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Grey Water Gardening

There has always been a stigma in gardening as to whether or not someone has a "green thumb" vs. a "black thumb". However, growing has never been so green or black.

It's about understanding your plants' physical language and then making adjustments to their environment. These are organisms that have evolved over millions of years in a rooted and stationary fashion, thus they have had to adapt accordingly.

Photograph by Courtney Maltais

That's not to say every plant speaks the same language, though many plants will exhibit similar physical traits when in need of the basics: light, humidity, temperature, too much water, not enough water...etc.

Most growers (beginners and experienced gardeners) tend to find most of their struggles with watering and nutrients. Here is one of my favorite nutrient tricks that I have used in home gardening to create a flourishing urban garden while I am constantly on the go:

THE MIRACLE WATER: GREY WATER: Yes, that mucky water you get from washing your dishes is the perfect base for a nutrient tea for your garden.


Fill a bucket with your grey water when finished washing your dishes. Amend this with the nutrients of your choice, compost (in a cheese cloth), beneficial microbes, and your favorite additives. I prefer to keep it simple with a mycorrhizae blend and Dragon Fly Earth Medicine's dehydrated blends - there is no right or wrong here. Well, except for the following:

If you plan to use grey water in your garden you will want to avoid contaminating your grey water with:

  • Oils/Fats

  • Cheese/Dairy

  • Hot Sauce

  • Meats (Poultry, Pork, Beef).

  • Eco-friendly Dish Soap

It is good to use the following ingredients in your grey water:

  • Coffee Grounds

  • Eggs (crush and strain shells out prior to watering)

  • Vegitable Scraps

  • Fruit Scraps

  • Fish Bones

  • Fish Skin/Scales

  • Rice/Grains

  • Herbs (fresh or dried)

  • Nuts

  • Generic Dish Washing Soap (do not use eco-friendly version)*

*IMPORTANT: Do NOT use grey water on your garden if you are using a generic dish soap AND have any run off that would be going into the earth/soil. This can create runoff that makes algae blooms in the ocean, one of the worst environmental impacts that agriculture can create from nutrient runoff. It could also change your local soil composition and have negative effects on the local flora and fauna.

Don't let this scare you away from using it in your potted plants and raised gardens, so long as you don't water directly into the ground this is beneficial to your plants. The generic soap contains high amounts of nitrogen which are an important macro-nutrient for plants!


Once you have your compost/grey water tea ready in your bucket, allow it time to oxygenate by setting up an air stone. Give it at least 24 hours for your beneficial microbes to activate and start breaking down some of your food debris and additives into accessible nutrients for your garden. You will know when it's ready because it will develop a large plume of white (sometimes dirty) foam.

When you are ready to water, strain out any large particulate and distribute as needed through your garden. Adjust the pH to 5.8-6.2 (depending on your crop) and go.

That's really all there is to it!

Grey water tea is such an easy way to get a balance and natural nutrient diet into your garden without all the fuss of composting - especially if you don't have the space for it. Who said you have to have a green thumb, when grey thumbs are so much more sustainable!

Fresh picked herbs, greens, and fruit from my garden, all watered with grey water tea.

Photography by Courtney Maltais


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