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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Friday - May 22, 2009

From: Syracuse, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Watering
Title: Will chlorinated pool water affect the soil in a vegetable garden?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

For the first time I'm going to plant a vegetable garden, and I have an area cleared. My swimming pool cover came off over the winter, and the pool water is a dark green to look at, but looks clear when I started pumping it out. As it started pumping out, I thought the green might be nutrients and started watering the patch of land cleared for my garden. After several minutes I realized that the water had been clorinated 8 months ago, so I moved the drain hose just to the back of my yard. Do you think I have damaged the quality of the soil? Have I poisoned the soil and should I not use that space now for vegetables??? Thank you for your anticipated answer and for being willing to help others.

ANSWER:

Please don't let this get around, but Mr. Smarty Plants doesn't know everything. In the first place, we rarely deal with vegetable garden questions, because most vegetables are either non-native to North America or so hybridized they have little resemblance to the original plant. However, we are always interested in practices that may impact the environment. We are gardeners, not chemists, and found it necessary to do a little research on the subject. On some of the sites, we only understood words like "a", "and" and "the." But we found some that used shorter words and more terms we understood. From the first one, Wisconsin Department of Health Services Chlorine; we learned that chlorine is included in most public water systems to combat bacterial action. This is the water you drink and the water you put on your garden.

To get more specific about how the chlorine reacts in the pool, we went to this howstuff works website poolcenter.com Chlorine Chemistry. A passage from that article:

"Pool water is very similar in makeup to the city water right out of the tap. Many people water their lawns with higher chlorine and lower pH than is found in their pool."

We could find no indication that the chlorine content in the pool water would be dangerous to the soil or to the plants that might grow in that soil or the people who might eat those plants. Our conclusion is that it would probably be better not to drain your pool into your vegetable garden, but that you have not destroyed its usefulness as of now.  And keep in mind also that wherever you drain that pool water, it continues to be part of the environment.

 

 

 

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