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how far away should I keep plants?
Hello Feidhlim Harty,

Good to have your expertise on the forum. I have grey water discharge for our washing machine and a septic system for everything else. As we just moved to the property this past summer all I have is grass growing at the discharge point for the grey water. We have a high efficiency (he) washing machine, what would be the best laundry soap to use and will the grey water discharge the ph of the soil? The previous owners lived in the house for 10+ years and I am not aware of what the previous owners used for their laundry detergent. Should I avoid planting food producing plants near the discharge point? if so, how far away should I keep plants meant for consumption. Is their a plant that you recommend that would be good for repairing the soil? I live in Celina, Texas.

Semper Fidelis,

Hi Aaron, thanks for the welcome and good to have your questions.

Vis a vis your grey water system: what's the norm there? Is this a hole in the ground with lots of rubble thrown in and the grey water pipes just discharging straight into it?

That would be what we call a soak pit here in Ireland. It's not recommended (nor legal) any more because it introduces the grey water down deep, close to the groundwater, and poses a fairly significant risk of leading to groundwater pollution.

Some more questions for you: how deep is the dry soil in your garden before you hit either solid bedrock that will stop water infiltration, broken bedrock that will let it straight down unfiltered, or water table. I've no idea what the Texan soil and subsoil conditions are like, but I imagine they are as variable as here.

Detergents: we just buy the ones in our local health store. They are likely to be better than the mainstream commercial varieties.
Not sure what the norm is. My life style has change dramatically going from a suburban area where all waste water discharged into the waste water treatment plant. I moved to the 5.5 acre farmstead this past summer. It would be a good poll question for those on septic systems to see how or if they discharge grey water separately.

I had a pond dug about a month after we moved in and can say that we did not hit bedrock. It was clay from the surface to about 12 feet down. I don't know what kind of infiltration we would have with the clay soils that we have. I cannot see the discharge, I just know that the area is always wet and green were the discharge is. it is a PVC pipe buried and I don't think they added a rock aggregate in as a bio-filter type element for the grey water discharge.
On first glance, it sounds as if you have a good deep soil of relatively suitable conditions. if you've no hole filled with rock then chances are it's a more spread out infiltration pipe, with perforations - does that sound familiar at all? If you have a perforated pipe, then you need to take care not to plant something too thirsty and invasive over it or it may clog the perforations.

If I lived in a hot, dry climate, I'd certainly make use of any irrigated lush areas in my garden. If I wasn't sure about the history of the chemicals going down the drain, I'd probably go for firewood crops rather than food crops. If health store cosmetics, cleaners and soaps were all that was ever used I'd plant fruit and nut trees.

Does that help at all?
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