February 2009

Actually, I should say “Use the fertilizer you’re already making.” While I believe compost is the best way to improve soil in most respects, growing food does remove nutrients from the soil. Compost can return some of these nutrients, and add nutrients if compost is “imported” as I do by bringing in leaves and manure from outside my yard. But, why not add a little fertilizer to help replace those nutrients? The good news is that you already have this fertilizer available and it’s free. You’re simply flushing it away, day after day. An Op-Ed piece in today’s New York Times talks about the need to change how we handle human waste (feces and urine) for environmental reasons. The article focuses on large scale waste issues. Here, I want to talk about small-scale human waste issues and how you can use them to your advantage.


A friend saw my last post on gray water and had some interesting suggestions of her own that are worth sharing, as well as a plumbing issue they’ve been dealing with. In addition, she provided a link to one of the best (and short) summaries I’ve seen on gray water. Thanks, M2! Read on….


Book review: Engeland, Ron L(1991). Growing great garlic: The definitive guide for organic gardeners and small farmers. Filaree Productions, Okanogan, WA. 217 pp. (Read other reviewsof this book on Amazon.com.)


Last year I experimented with using grey water for irrigation (see 10 gallons of grey water). The drought is continuing, so I’m starting much sooner and also planning to track my water savings and sources during 2009. You can follow along at Saving water, 2009.

It’s important to note that using grey water for irrigation is not new. Government agencies have been using it for years to water landscaping, especially along highways, and golf courses have also been using it for some time. This latter may not be the highest and best use of grey water, but it’s better than using clean water.

It’s also important to note that this practice may need to become a way of life. One of the global warming predictions a few years back for northern California was that we would have wetter but warmer winters. The upshot of this is that less snowpack is expected. Because we have learned to use snowpack as a reservoir, this will pose problems because less water will be stored and available later in the season. Last week I heard someone comment on this year’s snowpack, saying that while the snowpack was low, precipitation was actually up for the year. This provides some evidence that those predictions of a few years ago may be correct. The end result is that we probably will have to use our water resources more efficiently, including grey water, in coming years.