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Greywater and soil acidity

 
                            
Posts: 27
Location: Southern California, Zone 10
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Hi, everyone.  For about a year I have been using laundry greywater around my yard, including an area where the following are planted: plum, pluot, peach, orange, avocado, blueberry, blackberry, boysenberry, and other stuff.  I recently discovered that greywater is alkaline, and that the soil in my area tends toward alkalinity.  Most of the plants are doing okay except for the blueberries, which leads me to my questions:

1.  Is it possible (and worth the effort) to keep the soil acidity up immediately around the blueberry plants while having other plants in less acid soil nearby, or would it be better to simply move the blueberries to a section by themselves?

2. Since greywater is alkaline, should I be adding some slightly acid amendments (pine, oak, other options?) in the areas where I use greywater to avoid too much alkalinity?

Thanks for sharing any thoughts you have on the subject!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Personally I would try to focus on growing alkaline-tolerant plants in the areas where you use greywater, and avoid using greywater on acid-lovers.  Also, making sure you use plenty of mulch and/or compost in your greywater planting areas should help buffer the alkalinity.

I'm going to be setting up my greywater planting bed soon - growing bamboo, bananas, and cannas. 

 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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Blueberries are very much acid lovers and should not be given any alkaline water at all..I would move them away from the greywater system
 
Varina Lakewood
Posts: 116
Location: Colorado
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Forgive my ignorance, but why is greywater more alkaline than regular water?
I'm interested, because I too live in an alkaline area, and am concerned for my baby blueberries.
 
John Polk
master steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Forgive my ignorance, but why is greywater more alkaline than regular water?


My guess is that much grey water is the result of washing. Wash water has soap, and a principal ingredient of soap is lye.
Any amount of lye will sweeten the water.

 
Tony Gurnoe
Posts: 21
Location: Encinitas, California
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The main ingredient in soap is fat. Lye makes up a very small portion of the initial ingredients and no longer exists in the final soap. John may be right that it is a result of what is used in washing with this water. Real soaps are generally near neutral but most of what people call "soap" today is actually a detergent. Many of these contain sodium in their chemicals which can wreak havoc on soil structure and create alkaline conditions.

Did you actually test the pH of your grey water and discover that it's alkaline or just read about this? Not all grey water is alkaline so test your own if you haven't. The original Washington Navel orange trees that were planted in Riverside back in the 1800s were kept alive using the wash water from cleaning dishes. Similar to many things, you'll get out what you put in. Read the ingredients on your shampoos and dish "soaps." If Sodium blah blah blah is the second or third ingredient you may want to consider whether you want that in your soil. Our water here in southern California tends to be high in dissolved salts already and in certain areas soil alkalinity is an issue.

Can you tell us more about your soil? In some soils alkaline water would be a good thing, but not when growing blueberries. I don't know how you feel about adding purchased amendments to your garden but soil around blueberries can be acidified using sulfur. If would almost certainly be best to move the blueberries to their own acidified section. Blueberries do well at like 4.5-5.5 which is too low for most other plants. If you do move the blueberries mix a TON of organic matter into the backfill. 50% Peat is generally recommended but carries a lot of environmental implications- I would use compost. The breakdown of organic matter alone is not usually enough acidification for blueberries and if your soil started alkaline or has a lot of free calcium carbonate it might be worth choosing a different plant like Tyler suggested.
 
winston wilcox
Posts: 13
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in order to keep my blueberries acidic ( or at least I hope its working... as I have not been doing it long enough yet to know for sure, only a year) I contacted a local coffee roaster and he saves the bean chaff that falls off the coffee beans during the roasting process , its awesome mulch!!! I put it down then lay straw over it to keep it down. and it smells like coffee when it rains! Had an awesome crop this year and the plants seem to look healthy . Its free and he was already throwing it away! He just leaves garbage bags of it outside the back, if I don't pick it up it goes to the dump! Sometimes it has full raw beans and roasted beans mixed in, probably from sweeping the floor of the shop . no coffee plants have popped up yet though, but I'm always hoping To see one pop up lol
 
David Hartley
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Perhaps including vinegar in one's daily disinfectant routines might aid in neutralizing any alkalinity concerns?
 
laura sharpe
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The general thing done for making the soil more acid in one place is peat moss and cypress mulch. Of course, it would be nice to find stuff free and more local.

Oak leaves and pine needles are suppose to decompose to acidic soils, but i have also heard that this is a myth, they like to grow in acidic soil but they dont make it, I honestly do not know so i figure it cant hurt to toss some under the rhotodendrum bush (however that is spelled). I suspect that they help, hey organic matter never hurts, but both break down slowly. I think coffee, something i never hear of, is a wonderful idea...the coffee in my cup is acidic why not the grounds and chafe (i roast my own).

Although there is some products which will immediately change the ph of your soil lower (i know all this since my soil is more basic than yours ) garden sulfer sounds more natural and gentle to me. I am not big into running to the store and buying what they have to make changes but i would do this to save the bush (if it needs saving).

Whatever you choose, a thick layer of one of the acid making mulches each year will constantly renew the acid around it.

If the bush is young and has not totally covered its eventual drip line, I think I would....well i love peat moss....i would dig out a few inches of soil away from its roots and add peatmoss and work it in a bit (hey worms will come and mix it around more right?).

grey water, i dont know if i would use it on the blueberry or not but if i found it necessary i think i would make it go through my acid things otw to the plant.
 
Bob smithie
Posts: 18
Location: socal
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Vinegar will be "eaten" by the soil microbes. It is an organic acid and will not change the pH of your soil long term. In order to change the pH of soil long term you would need a mineral acid. People, I love the idea of permaculture but it's not for weaklings. Learn something about chemistry before you go spreading a lot of misinformation. Take an adult education class in something. My personal feelings are that a biology class would have the best impact to someone interested in permaculture. But regardless learn something!
 
Miles Flansburg
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Ouch Bob, we are all here to learn something. I am no expert on vinegar either, i think folks are just trying to help.
 
Bob smithie
Posts: 18
Location: socal
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Whoa whoa whoa didn't mean to stick you. I assume the "ouch" meant that you took something I said personally. I'm too, am still learning everyday but I do see a lot of people with very little knowledge of basic biology and basic chemistry having strong opinions about 1 thing or another directly related to chemistry or biology. I say again I would encourage, encourage, encourage anyone who is in the least bit interested in learning about permaculture take a chemistry and biology class. You know if you approach it instead of _having_ to learn it for an exam it just might be fun.

Didn't mean to step on your toes! The best to everyone!
 
Miles Flansburg
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Posts: 3658
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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bee books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur
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No problem Bob, maybe I am just a little sensitive today.
 
Bob smithie
Posts: 18
Location: socal
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Don't apologize ! At least to me. It's hard to know sometimes how I come across. Both speaking and in text. And unless people post responses as you did we can't clarify things

Best to you, and go permies!
 
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