Rice water has been used by gardeners since the beginning of time. It’s a natural, organic and safe way to provide moisture to your plant roots to help them grow stronger and healthier. Many people use it because they don’t want their soil or water tested before purchasing seeds or bulbs from a nursery—and that makes sense! But what exactly does rice water do for your plants anyway? How can you make this valuable resource even more beneficial in your gardening arsenal? Keep reading as we explain how using rice water helps your plants thrive — especially if you’re growing succulents.
How is Rice Water Beneficial for Plants?
Rice water provides nutrients to plants’ root systems through osmosis (the process where substances dissolve into fluids). Osmosis takes place when there are differences between two solutions of different concentrations of dissolved solids. The higher concentration solution will naturally move toward equilibrium, which lowers its overall salt content.
A similar effect occurs when water moves out of an area of lower salinity and higher humidity and into one of higher salinity and relative dryness. This is known as “flowing towards the driest ground.” For example, consider a lake surrounded by land without much vegetation. If the lake were suddenly drained, the remaining water would flow overland until it reached the next source of freshwater.
In other words, evaporation causes liquid water to become less concentrated in terms of salts, resulting in an increase of ions present in the surrounding air. This ionic imbalance creates an attraction between the water molecules and those around it, pulling the water back down to earth. We call this phenomenon osmosis.
This same principle applies to plants’ root systems. When you add rice water to the soil, the increased volume causes oxygen-starved soil particles to suck up additional water. That means all parts of the plant get enough water to survive. Just like in our hypothetical scenario above, excess water flows downward, drawing away minerals from the leaves, stems and new growth. By retaining these essential ingredients, rice water prevents plants from losing too many important elements. Without sufficient nutrition, some plants may not be able to withstand heat, drought, disease and insect infestation.
They could also begin to wilt prematurely, lose color or drop their foliage altogether. Plus, most importantly, adding rice water allows us to avoid testing our soils for harmful contaminants. You’ll never have to worry about pesticides, herbicides or fungicide residues again.
There are several ways to apply rice water to your plants. One method involves placing a shallow pan under the potting mix and filling it with rice water. Then just keep adding water as needed. Another option is to put a small amount of rice water directly onto each individual seedling via watering cans. Either way works well. What matters is making sure all areas of your yard receive adequate amounts of moisture at regular intervals.
What is Rice Water?
First things first… what exactly is rice water? Well, it’s simply boiled rice steeped in warm water. Now, depending on whom you ask, you might get different answers. Some say that rice water was originally brewed during the Hindu era, back when people didn’t have electricity or refrigerators. Others state that rice water dates back thousands of years ago in China. But regardless of who came up with it, rice water became widely accepted among Asian cultures hundreds of years later.
Nowadays, people mostly make rice water by themselves either for personal consumption or commercial purposes. There are two ways to prepare it:
1) Steamed/boiled method: To extract the goodness from rice, you must first cook it and let it cool down naturally. Then remove the husk and rinse off the starch grains inside. Once done, put the rice in a wide mouth container and pour freshly heated tap water right above the grain until it reaches about 1 inch below the rim of the container. Cover it tightly with a lid and leave it undisturbed for 24 hours. Afterward, strain the liquid and discard the spent rice. Repeat the process three times each week.
2) Instant method: For convenience’s sake, you can just go ahead and buy pre-cooked rice instead of cooking it yourself. Then follow the instructions provided on the package. While convenient, this approach does not yield the same results as the previous one.
How to Make Rice Water?
Making rice water sounds easy but actually requires quite a bit of patience and effort. Aside from being delicious, rice water is also very healthy to consume daily. Below are step-by-step instructions on making rice water.
Step #1 – Prepare rice: First thing first, wash the rice thoroughly using clean running water. Next, soak the cleaned rice for 20 minutes in freshwater. Afterward, drain the soaking water completely and set it aside. Do note that soaking too long may cause the rice to lose its unique flavor. Also, avoid washing the soaked rice again before brewing it.
Step #2 – Boil water: Use a medium-sized pot filled with 2 inches of water. Set the heat to medium and bring the water to a full rolling boil. Keep stirring every few minutes until the water starts bubbling vigorously. Let it simmer for 5 minutes. Immediately turn off the stove once the water boils. Don’t cover the pot as doing so would result in scorching of the surface.
Step #3 – Add rice: Once the water stops boiling, add the washed rice directly into the boiling water. Gently stir the mixture continuously for another five minutes. During this period, keep checking the consistency of the concoction. When you see bubbles forming near the bottom, it means that the rice has absorbed enough water. At this point, switch off the burner and allow the mixture to sit for 30 minutes.
Step #4 – Strain: Remove the pot from the heat source for 15 seconds to stop further heating and allow residual heat to evaporate moisture contained in the broth. Pour the mixture through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Allow the rice water to settle down for 12 to 18 hours. Then transfer it to glass jars with tight lids and store it away.
If you decide to brew rice water commercially for sale, there are special machines available online that can produce large quantities of filtered rice water in no time. They work similarly to a juicer in terms of principle except that they are capable of extracting juice from raw material whereas traditional juicers extract juice from fruits and vegetables. These machines typically come equipped with a control panel and digital display panels indicating temperature settings. Users can adjust the machine according to their preferences and needs.
Using Rice Water to Water Succulents
If you’ve ever seen someone misting their houseplants with distilled water then you know that this strategy doesn’t work very well for succulent species. Since succulents lack stomata, the tiny pores on the undersides of cactus pads and leafy greens, they cannot absorb any moisture this way.
Instead, gardeners must rely on indirect methods such as keeping pots moist inside while allowing the plants to draw water from outside.
Rice water solves this dilemma nicely. Unlike tap water, which contains chlorine and fluoride compounds, pure rice water is virtually free of sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium chloride, sulfate, nitrate, boron, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, cobalt, nickel, chromium, cadmium, arsenic and lead, all toxic metals found in municipal sources [sources: National Wildlife Federation].
Additionally, no chemicals need to go into the finished product — simply rinse off the harvested grains and leave them sitting in a bucket of water overnight. Next morning, strain out the husks and pour the clear liquid topically wherever necessary.
Here are some tips for maximizing success with rice water application :
Use plenty of water so that it covers every inch of exposed surface within 24 hours.
Apply to the base of the stem only. Don’t drench the entire crown.
Keep the treated part cool. Do not allow it to warm above 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 C) during treatment.
Allow the newly applied rice water to sit undisturbed for three days — preferably overnight. During this period, the water should pull together all loose matter and hold it tight against the soil.
After three days, remove the plastic sheet covering the potted plants and discard the old soil. Spread fresh potting medium evenly over the now bare dirt. Fill empty planter holes halfway full with gravel to prevent washing out the young plants. Now fill the rest of the space with the mixture of sand/perlite/peat moss/soil. Once everything settles, tamp the mixture firmly down. Repeat steps 6 – 8 once per week depending on weather conditions.
Bottom Watering plants with Rice Water
Many growers prefer bottom watering rather than spraying their plants with rice water, but either way works great. To learn how to set up a system to feed hungry plants below the soil line, take a look at our step-by-step guide here.
The benefits associated with watering plants from the base include:
Better distribution of moisture throughout the soil profile.
Less exposure to harsh ultraviolet light due to direct sunlight.
A cleaner environment thanks to reduced runoffs.
More efficient nutrient uptake.
Planting deeper promotes better drainage.
When choosing a planting location, choose spots that experience consistent shade. Shade keeps daytime temperatures cooler, reducing transpiration rates and energy costs. Some folks believe that shading plants actually increases yields. However, the jury remains undecided regarding whether or not this claim holds true. Bottom watering seems to offer a win-win situation regardless of whether or not you decide to side with the naysayers.
Since plants consume approximately 80 percent of available rainfall, conserved rainwater leads to improved efficiency in both crop production and environmental sustainability. With this in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many farmers worldwide already practice subsurface drip irrigation techniques to promote healthy growth. Subsurface drip irrigation channels are buried deep beneath the soil level and release filtered water near the plant roots. Drip lines deliver precise quantities of water to specific locations based on local climate conditions.
Although subsurface drip irrigation isn’t widely practiced among residential landscapers, it offers numerous advantages over traditional overhead sprinklers. Not only does it reduce wasteful runoff, but it also reduces flood damage caused by heavy rains. Because it uses far fewer gallons of water per day, subsurface drip irrigation also extends the life span of drinking water supplies. And best of all, it requires little maintenance beyond installing and occasionally adjusting underground tubing runs. These factors translate into significant savings compared to conventional forms of lawn care.
In summary, the following are reasons why gardeners worldwide find rice water indispensable to providing optimal hydration for their plants:
The benefits of using Rice water
It retains essential nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc and others.
It slows down rapid evaporation rates.
Because it draws upon ambient moisture instead of relying solely on external resources, it saves money on fertilizer purchases.
It protects plants from potential contamination.
Rice water is completely biodegradable.
With proper storage, rice water retains its potency for months after initial preparation.
You can use it anywhere that you’d normally use plain water.
As long as there are living organisms involved, it won’t cause harm to aquatic creatures.
For indoor gardens, you can filter it through reverse osmosis filters to eliminate impurities.
Rice water is inexpensive and easy to prepare.
To ensure maximum efficacy, try applying a thin layer of rice water on the foliage first thing in the mornings. Doing so ensures that the leaves remain properly hydrated until evening.
Precautions to take when using Rice Water?
Before you start incorporating rice water into your gardening regime, there are several precautions you should take note of. First off, never ever apply any type of liquid directly onto the leaves of your vegetables.
If you happen to be doing so, make sure that none gets absorbed through the leaf surface which may result in rotting of the vegetable under question.
Secondly, ensure that the area where you intend to place the container used for watering your vegetable patch is free from insects like ants and cockroaches. These pests are known to eat up the moisture contained within the liquid thus resulting in drying and withering of your foliage.
Thirdly, always keep the container containing the rice water away from direct sunlight since excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays tend to destroy the beneficial bacteria responsible for converting starch into sugar. Also avoid placing the container close proximity to other sources of heat such as fireplaces or stoves.
Lastly, if possible try not to wash the pot before filling it with rice water for better results.
How to use Fermented Rice Water as a pesticide
In order to properly harness the power of rice water, first understand how fermentation works. As mentioned earlier in this article, rice contains starches that need to undergo complete hydrolysis process prior to being converted into sugars.
During this conversion process, enzymes called alpha amylase break down these complex carbohydrates into simpler molecules called maltose and dextrose.
Once they’re broken down, the glucose present therein becomes available for absorption by different species of yeast including Saccharomyces cerevisiae (commonly referred to as brewer’s yeast).
Now although Scereriopsis refers primarily to wine production, brewer’s yeast does play an essential role in producing alcohol during alcoholic fermentation. However, when brewer’s yeast comes into contact with pure glucose, it begins metabolize it completely in about 48 hours and produces carbon dioxide gas along with ethanol.
But wait! Before the end product of fermentation reaches completion, another organism called Pediococcus chrysogenus enters the scene and converts remaining glucose left behind into lactic acid. Lactobacillus brevis then follows suit and transforms the acidic solution produced by Pediococcus chrysogenus into butyric acid which gives rise to the characteristic odor commonly attributed to fermenting milk products.
On top of that, two additional strains of bacterium namely Acetobacter and Glucono-bacteria convert the final stage of alcohol metabolism into acetic acid and gluconic acid respectively. Therefore, after three days of incubation, a mixture of four distinct compounds consisting of ethanol, acetate, lactic and citrate acids are released into the air.
Henceforth, these compounds collectively come together to form something called “fermentation effluent” which carries significant amounts of oxygenated organic nutrients capable of killing certain insect populations without causing harm to humans.
So far we’ve discussed how rice water kills harmful bugs and parasites found in gardens. We now turn our attention towards explaining why it helps prevent disease outbreaks among crops. To achieve this goal, first identify the root cause(s) of the problem. Then find out whether the affected crop is prone to fungal infections or bacterial infection.
Next determine whether fungus or bacteria are the primary culprits responsible for inflicting damage to the particular type of crop under investigation.
Finally, once we’ve established that the above criteria applies to the case at hand, next step would be to choose either a chemical based treatment method or a nonchemical alternative depending on the severity of the situation. For example, if fungus is the main offender responsible for damaging the health of a specific type of plant, choosing a chemical based approach would prove effective because chemicals work faster than microbes in terms of effectiveness. Conversely, if bacteria are considered the main perpetrators responsible for wreaking havoc on a given crop, selecting a biological control technique would yield positive results.
Therefore for best results when utilizing rice water as part of your gardening regimen, ensure that you follow the steps outlined below:
Identify the source of the bug/pests attacking the target plant. Determine whether it’s virus or bacteria causing the trouble.
Select appropriate management techniques according to the nature of the threat encountered.
Conclusion of using Rice water on plants main points
1.) It helps keep away diseases such as fungus and mold. This is due to the fact that most strains of fungi and molds cannot survive or even thrive inside the pores and cells of rice grains; therefore they would rather stay outside where the moisture level is higher. However, once the water gets contaminated with high amounts of bacteria and yeast, then it could easily spread throughout the entire container leaving behind foul odor and spoiling taste. In contrast, since the rice water does not contain any harmful microbes, thus it will greatly reduce the chances of getting sick from fungal infections.
2.) It provides additional nutrition sources for your plants. Since the rice water itself already contains lots of nutritional elements, including potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc, so you don’t have to worry too much about adding those extra supplements for your plants. Instead, just make sure that you only use tap water instead of distilled water because doing otherwise may result in bad effects on your plants. You should also note that using the right ratio between the type of soil/soil mix and the size of pot is very important if you want to maximize the absorption rate of the nutrient components within the water.
3.) Its usage is simple and convenient. All you need to do is fill up a glass bowl with enough amount of rice water until it reaches 4 inches below the rim line. Then simply place it upside down near the base of your plants and leave it like that overnight. For more convenience, you might consider using small plastic cups or buckets instead of bowls. Next morning, refill it again with new water and repeat the same procedure over night. If you’re going to apply this technique consistently for weeks, months and years, then you won’t really notice any difference at all except that your plants will become healthier and stronger. Of course, if you feel uncomfortable with this approach, then you can always opt for buying pre-made packets of organic rice water available in local stores but personally speaking, I think homemade version is better than commercialized ones.
Based on the aforementioned reasons, I believe that anyone who wants a long term solution for keeping his/her indoor plants alive must begin utilizing rice water immediately!
So what are waiting for? Go ahead and give it a shot! Best wishes!