Graywater, Rainwater, Veggies & More


Santa Rosa | Large Urban Garden

10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Tim Wickens wanted to grow as much food as possible and reduce water use on their modest Santa Rosa suburban lot. In 2010-11, he converted the sunny, south-facing front lawn into a vegetable and flower garden that has provided opportunities to share eco-garden information and build community with dozens of curious and admiring neighbors and passersby. A laundry-to-landscape (L2L) graywater system supplies all needed water to two rose beds and a flowering, drought-tolerant chitalpa tree. In the sidewalk strip, self-seeding wildflowers put on a big show every year without using a drop of city water.

In the back yard, Tim removed a blackberry hedge and small lawn and installed a raised vegetable bed, apple tree, drought-tolerant perennial beds, a fountain heavily used by a variety of birds, and a shaded “outdoor living room” for the dry season (hammock, rug, wicker couch). A shower graywater system provides all the water for most of the backyard perennials.

Downspouts from the back half of the roof easily fill a 1,500 gallon rainwater catchment tank that provides water for the fountain and front and backyard vegetable beds for about 9 months of the year. Front yard downspouts are directed to mulch-filled swales (that double as paths between the vegetable beds) and to the L2L basins, which also receive overflow from the rainwater tank. All together, the yard retains almost all of the rain that falls on the property, filtering and moderating storm runoff to nearby Santa Rosa Creek and helping recharge groundwater.

Tim’s yard now produces year-round vegetables and ever-changing flower displays while water bills show about a 50% reduction in use.

Graywater Systems

L2LIcon-400In California graywater includes water from bathtubs, showers, bathroom sinks, and clothes washing machines, but does not include water from kitchen sinks or dishwashers. Though all of these sources represent great opportunities to transform waste to resource, the Laundry-to-Landscape system is the simplest, most cost-effective, and does not require a permit, making it an excellent place to start!

Laundry-to-landscape installation workshops are frequently available from folks such as Daily Acts and the City of Santa Rosa. These workshops are a great way to learn more before installing your system.

Daily Acts have some great information on their website about graywater systems HERE.


Plants to Look out For

  1. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium ‘Moonshine’)
  2. Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Overdam’)
  3. California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum)
  4. Wallflower (Erysimum hybrid Winter Rouge)
  5. Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
  6. Summer Wine Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Seaward’)
  7. Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)
  8. Meadow Sage (Salvia nemorosa)
  9. Rocky Stonecrop (Sedum rupestre)
  10. Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina)