We’re caring for about 50 trees on this 1.5 acre plot. Throughout the dry season (more than half the year) watering is a multihour process. To save time - and more importantly, to use water more carefully - we water trees with our “gray” water. We’ve got two hoses that we use like drains: the shower, laundry and handwashing water we aim at a different tree each day, and our dishwashing water ends up in a watering pitcher for the gardens. Generally, white water comes out of your faucet (or our rain barrel), gray water has been used in your household, and black water contains fecal matter. We don’t have black water in this life - read about that here.
Some plants, like bananas, specialize in filtering soap out of water. We hope that by using natural-ish cleaning products sparingly, the plants we’re watering won’t mind the soap - anyone have experience to share? Especially now in the rainy season we’re not too worried since all the plants are getting more rainwater than graywater, but want to establish appropriate habits.
I’ve read that baking soda can cause a buildup of salt in soil (sodium bicarbonate). We wash our hair with baking soda, but each of us only bother to do that ~weekly and it’s about 1 T per person.
What about pH? Soap, like baking soda, is alkaline, and we use a small amount for laundry and in the shower as a shaving aid. Our biggest soap use is our handwashing, and even natural soaps (I’m hoping to bring a big bottle of plain castille back from the US soon) are alkaline . Will that impact the health of a tree? Probably depends on the size of the tree?
That’s the bathroom-ish system. In the kitchen we’re washing dishes and produce, so some dishsoap and also BacDyn/Microdyn disenfectant end up in our gardens. The disenfectant is important for anything we’re going to eat fresh, killing bacteria. What does it do to our garden plants, then? I believe the active ingredient is collodial silver, and have no idea what that might do. Other produce disenfecting options are bleach (definitely bad for graywater) or vinegar (but perhaps not as effective). I’ve even read that grapeseed oil can help?
Finally, we have a few buckets in our water system - since we don’t have faucets to turn, we scoop from a bucket for dishwashing or quick baths, or use the footpump with bucket for washing our hands. And we have some buckets around to hold extra rain water since it’s so valuable. The bottom of these buckets end up with some algae-ish growth after a few days. We’ve read that we can add bleach or apple cider vinegar to buckets of water to inhibit scum.
Again, bleach is no good. But the vinegar’s acid neutralizes soap, so we don’t want to use that for hand or dishwashing buckets - or even laundry. Any experience or advice?