt content (total dissolved solids) in your water, so even then the plants cannot absorb the nutrients even if the pH is right. On the contrary high salt concentration will harm your orchids more than just the plain water without the right pH.
    To sum it up, the only real way to make adjustments, is to start with the purest water possible like rain water, distilled water or RO water and add the ions you need in the right amounts. Unlike in India where I have the best water source for my orchids, here in Bremen the water is very hard (pH 7) but about 200 mg/l of dissolved solids. So I dilute 1 part of this water with 2 parts RO water and then add 0.5 gm of fertilizer, this works for me. Try and keep the starting water free of salts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brutal_Dreamer View Post
    Good question. Thanks Amey for the explanation!! Question - since the coke products here are not made with real sugar, will that matter?

    Cheers,
    BD
    Bruce I think they use High fructose corn syrup in the US, it is not much of a difference. Sucrose is also composed of glucose and fructose in equal proportions, just that HFCS is enzymatically digested such that glucose and fructose are free individual molecules, instead of being combined in one molecule. But yes it is scientifically proven that plants prefer sucrose (thats why all seeding and tissue culture media have sucrose) over glucose whereas animals prefer glucose over sucrose.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Halloamey View Post
    Bruce I think they use High fructose corn syrup in the US, it is not much of a difference. Sucrose is also composed of glucose and fructose in equal proportions, just that HFCS is enzymatically digested such that glucose and fructose are free individual molecules, instead of being combined in one molecule. But yes it is scientifically proven that plants prefer sucrose (thats why all seeding and tissue culture media have sucrose) over glucose whereas animals prefer glucose over sucrose.
    Amey, we are all so lucky to have you among us in this community. Thanks so much.

    Cheers,
    BD

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