soft water on the yard and garden

Asked December 29, 2014, 11:03 PM EST

Earlier this year we moved to a property out of town with well water - we utilize a water softener. This spring I will be having an irrigation system put in for both the yard as well as a garden. Should I have the system structured such that the water going on the yard and the garden isn't softened or does it matter?

Jackson County Oregon irrigation and water management in-home water quality and treatment options

1 Response

Thanks for using Ask an Expert. Yes, it certainly does matter--not only because of potential salt contamination and increased costs of operating the softener, but also because we have freezing weather in winter. You need to be able to shut down the outside watering system before freezing weather occurs. If your system is "all in one", it likely won't be possible to shut off the garden system without closing off your household water. As for using softened water in the garden, the general rule is "no" because in most softeners, salt is used in the process of "backflushing" and "recharging" the softener. The exchange of calcium (the element that makes water "hard") for sodium leaves a trace of sodium in the softened water.In the garden, over time that trace builds up. Salt (sodium chloride) in even modest concentrations is toxic to most plants. You will also need a source of unsoftened water for irrigating houseplants. A third reason to separate the household from the garden water is the increase in cost to you for operating the softener for both systems. Gardens use far more water for irrigation in the spring and summer than is used in most cases for the household.The more the softener needs to run, more salt and electricity are used.It should be a very simple operation to install a junction and a valve on the water line coming from the well (so a new line goes to the garden and one line continues on to the softener and ultimately into the house. A reputable plumber should be able to do it most efficiently.