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Every Little Bit Helps

March 28th, 2011

It’s that time of the year again when the watering cans come out. We typically get enough rain to keep all the in ground beds nicely watered in the spring, but the cold frame and the raised beds that are covered with plastic need to be watered occasionally. Whenever I rinse lettuce or vegetables I do it in a big bowl. Then I dump the water into a watering can I keep by the back door (sometimes the water goes right on one of the hydrangeas by the front porch). There’s always a little bit of soil in the water and I don’t want that to go down the drain.

Soil is our most valuable natural resource without it we couldn’t survive. I don’t want to waste a bit of it, even that teaspoon or two that’s on the vegetables when I bring them inside. I’m hoping to someday set up an outdoor sink that drains into a flowerbed, that way I can rinse all my homegrown veggies right outside. Until then, I’ll keep a watering can by the back door.

Do you save any gray water for your garden?

23 Comments to “Every Little Bit Helps”
  1. Melissa on March 28, 2011 at 8:21 am

    We’ve had rain since Saturday and my water barrels are finally full again! It’s fantastic. We were beginning to get a little dry down
    South here. I hope it’s not a sign of a dry summer!

    Reply to Melissa's comment

  2. Lillian on March 28, 2011 at 8:30 am

    I havent saved water like that, but it’s such a great idea! I have two little ones, so I’d need to figure out some logistics, but this is just why I love blogging – so many simple ideas that never would have otherwise occurred to me. A friend just posted a tutorial on her blog about how to build a rain barrel with really simple instructions and I plan to do that to use for watering this spring and summer.

    Reply to Lillian's comment

  3. Daedre Craig on March 28, 2011 at 8:40 am

    I have a rain barrel. I’m not sure if that counts as grey water (I wouldn’t drink it). My rain barrel keeps the early garden well watered, but I just can’t fill up watering cans fast enough once the season gets going. I usually switch over to the hose and spigot at that point.

    Reply to Daedre Craig's comment

    • Susy on March 28, 2011 at 8:45 am

      Last year we actually installed a pump on my rain barrel system (since I have 7-55 gallon barrels hooked together) so I could use the hose with mine as well. My rain barrels are enough water until July hits, then we don’t get enough rain to collect near enough water. We’re considering expanding out system so we can collect more water.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. Melissa on March 28, 2011 at 10:36 am

    What a great idea, Susy! I’ve never thought about doing that. Here on our homestead we have well water and a septic system, so nothing is ever actually lost, but I could certainly use that water to keep my containers by the front door hydrated. Up to this point, my routine has been to collect my harvest in my collander and take it directly to the sink.

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  5. MAYBELLINE on March 28, 2011 at 10:46 am

    My household is not plumbed to take advantage of gray water from the house. When I harvest root vegetables, they are set out on my drying racks where I rinse them before taking them in the house. The rinse water drains down into the garden.

    Happy you are touching on water conservation. It’s a very important topic in the west.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  6. Shelley on March 28, 2011 at 10:59 am

    We have a large barrel connected to the gutters on the house so that a fair proportion of rain water collects in the barrel. When that is full, the overflow goes back into the drains. Living in the north of England, we generally get quite a bit of water, but we have been known to drain the barrel in summer time watering our garden. I’m a tightwad, so I much prefer watering with free water instead of bought!

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  7. Jaye Whitney on March 28, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Thanks for bringing every drop to my attention. I’ve just started keeping a barrel this year (now all I need is rain :). I’ll be more aware with rinsing in the future. Shows how much I take things for granted!

    Reply to Jaye Whitney's comment

  8. Amy on March 28, 2011 at 11:24 am

    *cringe* Nope. Not yet.

    I don’t hand wash dishes or anything like that, and try to limit my own water usage. My husband has been caught red-handed leaving a sink faucet running at a slow dribble for our spoiled cat. I discovered he left it on ALL NIGHT the other night and busted him. We may have a well, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to waste water! After all, we and all our neighbors share the same underground source.

    I do have two Craiglisted (and ugly) rain barrels that, with a few adjustments (and maybe some Krylon spraypaint camoflaging) would be a great help for catching some of the abundant Western Washington rain we get so that I can reuse it during one of our summer droughts (also common in Western WA, especially in the prairie I live on).

    Reply to Amy's comment

  9. Michelle on March 28, 2011 at 11:33 am

    I’m sad to say…I don’t. I am getting better about water conservation…but not quite there yet. And I am beside myself that we never got around to purchasing water barrels…as much rain as we’ve gotten this winter I would be sitting pretty in the water dept. Live and learn…the hard way!

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  10. Michelle @ Give a Girl a Fig on March 28, 2011 at 11:34 am

    I’m sad to say…I don’t. I am getting better about water conservation…but not quite there yet. And I am beside myself that we never got around to purchasing water barrels…as much rain as we’ve gotten this winter I would be sitting pretty in the water dept. Live and learn…the hard way!

    Reply to Michelle @ Give a Girl a Fig's comment

  11. trashmaster46 on March 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    It’s rained at least part of the day every day for the last several weeks here. Still, later on (after several yard & house related projects with higher priority at the moment), we will make a rain barrel to have for summer. We’ll catch those early summer rains for use over the drier stretch.

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  12. Kathi on March 28, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    I also have a rain barrel a few years ago but haven’t hooked it up to my gutter yet. I hope to use it this year. I need to find a good way to camoflauge it.

    Reply to Kathi's comment

  13. Kathryn on March 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    It generally takes about 2 gallons for our water for the shower to warm to the right temp. I’ve got two 3-gallon buckets in the bathroom to catch that water. I use it for the garden or sometimes (in winter when we don’t need it) just to flush the toilet. It really isn’t “grey water” coming direct from the tap like that.

    We fill our own glass bottles (either So-Be that someone gave us, or Arizona Tea) with our own reverse osmosis water. We carry these with us so that we don’t buy bottled water. But sometimes that bottle has been sitting around for a while and i want fresh water in it. Then i use that 1/2 cup or so to water the indoor plants.

    This winter we have been saving snow melt in our 40 gallon garbage cans (new ones). We plan to use that for outdoor gardening. We live in a very dry climate that tends toward drought, so every bit counts.

    I’ve not made it a habit yet, but it is my intent to use the water poured off from cooking veggies to water with, also.

    Reply to Kathryn's comment

    • Susy on March 28, 2011 at 8:18 pm

      We too keep buckets in the shower to catch that “warm up” water. We also keep containers in the sink and catch hand washing water to use on the plants.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  14. Katrina on March 28, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    I wish I had an outdoor sink too. Right now I will have to do with getting most of the dirt of with the hose and then a final rinse in the sink.

    Reply to Katrina's comment

  15. nic@nipitinthebud on March 28, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    I don’t have a garden at home so have no outdoor plants to feed with grey water. One day I hope to have a garden at my back door and then I’ll buy one of these and recycle the bath water (especially as I put epsom salts in it to ease aches which is great for plants).

    Reply to nic@nipitinthebud's comment

  16. Lemongrass on March 28, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    I have been keeping a rainbarrel for the past 5 years.
    I do not have an outside sink. I keep a bucket with water close to my garden and when I uproot vegetables I dunk the roots in the water before taking them inside. That way all of the soil is kept in the bucket. I then use the water to water the garden and the soil goes back where it came from.
    Whenever I see people leaving their faucet on while at the kitchen or bathroom sink I ask them if they had to walk a mile to get water for household use would they remember to turn off the faucet.
    Another way to save water is to turn down the flow of all faucets in the house. This helps to reduce the amount of water used.

    Reply to Lemongrass's comment

  17. Nebraska Dave on March 28, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Susy, no grey water used here. I do have plans to integrate rain collection into my gravity feed 1200 gallon supply tank for watering the garden. It’s a work in progress and won’t be nearly completed for a couple years.

    Have a great grey water and rain collection day.

    Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment

  18. Teri @ Love From the Farm on March 28, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    I envy your rainfall! We’re in the high desert, so irrigation is the game here. We do have grey water – dishwater drains to the side yard right now, but it’s a faulty little set up that was here when we moved in and needs improving. Because we’re on septic, we’re planning to set up our washer to drain out to the yard/trees, which is why I’ve switched to homemade laundry soap. We don’t use bleach anymore – just vinegar and baking soda. I love your idea for reserving rinse water, and I was thrilled to find a sink on this old homestead. My husband is going to make an outdoor sink for me that will drain off through a hose, straight into the compost heap. Genius!

    Reply to Teri @ Love From the Farm's comment

  19. Patrick's Garden on March 28, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    I love the idea of a sink that drains into the soil. Talk to the good folks at Gardener’s Supply.

    Reply to Patrick’s Garden's comment

  20. Jenny on March 29, 2011 at 4:04 am

    I don’t have an outdoor garden (just a balcony, and it still has 2 ft of snow on it now), but I do have lots of indoor plants. When I am waiting for my kitchen tap water to get hot enough to do dishes, I run that water into a watering can for my plants. Also every night when I get my cats fresh water, I dump the old into a thirsty looking plant, and also any glasses of drinking water that have sat out and gotten warm.

    Doing this (in the winter anyways when I don’t have my balcony garden) I rarely have to use any fresh water on my plants, at least when I keep up with the dishes, that is.

    Reply to Jenny's comment

  21. Sincerely, Emily on March 29, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    A small yes on the gray water and a big YES on rainwater collection. We do collect warm up water in the shower and I do a bit at the kitchen sink, but that is an area I could improve on. We have 2-275 gal tanks + 2-55 gal barrels set up for outside water collection. They are sadly empty right now and we really really need some rain. I have 2-375 gal tank waiting patiently to add to the rain water collection system (with dreams of adding many more). Still need to finish painting the shop before I can put those in place, then add gutters. If we get rain before all that happens, I will pump water from the 2 tanks that are hooked up and store it in the 2 tanks that aren’t hooked up so I can still use it later. Might as well make use of the tanks anyway. My neighbor has rigged me up a pump – so happy! I have been watching Craig’s list for a sink to put outside. It would be a great addition, esp if it was an old enamel-type one.

    Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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