Greywater Gardening

greywater Apr 06, 2019

With spring approaching, but not quite here in the Colorado Rockies, many of us are getting the itch to get our hands dirty in the garden. When the winter still has a bit of a grip outside, I nurse my gardening urges in my indoor greywater garden. 

This week I'm sharing a piece I wrote on Greywater Gardens. This article was published in EPIC magazine almost a year ago. For more articles about Twisted Oak, visit https://www.sustainablehomeresource.com/Articles

 

Greywater is the water flowing from tubs, showers, sinks, and the washing machine drain. It comprises all the wastewater from the house excluding what comes out of a flush toilet. It is especially important when using greywater to be mindful of what goes down the drain. Use only natural soaps and eliminate harsh chemicals and cleaners. Greywater is not recommended for watering edible root vegetables.

It’s difficult to imagine that the wonderfully sudsy and lightly soap-scented water flowing down the drain could be considered sewer water, but there is a good reason why some officials frown on residents pouring this water freely over their properties. After exiting the drain and sitting for a short time, this water begins to smell a lot like sewer water. However, greywater treated with an appropriate amount of respect is better thought of as a resource than a waste product.

In most of the developed world, greywater is considered waste and is whisked away from our senses as soon as possible, allowing us to remain wholly disconnected from this unpleasant yet natural product we generate in our homes. With a fresh perspective, greywater becomes a valuable resource that will aid in reducing the consumption of potable water. Utilizing this nutrient-rich liquid can turn a struggling garden into an oasis or make it possible to grow abundant plants in an arid or drought-ridden area.

Greywater may not be pleasant to us, but in all natural ecosystems, one organism’s waste is another’s food. Plants thrive on the nutrients in greywater, and a garden plumbed to receive this resource may require very little fresh water or fertilizer to urge plants to grow to an enormous size, giving off oxygen and moisture to the ordinarily dry air while cleaning the greywater. 

Setting up a system may be as simple as bailing the water from a kitchen sink or tub to irrigate and feed container plants. Plumbing incorporated into a new home or remodel will more efficiently distribute greywater by delivering the flow from sinks and showers directly to gravel-bed gardens. These planting beds are beautiful and useful indoors, outdoors, or designed in both locations. 

The key to successful greywater management is to use gravity to drain the water through a particle filter to strain out large pieces of debris then feed it directly into a deep garden bed layered with one to three feet of gravel, three inches of sand, and topped with a foot of soil. An indoor planter requires a pond liner, but an outdoor garden can be left unlined to accommodate plants needing free-draining soil. A diverter valve installed between an indoor planting bed and an outdoor garden will maximize the use of this liquid resource. During the winter months, the indoor planter will receive the greywater. During the summer growing season, the diverter valve will send the flow to the exterior garden. Indoor greywater gardens nourish lush tropical plants, while the outdoor gardens support abundant seasonal plants in areas where water is scarce.  

* Please check with your local officials before installing a greywater system.

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