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We are having a drought in California, so I'm just wondering if I could reuse salted pasta water (after it cools) to keep the plants hydrated. Is this a good idea?

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Cook without the salt and your fine. There is a fundamental difference between plants and animals that can handle a higher level of salt than those that can't. There are benefits to reduced salt to you too so this could be good everyone...plants included. – Ppoggio Jan 13 at 9:21
    
You can easily build a desalinator with a couple of plastic bottles, and let the distilled water drip into the soil. – Graham Chiu Jan 15 at 21:33
up vote 6 down vote accepted

If you're having a drought, I'd say you'll be fine using it for a short period of time. You mentioned adding salt; this will build up in containers every day you use it, and eventually will harm the plant. Don't use for prolonged periods, and dilute it if possible, as far as possible.

Pasta water contains residue full of carbohydrates, so the bacterial activity in the soil will benefit, but it may cause a layer on top of the soil. Also, be sure the water was well strained, because it's not best to leave pieces of pasta in the plants' pots. The fact that the plants are edibles shouldn't be a problem. The pasta water is non-toxic to humans, so safe to use on edibles.

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and to underline the "leaving bits of pasta" - these might attract pests such as rodents... – winwaed Sep 5 '14 at 13:15

I wouldn't recommend it long term but in the short term, it should be fine EXCEPT it's salted. Cook your pasta without salt while there's a drought and then use the water. It doesn't really need salt to cook anyway, usually any kind of sauce you're using on the pasta is salted, so its not essential. If you notice a difference in the pasta, return to using salt when the drought is over. Best used on open ground rather than pots, but won't do any harm in pots in the short term (minus the salt). I'm intrigued that you use salt at all when you cook pasta, frankly, I never do.

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Agreed - salt in the water will build up fast in a container and the plants will begin to die from it. I would not use salted water. – TeresaMcgH Sep 5 '14 at 13:47
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Too insignificant to suggest an edit, but I think you left out a word here: "should be fine EXCEPT it's salted" – JohnB Sep 5 '14 at 20:08

If you're like me, and use some vegetable oil in the water to keep the noodles from sticking together, you'll want to be careful not to get it on the plant itself. The oil will heat up in the sun and burn the plant.

As for the soil, as long as there is good drainage, I think you should be fine. I might consider not doing so if it's in a container. I'm not sure what effects the oil might have if it sits around the roots, but I would imagine it would suffocate them if it was allowed to collect.

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Hmm.. This is for containers, but it's just salted water. So in that case sound okay? – Becky Sep 5 '14 at 2:46
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Salt build up in the soil and will harm potted plants. It'd be fine out-doors, because it would be in such a low concentration. How much salt per gallon would you guess you use? – J. Musser Sep 5 '14 at 2:59
    
What kind of plant it is, and what kind of salt also matters, I believe. Peppers, even in small, indoor containers without drainage, in my experience, appreciate sea minerals quite a bit (my plant became significantly greener and much more resistant to fungi and spider mites); sea minerals are essentially evaporated seawater (unrefined sea salt). I imagine cooking sea minerals (and/or refining them) would change the structure, though (perhaps in a way plants might not like), and you probably want to wait a few weeks between uses of sea minerals. Every watering would probably not be good. – Shule Jan 15 at 0:48
    
Sea minerals are supposed to have about the mineral composition of blood. So, they're not pure sodium chloride. I imagine sodium risks that exist with blood meal would be similar with sea minerals, but I don't know. – Shule Jan 15 at 0:50

oil and salt in it might indeed be an issue if you are using just this water and in a container or a place where the drainage is poor. I would not do it personally.

Also, the gain is low considering that you will need to make a pot dirty to gather the water and let it cool down, the water you saved is lost when washing that pot...

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You can water plants in wash-water, if there is no soap. And if she cooks pasta like we do, the insert pot can be removed, and the water drains into the main pot, so it would be dirty anyway. – J. Musser Sep 5 '14 at 4:16
    
yes, not wrong for the wash water, though you can as well cook pasta without oil nor salt... ;) (can do, does not means ideal :)). With your special pot, you can indeed save the extra washing. – Memes Sep 8 '14 at 5:13

The other answers give good advice, but nobody is mentioning the one fatal error that could be lurking unnoticed: make sure the water has had time to cool before pouring it on. While you might have thought of this, new gardeners might not.

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The water is not lost when washing pot because if it's not salted and no oil is used, its fine to water non-potted plants with it, and therefore the water from the pot is re-used and the pot is just washed, versus if water was not re-used it would be wasted along with water to wash pot.

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