Gray water breeding, water saving tips, and information on indoor plants

If you’re wondering what to do with an empty backyard (or front yard, for that matter) in the midst of our growing water shortage, you might want to consider planting an orchard of fruit trees.

The reason this option is suggested is that you will be able to provide all the watering your trees require by recycling the water from your washing machine, bathtub, shower and bathroom sink. Each person living in your residence will generate enough water of this type, commonly referred to as gray water, to meet the watering requirements of four trees. In other words, if only you and your spouse occupy your home, both of you will be able to enjoy the fruit from eight trees watered exclusively from gray water. If you also have two kids, you will have enough greywater for 16 trees.

The nice thing about a gray water system is that there are no sprinklers or drip tubes. Gray water is never stored but is pumped directly into the trees. In addition to meeting the water needs of the trees, the greywater is also fertilizing.

Ideally, you will create a mulch trough at the drip line of each tree. This is where the gray water will drain. The mulch tub is four feet long, one foot wide, and one foot deep. It is full of wood chips that need to be replenished on an annual basis, even as the decomposing chips enrich the soil in which the tree is growing.

Costs range from several thousand to tens of thousands and increase depending on the level of complexity of your greywater system. The primary system delivers unfiltered gray water and the startup system recycles the washer water on its own. When it comes to laundry detergents, avoid powdered detergents as they contain salts that are harmful to plants. Boron-containing cleansers should be avoided for the same reason. Liquid detergent is recommended as the wash water is recycled for fruit trees, while soaps, shampoos and hair conditioners are not a problem since shower and bathtub water is recycled for use on fruit trees.

I received the above information from Leigh Jerrard, owner of Greywater Corps, a company that installs gray water systems as well as rainwater harvesting and storage systems in the Los Angeles area. He told me he currently receives about 15 inquiries a day regarding water saving systems.

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In response to my request for certifications regarding water-saving alternatives to traditional lawns, I received the following email from Grace Hampton, who works in gardening in Burbank: “I have overused buffalo grass in my parks and find it resilient. It is only mowed and watered—no fertilizer.” The good thing about it is that it stays green without too much watering because its roots grow six feet deep. It thrives in dry areas where an occasional deep watering will keep it green.”

Regarding the MiniClover garden alternative I wrote about in May, I received a response from Hilda Ceramic, who works in gardening in Los Alamitos. She included before and after photos of the lawn area that was basically brown when I overdid it with ordering the MiniClover through the website at outsidepride.com. Less than three weeks later, the grass had turned green. Before planting, I went over the area using a flexible rake. “I didn’t dig into the grass too hard, I just hit it a little bit.” Then she broadcast 1 pound of seed over an area of ​​about 1,000 square feet using a handheld Ortho Whirlpool spreader. Initially, she was watering 15 minutes twice a week and now she is watering ten minutes twice a week. She sprinkles lightly on the other days but this practice decreases as the alfalfa takes root. Ceramice says she followed the instructions on the MiniClover packaging and that “the most important instructions were to keep the seeds moist, not to let them dry out between waterings.”

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