clmckinley
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Location: Central VA

Purify creek water for use in vegetable garden

We got a community garden plot this year that is 30'x30', has great soil and is is nice and sunny. The only water supply is a nearby, year round, creek which i plan on pumping into 55 gallon barrels and using that for my watering. Unfortunately i was told yesterday by a local civil engineer that the creek has high levels of Cholera and E. Coli which might be dangerous if we used the water for things like spinach.

This is a big deal for me, because there is no way for me to realistically haul enough water for the size garden i was hoping to have. So, I was hoping that i could purify the water before using it. I know that you can at 7-10 drops of chlorine bleach to a gallon of water to make it drinkable. Does that scale to 55 gallons? so we are talking less then 20 ml for the 55 gallon tank. I have 2 barrels, so i was thinking i could pump into one with the bleach and let it sit for a few days before using it. Someone else recommended adding anti bacterial soap to the water, which you obviously wouldn't want to drink, but they said that it should kill the harmful bacteria in the water as well as help with some bugs that attach the plants.

First of all, is this something i need to worry about if i plan on washing my plants at home before eating them? I know at least some other people in the garden use the creek water without treating it.
Do you think that small amount of chlorine would harm the plants?
Does anyone have experience with doing this?

Thanks for any and all feedback.

~L

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freedhardwoods
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I can't comment on purifying your water.
You list your location as central Virginia. Doesn't it rain there? I only water my garden in extremely dry weather and my vegetables do great. You need to let the ground get dry to force the roots to go deep searching for water, which helps the plants withstand dry spells.

clmckinley
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freedhardwoods wrote:I can't comment on purifying your water.
You list your location as central Virginia. Doesn't it rain there? I only water my garden in extremely dry weather and my vegetables do great. You need to let the ground get dry to force the roots to go deep searching for water, which helps the plants withstand dry spells.
I must admit that I am completely new to vegetable gardening, but everything I have read says vegetables need a lot of water. Most things I have read say up to an inch a week, which is very rare, esecially in dead summer. It is very possible that I missunderstood.

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jal_ut
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I think you can treat the water with chlorine bleach OK. The chlorine should evaporate out in a days time.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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freedhardwoods
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Many on this forum will start watering plants at the first sign of stress. If my plants start showing stress, I check the weather for the next chance of rain. If it is going to rain in the next few days, I wait for the rain. Only if the plants are getting very stressed or if the corn is starting to pollinate will I bother with watering. To water my corn, I have to rent a 1000 gallon tank and get the water in town because in dry weather our well doesn't supply enough for both the house and garden. The whole process takes about 4 or 5 hours and 1000 gallons is only enough to last about a week. I have better things to do than spend a half day watering.

cynthia_h
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If this is a community garden, then there are experienced members available for conversation. They will know how the plants do during the summer. (Although a 30' x 30' plot is HUGE by Bay Area standards for a community garden; one local, well-respected comm. garden's largest plots are approx. 4' x 8'.)

How do those gardeners supply water to their plants during the summer? Do they feel the need to supply water during the summer? Etc.

Be sure and designate some of the ground for walking and some for growing. It's very discouraging to work the ground and then find family members/friends walking on it and compacting all of your hard work. :(

Best wishes for a bountiful harvest!

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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lj in ny
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Have you thought about mulching to keep the moisture in? I'm trying Ruth Stout's method this year. There are a bunch of videos on YouTube if you want to check her system out.
"If we throw mother nature out the window, she comes back in the door with a pitchfork." Masanobu Fukuoka

"Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret." Horace

https://apottersgarden.blogspot.com

clmckinley
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Location: Central VA

I wanted to thank everyone for the feedback. While it is great that the city offers these spaces, they offer no additional services or support. I have talked to as many other gardeners as I have seen out at the plots and it seems to be a mixture of people using water from the creek and people hauling water in from home. Everyone i have talked to seems to do at least some supplemental watering. To be honest, I am not sure if the other gardeners have been warned about potential health concerns with the water. It wasn't on any of the information the city game me, and I ran into the engineer right as i was leaving Saturday.

I looked into Ruth Stout's mulching system, and while we are going to be doing a few inches of both organic and inorganic mulch, but don't think we are going to be able to do the 8"+ that Ruth recommends this year.

My current plan is to always have two 55 gallon barrels with 5.5 tsp of bleach in each before I leave each day. That way, it has time to peculate before it is used on the vegetables.

Thanks again,
~L

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Kisal
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JMO, but if your 55 gallon drum is full of water, I think you should use more bleach. According to charts I've seen, it's 1/2 tablespoonful (1 1/2 teaspoonfuls) for every 5 gallons of clear water. It takes double the amount of bleach if the water isn't clear.
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

clmckinley
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Kisal wrote:JMO, but if your 55 gallon drum is full of water, I think you should use more bleach. According to charts I've seen, it's 1/2 tablespoonful (1 1/2 teaspoonfuls) for every 5 gallons of clear water. It takes double the amount of bleach if the water isn't clear.
I was going from: Purifying Household Water

And: Purifying Water During an Emergency

That said, i would definitely use more chlorine bleach as long as it is safe for the plants, which it appears to be.

imafan26
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Re: Purify creek water for use in vegetable garden

My community garden uses a lot of water. The city charges us sewer charges for a sewer we don't have. We paid for a portable toilet, because the city refused our request to provide facilities for our 600 gardeners.

They even suggested that we use catchment. Now, how catchment works is if you have a large area to collect the water like a roof that you can channel the water into some holding tank or pond. It depends on getting enough rain in the first place, and secondly it depends on grading the land and lining a pond or having an underground tank to store the water. The tank would probably still be dry in the "dry" season.

You might be able to use some other techniques to conserve water. One would be wicking beds. You would still have to fill the reservoir with good water, but if the reservoir is big enough it could last a few days. Any rain you do get will also help fill the reservoir. Bottom watering, mulching, and adding organics to the soil can reduce loss from evaporation. It would also help to choose plants that can live on less water.
I would not grow plants there that the parts you eat would be in contact with the water or the ground. Especially, if it is something you would be eating raw.

If there are enough people in your garden, maybe someone is a plumber or knows one and you can use your dues to run a water line from the nearest street. The biggest cost will be the meter and you need to make sure you get ag rates. It was how our garden got plumbed. The city did install the meter for the garden, but the garden had their resident plumbers and community buy and lay out all of the plumbing for the garden. We also have to repair it as well.

Besides salmonella and e. coli, there is also leptospirosis, and listeria. You would also have to be careful if you are touching contaminated creek water because if you have cuts on your skin, it may become infected through that route. Some of our streams in urban areas and the reservoir in Enchanted Lakes have become contaminated and are posted so no one is allowed to swim or even wade in those waters. My friend's father got very sick because he would go down to the stream behind his house to collect water for his yard. He ended up in the hospital for about 3 months. After that, he decided he would only use city water to water the garden. A master gardener from my class went hiking and I guess he had some scratches on his leg and socks on. He had waded through some water and he got a leptospirosis infection and was sick for about 6 months from that.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.



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