DesignGeneralPlant SystemsPlantsWater

How to Build a Grey Water Planter Bed

Get ready to start using your shower and sink water. Nicholas Burtner explains in detail how to build a grey water bed for home use.

Nicholas Burtner

Nicholas is a permaculture practitioner, advocate, consultant, teacher and speaker. After a greater calling in 2011, permaculture found Nicholas and since has filled him with an endless passion that has led him to many travels, learning, spreading, and practicing permaculture and natural living ever since. Apart from consulting and designing properties across a large arena of different climates and bio-regions, Nicholas has attended internships at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia under the leadership of Geoff and Nadia Lawton. He also obtained a permaculture design certification from Geoff Lawton and Bill Mollison. Nicholas has also attended the Earthship Academy for natural and recycled building construction in Toas, NM under the guidance of Michael Reynolds. After very worthwhile learning, and on the ground experiences, Nicholas opened Working With Nature Permaculture Learning, Research, and Healing Center in late 2012 which is now School of Permaculture. The school has both an urban and a rural demonstration / educational site which offer hands on experience as well as class room learning. School of Permaculture’s website offers permaculture related tips, videos, and articles on a mostly daily basis.

7 Comments

  1. Thank you for a nice video. I have a few questions :)
    * 1:1000? 1cm on 10m? Shouldn’t be 1:100? Or does it mean something else?
    * How will the slope make the water move when you are not adding any? From my observations, what makes water move is when you flush some water in, the level instantly raises and then it slowly drops what causes it to move to the outlet. When it reachces the level of the outlet, it remains still no matter what the shape of the bottom is. The only solution to this that i found is the solar pump making the water aerate and cycle constantly, as used in Earthships.
    * Why is the vertical pipe that is used as overflow open to the top? Is that the future place of a pump?
    * What should be planted there? If reed only, you don’t need topsoil there. I looks a lot of topsoil for vegetables to reach the gravel and greywater. Is it dimensioned for use with trees/bushes? Willow and poplar are used to clean the wastewater, but their roots are probably too aggresive to fit into this size…

    1. Hi Jozef,

      Here are the answers to your questions:
      * 1:1000? 1cm on 10m? Shouldn’t be 1:100? Or does it mean something else?
      ~To clear this up easily – 1 inch down to 4 feet over

      * How will the slope make the water move when you are not adding any? From my observations, what makes water move is when you flush some water in, the level instantly raises and then it slowly drops what causes it to move to the outlet. When it reachces the level of the outlet, it remains still no matter what the shape of the bottom is. The only solution to this that i found is the solar pump making the water aerate and cycle constantly, as used in Earthships.
      ~A pump is only needed when the planter not in use. If this bed is outside then it is always in use by either soil transevaporation or rain. If covered a pump is recommended.

      * Why is the vertical pipe that is used as overflow open to the top? Is that the future place of a pump?
      ~Could be or a window to view where the water level is during times of excessive input or times of no use

      * What should be planted there? If reed only, you don’t need topsoil there. I looks a lot of topsoil for vegetables to reach the gravel and greywater. Is it dimensioned for use with trees/bushes? Willow and poplar are used to clean the wastewater, but their roots are probably too aggresive to fit into this size…
      ~I would not recommend using trees or hardy bushes in this system. If enclosed in a greenhouse or in the tropics bananas and plantains make great for this. Most veggies are good too. It is not only the roots that are sucking up the water. The soil itself is pulling up through capillary action.

      Hope that clears things up
      ~Nicholas

      1. Thank you for your reply.

        We use metric system here, but if I count properly, 4 feet equals 48 inches, so 1 unit down on the length of 48 units makes for 1:48 ratio = 1.1935 degrees which makes about 2.08 % grade. Still don’t understand the number 1000 there, but probably it’s a receiver error…

        I saw some bananas in the grey water system without any EPDM liner, just a banana circle, lots of mulch and a grey water pipe outlet in the center. I think if you use potassium based soaps and cleaning products, lots of carbon-rich mulch and a nutrition hungry vegetation can make a good use of it without any sealed container.

        Window to check water level – smart and simple.

        Capilary action – I always forget about this one, thanks for reminding me :)

        1. Jozef,
          Thanks – after I re-watched the video – I dont think I made it clear of the 1 inch down to 48 inches over. I became concerned for a moment feeling I led people down a path not easy to understand. :-0 But soon realized that if it is made with 1:1000 or 1:48 slope – it still works as designed. Passive gravitational movement.

          Thanks
          ~Nicholas

  2. I loved the dogs perspective on it all – very relaxed. In some parts of the world these need permits and sometimes special care needs taking near walls to see it does not undermine the wall or get too shaded. In some soils the shrinkage and expansion due to moisture can be a problem.

  3. Just wanted to stay you are a legend and an inspiration dude.
    Love your site. It makes me want to treat the earth better and in turn treat my family better.
    Well done.

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