Greywatering in the Backyard [2018 Update]

Greywatering in the Backyard [2018 Update]

Its been more than a decade that we have been using grey water from our washing machine to water the backyard plants and fruit trees. Therefore, I am  probably long overdue to post an update on how its affected the yard, and what has been good about it and what’s not.

Olive oil barrel for surge tank greywater
The current surge tank sitting outside the laundry room window. The pipe to the diverter valve is just above the bin coming out of the side of the house. The plants on top are in a pot that sits just inside the lid.

The set up has evolved a little bit every couple of years. Since I last posted about it, we put in a paver patio and replaced the back porch steps. That took place about three years ago. The ornamental flower bed outside the back door was moved further back, near the chicken coop. We got a new washer two years ago, a Speed Queen top loader, and found out with it, we needed a slightly larger capacity surge tank to accommodate it.

When we changed the patio, I moved my ornamental bed closer to the coop and fruit trees. The hose to the grey water surge tank skirts along the edge of the patio, the grass, and in front of this flower bed. It gets moved to other parts of the yard too. This flower bed gets grey water only half the time, and potable water the other half.

The hose for the grey water is often nestled in between the patio and grass as it feeds out to the area where the most trees are located. I use a much longer hose than what I first started out using. Now, I can reach the farthest part of the back garden, down the side yard to all the grapes, and over to the kiwi plants. After each laundry load, I move the hose to a different area of mulch. Most of the yard is mulched with waste from our Chinese Elm tree when it gets trimmed.

Here is a link to my oldest post about the grey water and the diverter valve can be seen here.


  • With the newer surge tank, I have to tip it over pretty regularly to get rid of the sediment that gets stinky at the bottom after a few weeks. If I don’t it gets stinky. It’s a $35 rain barrel that came with the spigot. I keep telling myself I need to re-plumb it with a bib closer to the bottom, rather than the spigot that it came with on the lower side. I have a friend in CRFG, that installs grey water systems for a living, and he does not recommend surge tanks because of the stinky sediment for this very reason.  However, I don’t want to have to replace a washer machine pump just because a hose got a lint clog. Therefore, I keep my surge tank.  Tipping and rinsing that tank is cheaper and easier than washer pump replacement.
  • I have to be diligent about making sure the hose is always moved after a load. The rest of my family aren’t too concerned about over-watered or under-watered fruit trees. Every once in a while, moving it before a load gets neglected and a tree gets way too much water. My CRFG friend recommends permanent branch drains to mulch basins to avoid the issue. I don’t really mind moving the hose; that way everything gets some of the water, not just the stuff closest to the washer, and it gets the amount I think is necessary.  But moving it can be an issue.
  • With the lack of rains during our extended drought, I lost a treasured tree, my red Japanese Maple, that either didn’t like grey water exclusively or didn’t get enough. I am not sure which.  Maybe both? The green Japanese Maple is totally fine, but it was also a few years older.  I also allowed the Bababerries to die out. I might replace the Babas next winter, but I still have my volunteer thornless raspberries. When we finally got a ton of rain last winter (2016-2017), a lot of plants put on amazing growth.  It clearly demonstrated to me that everything REALLY needed the flushing out of the build up of salts that the normal winter rains usually provide.
  • I have to clean the screen and hose the tank out regularly.  That is a hassle and a mess.
  • I have to be even more careful these days about detergents since I water a larger variety of plants than what I started out doing in the mid 2000s.  With the drought, the gray water was necessary to keep my favorite plants alive. Even the Camellias and kiwi have been getting the grey water in recent years, but not exclusively. The acid loving plants get grey water about every third watering.
  • We don’t generate enough greywater to water everything, none for the front yard, and I don’t have tank elevated enought to create the water pressure needed to water the really big pots in the back.


  • Most trees are doing okay, only the Japanese Maple died.  However, on the bright side, a McBeth Loquat now occupies that location.
  • When the washer empties to the yard, we only use Ecos- Free and Clear, that I buy in bulk from Costco online, and Oasis, that buy locally at Lazy Acres grocery store in Long Beach.  Both of these are cheaper and easier to find than they used to be.  Clearly, I am not the only local using grey water anymore. However, neither Ecos or Oasis cleans as well as the top rated detergents.  For really heavily soiled stuff, I usually have to add Biz or Borax, and then switch the diverter valve over to drain into the sewer.
  • The Dwarf Brazilian Banana thinks the greywater, especially when I add Charlie’s Booster to the wash, is awesome!  Charlie’s soap brand Booster has potassium tetraphosphate in it.  I know phosphate is controversial in some places, but the plants seem to like the phosphates.  California isn’t one of the states that has a ban phosphates in detergents.
Dwarf Brazillian Banana tree greywater
My Banana trees like the greywater

Happy Gardening!

4 thoughts on “Greywatering in the Backyard [2018 Update]

  1. So glad to see you back blogging — I always found your photos and information so inspirational, especially when I was starting out with chickens. I also have a lot of the same garden interests. Hope you are continuing to heal and I look forward to future posts. Be well!

    1. Thank you. That makes me happy to hear.

      Eventhough I have been feeling much better, and I like blogging, I have been dragging my feet to start doing again because of issues from Photobucket third party image hosting fee changes that took place last year. Recently something in their software changed, and I am able to view them easier from the blog again to fix them. Once I get through the backlog of uploading the photos to self hosting them here, hopefully posting will be fun again.

    1. Thank you. You always leave such nice comments. I appreciate the encouragement. I often wonder if anyone will bother to read what I like to write about.

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