Compost Crops to Avoid Pathogens in Greywater Applications

connordubOctober 25, 2009

I have recently looked into the debates over the risks of greywater use in and around the garden (such as pathogens, etc.). The Book Gaia's Garden has a few basic layouts for greywater use, such as pumping out into a mulch-basin/swale to absorb the water safely below the soil. Could the risks of disease and contamination be circumvented by trading a bit more time and labor in the garden? While I don't have a property of my own yet, I maintain a garden in my free time. My ideas towards greywater use are as follows.

1.) Transmission of pathogens and diseases can be avoided by using the greywater to grow compost crops, for use in the vegetable garden

2.)Greywater from domestic sources would funnel into a plastic barrel (possibly combine with rainwater collection?), then drained out through piping to the mulch basin.

3.) The site for greywater use would be a natural formation, such as a small dip or bowl in the earth, as well as placement relative towards the food garden that would provide access in a convenient manner.

4.) crops grown would ideally grow quickly, and species would be chosen for producing large amounts of biomass. Species chosen would be well adapted to vigorous growth in the climate at hand.

5.) I should also note that these plants would be chosen to produce the maximum amount of vegetation, with the least amount of time, water, and labor used. I would see it being simply too much work to bother improving the fertility of the soil at the drainage site to even be worth the effort, thus permaculture techniques come in handy at this point.

6.)Being a lifelong resident of the Sonoran desert, I have learned (or just started learning, rather) that the key to healthy soil is by adding as much organic matter into the alkaline, baked-clay soil as possible. It should also be noted that the crops grown using greywater would specifically NOT be grown for fruit production. Species chosen would most likely be relatively obscure, due to their specific traits. Weeds, shrubs, and other pioneer plants would make up much of the plant population of the greywater site. Plants would be chosen for having the function of mining minerals and nutrients from the clay below and disposing of it on the topsiol in the form of decaying matter. Most importantly, plants should be either native, or native tolderant, to ensure abundant seed-setting and reproduction.

7.)To avoid going into lengthy deatils about the specific planting patterns and species, I would like to make the point that the principle of the whole 3-step greywater process (mulch basin-to->compost-to->garden)would be basically a small wilderness garden, rife with dense plantings of industrious native species. Plants will be left alone to set seed, and chopped as needed to fill the compost heap. In a nutshell, the entire process might as well be viewed as a perpetual compost machine, powered by harvested wastewater, and guided by intelligent planning of low maintenance, productive plants.

8.)through thorough composting, pathogens would be killed off, thus using the compost crops grown in a greywater swale as a proxy. fresh, clean compost is then used to grow the good stuff- the edible fruits and vegetables

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Sounds good in theory. I would wonder tho if this can be maintained year-round. Depends on your climate I guess.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2009 at 7:19AM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

we use grey water always and for at least the last decade, so don't know anything about pathogens being present in fresh grey water might occur if left to ferment for a couple or so days, but it should always be used fresh. we use ours all around the garden and for potted plants.

a lot also gets used to flush solids only down the loo', this saves a lot of drinking quality water which can then be directed to vege' plants when need be.

the way we see it if you go for using water more than once then just use it where you want it as fresh as it comes, maybe change your laundry detergent to a more eco' friendly one(make your own) same with the dishwater (the best of second hand waters as it contains lots of food particles).

those affected by water shortages and drought get serious about using second hand water, but then they should be serious about a full water management plan in their home.

keep all systems simple.


Here is a link that might be useful: lens garden page

    Bookmark   October 26, 2009 at 2:53PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

There are two really good sources of information for you:

First, the book The NEW Create an Oasis with Grey Water by Art Ludwig (the king of greywater). His website is full of info too:

Next, Brad Lancaster's books, a 3-volume set (#3 isn't out yet) titled Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond. His website tells more:

Start with these two excellent sources, then you can fine-tune what you want to do.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2009 at 10:09PM
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