Friday, July 13, 2018

Conserving water, part 2: gray water

It's still hot.  And dry.  Some things in my garden are ok with this, whether because they just like it like that (squashes seem pretty thrilled), or they have deep enough roots to manage (Savoy cabbages, planted out last summer, are just muscling through).  Some things are struggling a bit--the Roots bed is sad.

Every year I try to plant a mixture of heat-loving veg and cool-loving veg;  this way I'll get something no matter which--our summers are variable, and it's impossible to predict which way they'll go.  Last summer was also warm and dry;  however I've never experienced such a prolonged spell of hot rainless weather in all my 14 years here.  I've certainly been through a few wet, sunless summers!

Most years I haven't needed to irrigate--unless you count watering planters which I do even when it rains.  There's been the odd spell of dry weather over the years, and I've dragged the hose out once or twice--or more likely persuaded the husband to--but never have I been concerned for the state of my plants until this summer.

As far as I'm aware, at the moment we're not under a hosepipe ban.  If we were, we'd only be allowed, legally, to water by watering can.  This even includes topping up ponds--only by hand.  But we have been urged to conserve water so that we don't get a hosepipe ban;  I'm doing what I can to use our gray water so we don't have to use clean tap water for irrigation.

To this end, I asked the husband to stick our washing machine exit pipe out the dryer vent in the wall, so that the water can be directed to the veg beds.  He's put the end of the exit pipe end (poking out of the house wall) into a 1 m (ish) length of rigid pipe;  this can be directed onto the nearest veg bed (which is Peas/Beans/Brassicas), and to extend it we have another 1 m (ish) piece of plastic guttering which just reaches across the patio to the edge of the Misc bed.  The machine pumps it out of the dryer vent, and from there I rely on gravity to get it to the beds.
A pipe across a patio, surrounded by potted plants
Washing machine water goes in, July 2018
I'm using my washing machine at the end of the day instead of morning, to reduce evaporation (any watering from the hose is also done in the evening).  I have a bucket, not big enough to collect an entire wash's worth of water, which could use for hand watering though I haven't done this yet--I'd rather let the machine/gravity do the watering for me.
A trickle of water from a piece of gutter across a patio, surrounded by plants
And comes out, July 2018
I've also dug out our big stock pot, capacity 9 L, to use as a washing up bowl for dishes, handwashing, etc in the kitchen.  It collects all the water from the kitchen sink which I can then take outside to tip over needy plants (mainly the tomatoes and sweetcorn).  I've been emptying it at about half capacity, as it's a bit heavy otherwise.  I try to dump it on the places the washing machine water can't reach, and have been emptying it several times a day.  A bit of a labor intensive way to water...

Another thing I've been doing--for several years actually!--is making use of the wee bucket every day (by the way, this is technically not gray water).  The eight year old and I use it during the afternoon and evening, and the next morning I dilute it with water and chuck it over a different spot.  The onions and leeks get it a couple times a week, as does the celery.  Other places get it sporadically, even occasionally the planters, for both a drink and a boost of nitrogen.

The only source of gray water I don't currently make use of is from the bathroom:  neither the sink nor tub;  I don't have an easy way to collect it or direct it.  I've got a length of small diameter plastic tubing which I might be able to use as a siphon out of the tub, but it's not long enough to actually reach the garden or even the patio;  it'd have to siphon into a watering can or bucket and then get carried downstairs...I guess if we do get a hosepipe ban I'll explore this option.

(Edited 13 July, 2018, to add photos)

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