Roots 'n' Shoots: Water: Rain & Grey water collection & storage

Why is RnS Moving to

Google had brought out an algorithm update in May 2017. With previous updates like Panda or Penguin, Mr G had penalized blogs or websites with low quality content and those more focused on aggressive adverts (including multiple ads or pop-up ads in articles). However, many blogs/websites that weren't shady got penalized beyond recovery too and a lot of people lost their income. The May 2017 update has had wide-scale effect on blogs and websites, but without any explanation from Mr G as to why or what it does. RnS has been hit by it too and hard. RnS organic search stats (i.e. users from Google) have dropped by 75% since. Even though RnS is not a source of income, I tried to figure out why RnS is being culled. It seems that it doesn't really have anything to do with RnS per se, but likely because RnS is FREE and not paying for page ranking (via AdWords or Ad Ranking). Now it is likely being aggressively shoved to lower page rankings to accommodate the paid ads.

I cannot rely on Mr G anymore to get RnS' content where it is needed. So I am busy moving RnS to Wordpress where you can find me as Whisker Flowers @

I am also imposing 301 redirects from already moved posts and pages!

- The Shroom - (AKA Whisker Flowers)

Water: Rain & Grey water collection & storage

Water Gathering Techniques

Now, when you start a veggie garden, ensure that you have access to water that is essentially free of charge. This will save you money and will not pull from valuable municipal water resources, especially when you live in semi-arid and arid areas (such as South Africa).

Collecting Rainwater

In a perfect world, it should rain every second day!

We have invested in a rainwater tank for the veggie garden that collects the rain that gathers on the roof of our house. Jojos and Flo-tanks are ideal with black inner linings to keep algal and disease growth to a minimum.

Now I have read lost of great and horror stories on rain water collection – as long as the roof you choose is fairly clean (from leaves and twigs) and does not house birds (diseases are carried in bird feaces) the water is fine for vegetable watering. Our roof is kept clean by the wind and does not gather any other debris. Also the birds do not have suitable nesting sites on the roof – too hot up there!

We have a 1000L rain water tank that can be easily filled in a 20min thunderstorm – it requires refilling once a month to keep the garden going. So rain provides us with water during the summer months.
Rain water tank and two 120L drums with additional rain water

Grey Water

During winter, we have two 120L drums, which we fill with ‘grey water’. Now I am going to dispel some grey water myths – you can water the entire winter with grey water from the washing machine. Some articles claim that it is not good to use grey water for extended periods and that it may harm plants due to chemical accumulation… We use the water from the second rinse cycle and the washing powders commercially available these days contain so little phosphates that it doesn’t clean your clothes properly. Also most of the chemicals will degrade in the environment due to the sun and weather conditions – the drums remain in the sun (not for more than three days) that assists with chemical degradation and the rest is degraded in the soil. The soil and plants are quite robust, so as long as you’re not pumping in industrial grade waste into the garden – the natural processes will compensate for the minimal increases in chemical levels in the soil. You can treat your grey water biologically prior to use.

Grey water refers to water from the washing machine, shower, rinse water ect. Black water, is what you do not want to add to your garden, refers to water from the toilet, dish washing machine, shower water containing hair dyes and any other water with food oils or industrial chemicals (paints, thinners…).

There are many places to collect grey water from:

ü We also gather ‘grey’ rinse water such as the water from washing the vegetables from the garden, as the soil clogs the drain J.
ü The cold water that runs through the pipes before the warm water starts to flow. Fish tank water (or in my case, snail tank water) – contains lots of good stuff for the plants.
ü Water you cooked any plant-based food in, veggies or pasta.
ü The water that has become unsuitable-for-pet-consumption from the pet’s bowl.
ü Water from the flower vase, after the flowers have died.

It is quite amazing the amount of water you can actually reuse.

Maximising water usage

The best solution for maximum water usage is to install a drip system, preferably an underground system – with a timer if you don’t want to water the garden yourself J. Sprinklers and hose-pipe watering should be avoided as they use a lot of water and additional water is lost by watering the pavement or as mist/evaporation…

The drip systems available here in SA is not large enough for my garden and very expensive for my small garden budget! So I am stuck on old fashioned watering-can methods. Although this can be tiresome, it is a good workout and you get to inspect the plants while you water them.

For my large plants and pot plants, I have invested in some ‘waterers’. These are ceramic based water holders and plant roots can pull upon the water they hold when needed, which is facilitated by the porous nature of the ceramic. They come in a large amount of shapes and sizes. You do get huge ones that can be sunk into the garden known as ‘ollas’. There are ceramic spikes available that you attach to plastic coke bottles (so more water can be stored in the waterer), wick systems and self-watering containers. These are also useful for holiday watering J.

Small, well used, two day waterer

Larger, week waterer


Mulching is another way to maximise water usage and I have decided to give mulching a go again. My previous views on mulching was that the mulch has the ability to hide very large weeds, protects some pests, feeds termites (wood/bark based mulch) and I also felt that it made the garden look like a dump. Putting old reservations aside I have decided to use grass-clippings as mulch.
Mulching gives the following advantages:
ü Retains soil moisture
ü Retains heat in winter
ü Cools the soil in summer
ü Watering intervals are reduced
ü Weeds are blocked from the sun and are kept at bay
ü Harbour beneficial insects

So a good carpet of mulch, 1-3 inches, should be applied to the soil around vegetables and plants. Mulch should not reach the stems, as they may induce rot. Generally anything can be used for mulch; leaves, compost, grass clippings, old carpet... I use grass-clippings, since they are free and ever abundant from mowing the lawn. Mulching can reduce watering by up to 70%.

Here are some guidelines for using grass-clippings as mulch:
ü Dried or already decomposed grass-clippings are preferable. Green clippings produce a lot of heat and nitrogen during initial degradation that they may harm plant roots - a small layer of 1 inch green clippings can be used with no adverse effects.
ü A good 3 inch mulch keeps down weeds
ü As the grass-clippings decompose, they release lots of nutrients, especially nitrogen. Nitrogen is good for leaf and root formation and you lettuces will appreciate the boost.
ü Grass-clippings should be mowed into short pieces, to minimise compaction during decomposition.
ü Grass-clippings should be used for herbicide or pesticide-free lawns as not to harm your vegies or beneficial insects.

Water wise vegetable gardening in South Africa

There are 45 countries listed as water poor with 35 being in Africa. South Africa is ranked 27th with an average rainfall of 492mm per year. This is half of the world average at 985mm per year. Most of South Africa's water is used in agriculture (60%) and by having your own vegie patch you save on water. Not only is it better for the environment, due to less fertiliser and pesticides are used, but you negate the packaging -, transport -, storage costs and water wastage associated with getting vegetables at the grocer. Additional water saving will not only save money, but will reduce the stress on water supply in South Africa.

Here is a table, provided by Rand Water, of the amount of water used by certain vegetables/fruits:
Vegetable water use
Leaf vegetables
Root/Stem crops
Fruits & Legumes

Squash & Pumpkin

Swiss Chard & Spinach
Spring Onions



Brussels sprouts

Most herbs

Fresh water is a precious commodity and water shortages are becoming the norm 
- one day wars will be fought over a few handfuls of fresh water

-Update 18 March 2014 - 

National water week from 17-23 March 2014 aims to bring awareness to your most precious source: WATER. You can find out more on how to save water and alleviate the strain on our water supply at Journey for Water.

The following images were generated from the Journey for Water site and therefore copyright belongs to them. Here are the sources of water for Roodepoort and the surrounding area:
Source of Water for Roodepoort: Northern & Maloti Drakensberg


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