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Gardening with Gray Water

| 8/27/2010 3:14:05 PM

A photo of Renea WinchesterWith summer showers missing my garden more often than not, I’m watching helplessly as the sun beats down on my vegetables with a vengeance. I have shredded newspapers and added them as a weed barrier, and applied mulch around acid-loving tomatoes to retain moisture. Despite everything I’ve done to keep plants happy and healthy, nothing can thrive consecutive days of above 90 degrees without rain.

And no matter how much technology advances, we still can’t manufacture rain.

When weather conditions turn dusty, farmers and gardeners look for creative ways to conserve and recycle water. Billy has perfected the art of capturing water by using every “vessel” in his possession. Oil drums and empty trashcans sit beneath every downspout, mouth-open eagerly waiting to collect each drop that falls. A peek inside his kitchen will reveal a large bowl on each side. One for washing, the other rinsing; water collected from each are dumped into the garden daily.

Copying Billy’s methodology, I located a company who sold plastic barrels then converted the containers into fifty-five gallon mosquito-free holding tanks. I snaked a gravity hose into the lower garden and waited for the rain. Unfortunately, no rain came. I now had two choices, accept the death of my garden or do what I could to save my investment.

Water barrel 

A quick survey of my home found many places where I could save water. I live in an older home, which means we do not have low-flow toilets. Since I can’t afford to replace the toilets, I placed a quart jar in the back of all my toilets. This added volume to the tank and resulted in each flush using less water. A brick also works.

Linda Dicks
7/27/2014 3:05:05 PM

I live in Texas and water is short supply. we use gray water (from laundry) and rain water for trees. the gray water system we devised (we live in the country) was to re-route the washer water to a 55 gal barrel which has a hose connection. It can reach out about 100 ft via gravity and keeps the close by yard nice and green, the shrubs and trees well and blooming. I have a "train" of water barrels connected plus several others in different locations. I use all these around our acre and also to put out for the free range chickens to cool off in.

Cindy Murphy
9/2/2010 8:48:42 PM

Great suggestions, Renea. I wish I had the forethought to connect more than one rain barrel as you did. I made my rain barrel this spring out of a 55 gallon food grade barrel, and naively dreamed it'd catch enough rain to water my garden, and then some. I was amazed how quickly it fills up! A half inch of rain, and the barrel is overflowing! I could have five barrels hooked together and still not catch all the rain coming off the one roof (we have several rooflines on this old house). Next year, I plan on adding more barrels. But even the one barrel has definitely helped. It's very sandy here on the shores of the Lake, and though we've had more rain this summer than in those past, the periods between rains are incredibly dry because the water runs right through the sand. A friend of mine does a similar thing as you do with your daughter's bath water. He takes showers...with buckets in the stall. The buckets catch the water that would normally run down the drain. He says a 15 minute shower usually fills one to two buckets, which he uses to water his plants. Robyn - I have a friend in Arizona who was looking to have a grey water system installed in her house. I don't know much about the system, except that your state offers tax breaks for the cost of materials and installation. Might be something to check into sometime. Thanks for the informative post, Renea. Enjoy your weekend.

Chuck Mallory
8/30/2010 9:06:19 PM

You are ahead of your time! This is how we will ALL have to live in the futre.

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