Sunday, June 9, 2013

Watering Fruit Trees With Greywater

Fig trees with water breaks for slowing down water runoff

I'm doing a lot of long-term planning for our homestead these days. One of the things I have been thinking about is how to best use the greywater from our washing machine. In the past I have used it to water a little row of boxwoods and a patch of purple heart at the back of the house, as well as the grass (ahem, weeds) in the dog run. We have a small fenced dog run at the back of the house that contains a water barrel, a sage bush, some honeysuckle, and a sad little fig tree under too much oak canopy. I never bothered watering the fig tree too often because I thought it was dying anyway. Then a couple of weeks ago I realized that it had FRUIT on it! There were a couple of ripe figs and a large number of green, unripe ones. So I decided that we could salvage our only fruit tree. I cut back all the thorny vines that were choking it and really cleaned things up in there. The dog run, like the rest of our property, is on a slope so I relocated the greywater drain hose just uphill of the fig tree and have left it there all week. We have poor, rocky soil that has a hard time absorbing water quickly. So today I rummaged around in my materials pile and pulled out a few curved concrete garden border pieces. I placed them just downhill from the fig tree (a single tree that actually has two rooted sections, which makes it look like two trees). I want the little concrete wall to slow the water down so it has time to trickle down deeper and water those fig tree roots well. Afterwards I ran a load of laundry to see how the water would flow and pool. It looks like the little wall, which I think of as a water break, will work fine. 

Washing machine greywater discharging at base of fig tree
My next plan is to add several more fruit trees to the dog run and water all of them with the greywater. I have never had fruit trees before so this is totally new territory for me. I don't even know what is appropriate for our climate so I need to research that. (Any advice is more than welcome!) It isn't recommended that you water vegetable gardens with greywater (and my vegetable garden is too far away anyway) but fruit trees are a great way to put that valuable waste water to use.


  1. Why the difference between watering fruit trees and vegetable trees with greywater?

  2. Because the water might possibly have some contaminants in it (i.e. tiny amounts of fecal matter, kitchen germs, etc) it shouldn't come in direct contact with food. Fruit grows up in the trees so it wouldn't come in direct contact with the water but vegetables tend to be lower growing so they might (especially lettuces, strawberries, etc).

  3. This is such a great topic. My boyfriend and I were just talking about this, because we are both confused about what you can and can't use grey water for. I have rain barrels, but I don't use that water for my my vegetables, because it comes off my roof and I worry about the animal waste and the composite shingles. It just seems like such a waste to capture that water and then not be able to use it much. We were wondering if the water would get filtered naturally by the soil somehow ever. Anyway, good to know that fruit trees are at least okay!

  4. Lilly- the soil will filter out all kinds of stuff (think about how old-school septic tanks discharge the dirty water under the soil for filtration) but I would imagine it can't do much with industrial-type contaminants. I have a rain barrel catching water from our composite roof and I keep a couple of goldfish in the barrel to eat mosquito larvae. The goldfish seem quite hardy and healthy, which reassures me a bit about the level of contamination of that roof water. I think I would feel comfortable watering the veggie garden with it but I'm not sure. There's one more reason why it would be great to have a metal roof!

  5. See, that's what I would think. It makes sense! And wow, Goldfish! You are doing such interesting stuff!

  6. I highly recommend the goldfish! No need for mosquito dunks or whatever if you have a couple of goldfish in there.


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