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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gail's Garden: Graywater Approved for Home Gardeners!

On August 4 the State of California adopted regulations that allow us to legally, without permits, re-use our graywater for landscape irrigation! This is a HUGE step forward in reasonable water use policy by the State, and will go a long way toward conserving our limited water resources, while maintaining fruitful and beautiful gardens.

What is graywater (or greywater), you ask? Water from tubs, showers, sinks, and clothes washers is termed graywater: this is lightly used water that is safe to re-use in the landscape, with some common sense precautions. Every load of the washing machine uses about 30 gallons of water, and each shower uses 10 to 30 gallons! That’s a lot of water that can be used to water your fruit trees, berries, grapes, as well as most ornamental plants!

A couple notes of caution: acid-loving plants like rhododendrons and citrus will not enjoy the alkaline content of graywater. For health and safety, graywater should never be applied to the edible parts of plants: i.e., lettuce, spinach, root vegetables, etc.

Some of the basic requirements for a safe and legal graywater use are: 1) keep the discharge on your own land, 2) do not allow ponding or run-off, 3) avoid direct contact between people, pets, and graywater, and 4) any above-ground release of graywater must be covered by 2” of mulch. Naturally, you will also want to evaluate the types of soaps, shampoos, etc. that you are putting into your graywater in order to keep everything biodegradable. Bleach or boron in graywater will kill your plants!

So, how to put together your own graywater system? First, check out the State regulations at (see approved changes: HCD-EF 01/09 – Emergency Standards pertaining to Graywater for Residential Application: see section 1603A.1.1 for clothes washer system and/or single fixture system requirements). Then, check out these websites for some excellent information and suggestions on system construction:, and A couple great reference books are Graywater Use in the Landscape, by Robert Kourik, and Create an Oasis with Graywater, by Art Ludwig.

The Garden in Fall
This is a great time to divide your iris, daylilies, and other clump-forming plants. Dig out the entire root ball, if possible, and cut off divisions with a knife or shovel. Discard any shriveled and dried up parts. Look for new growth buds and healthy roots on each new division. Replant them in well-watered and composted soil immediately.

Begin thinking about planting soon! Buy those plants that are on sale now, hold them in your ‘nursery’ area until the rains start, then pop them into the ground where they will get rooted in over the winter for a great show next spring and summer. California native plants especially appreciate Fall planting. Wild flower seeds should also be spread in Fall.

If you need help and advise with any of these Fall garden activities, just give me a call at 829-2455. Consultations in your garden start at only $50.

Upcoming Garden Events:
FREE classes on Saturdays at Bassignani’s Nursery in Sebastopol:
Learn all about planting and growing Sweet Peas on Saturday October 10th at 10:30
Learn how to “Grow Your Own” on Saturday October 24 at 10:30 am
Increase your favorite plants with cuttings from your garden!

Check out for these seminars:
November 6 & 7: Australian Native Plants
November 12: The Meadow Garden, with renown “GrassMan” John Greenlee

Do you have a gardening question you would like to ask? Or a photo to share?
Send your questions and photos (jpg) to

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