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Gray water could help plants weather drought

August 05, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

Mandatory water restrictions don't have to spell doom for all flower and vegetable gardens and shrubs, according to Sandy Scott, horticulture consultant for the Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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Tri-State area residents can keep their plants alive by using "gray water," even if it contains soap or detergent, she said.

The idea behind gray water is simple: Save water from a sink or shower or elsewhere and then use it for another purpose, such as watering plants.

Scott said gray water should not be used on edible plants.

Donald Schwartz, a Washington County Agricultural Extension agent, said he felt using gray water on edible plants is acceptable as long as the gray water is poured directly on the ground, not sprinkled over plants. Otherwise, leaf burn and other problems could result, he said.

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There are plenty of ways to obtain gray water, Scott said.

While taking a shower you can put a bucket in the tub with you to collect the water as it falls.

While washing vegetables, you can put a stopper in the sink and than reuse the water, she said.

Gardeners also can put out buckets or other containers to collect rainwater, Schwartz said.

Because the amount of gray water that can be collected is limited, it can't be used to save lawns, large gardens or trees that have been in the ground for fewer than about four years. But it is a way to keep plants and shrubs alive when drought restrictions are in effect, he said.

Carol Ay, co-owner of Colonial Farm Nursery And Landscaping in Martinsburg, W.Va., has been using gray water since a major drought in the early 1970s.

When she is washing vegetables, for example, she said she saves the water and pours it in planters containing flowers.

She encouraged others to use gray water.

"It is a great idea to use water like that. It is easy," she said.

Jamie Doyle, manager of Mountainside Gardens in Boonsboro, has been telling customers they can get a few gallons of gray water daily from dehumidifiers. That water can be used to water small potted plants, he said.

Chris Snavely, owner of Snavely's Garden Center in Chambersburg, Pa., said they are recommending customers use gray water.

There are many creative ways to reuse water from the kitchen tap. For instance, water used to cook spaghetti can be saved when the spaghetti is drained, he said.

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