So in early November walking around my back yard I noticed some water standing at the back of the house and after some curious poking around I realized it was the gray water draining from the washer to the side of the house and then due to improper setup and slope it was running under the house. Standing water anywhere is a no no, but especially near, under or up against your home!
I didn’t want to call a handyman out to fix it and I got to thinking with all the research I’ve been doing lately about gardening, permaculture and especially desert gardening with minimal or the least amount of water. So I got to doing some research on the uses of gray water…and quickly landed on this idea to redirect the washer gray water INTO the side yard where it is supposed to go but to then dig a trench so that the water will be gravity fed into that side yard in certain areas SO THAT I can have my future rose garden there. Ever since we moved in I wanted this small area to be a rose garden one day and this water drainage “issue” can now be the SOLUTION for that. As Geoff Lawton of Permaculture always says, let the problem be the solution!!! Think about it!!! =D
So I quickly got to work on that. This project took me about 2 half days maybe, all by myself in early November and the only tools I used were a shovel and a rake. After the project was finished to make it look cuter I gathered some bricks and river rock laying around on the farm and “fancied” it up a bit and that’s it. So the project was 100% free, very necessary to not cause damage to the house and will be free water for a future non-edible garden AND…reusing something that would have otherwise gone to “waste” and just been absorbed into the ground elsewhere and non-contained, non-purposeful way! Those are all major bummers!
This is a heavy picture post as I took pictures throughout the whole process, as I always do. The visuals are very necessary for me to see my way through a project and to ALSO help me feel more accomplished. I also decided to do some videos of this project strictly to send to my Mom to show her but then I ended up sharing them publicly on You tube and since they help you see the water in action and everything I decided to share them on here as well.
VIDEO DISCLOSURE: I am no professional film maker (I know there is a word for that??) and in fact I’d call myself a super newbie to “recording videos” of anything other than family and kids playing! So these are a little shaky and there is no special editing or anything, very cut and dry and less than 1 minute for most of them.
Let the fun and pictures begin!!!
As a fun little reminder, this is what that side yard looked like when we moved into the home about 6 mths ago now.
Then this is what it looked like early summer after we cleaned up the weeds and junk. There used to be a chainlink fence there that a tenant’s animals knocked down, I guess.
In early Fall I was poking around outside on a windy day and I thought I’d reuse these trellis’ we took off the front deck and put them up as a “temporary fence” since I had the posts so I just cable tied them up there. No it doesn’t look fancy or even pretty but it serves its purpose for now and when we redo the front fence, I’ll put new fencing up here as well. But free is always nice!
Day 1 of the project!
This is what the area where the washer drain comes out goes to. This is the side of the house, directly under the laundry room and also next to the Ac. You can see there are bricks there I guess someone else had this intention of the water flowing towards our view (towards the camera) and out that way….it does not do that. Lol!
Here is what that area looked like the day I walked over and decided to do this project.
Step 1 for any project for me is always CLEAN UP! I have to start with a clean slate. Some people say that wastes time but I will tell you there is nothing more productive than working on a project with a happy, positive outlook and having a “clean space” is what gives me that outlook. Therefore…I always clean up first.
This is the area just between the house and the fence, where the AC and electric meter live. These are also between myself and the majority of the side yard where those future roses will go. So I knew before starting my first trench would have to come out, around the AC and go between these two guys to then lead out into the main part of the side yard.
I removed one of those bricks that was in the ground there to create an opening and got to digging the trench. I just used a regular rounded edge shovel because it is the only one I have. Thankfully the ground wasn’t too bad on this side of the house, I’m assuming from periodic soakings from the washer. Although you’ll see in the first video below the majority of the washer water does not actually come THIS way, as you’d think it does.
So I dug that first trench and then dug it around the AC then straight out into the side yard only maybe 2 inches deep the whole way. I really started was starting my outline and seeing what shape I wanted to have, where I wanted it to go. After doing that I dug 4 channels off of that main trench. And THEN I turned the washer on to drain so I could see what would happen after that little bit of work. This video below shows what happened the 1st time I ran the washer…
Digging a trench from washer drain part 1
Let me just say, at 20 seconds in when that water starts to go into that channel it made me feel like a Mama Bear proud of a kid doing something on their own for the first time. It was like I immediately thought “OMG, this is going to work!!!! How cool!!!”
So in this video we learned that with the trench obviously not done and not deep enough, after that water fills up that initial basin it then rises up and runs UNDER the house! Which is then where all the remaining water goes, preventing it from entering new said trench! Progress!
So then I got to work on digging these existing trenches and channels all a little bit deeper and making some parts wider. At this point I just have 1 trench with 4 channels off of it to the left and right.
A little deeper…
Then I shift my focus back on that basic and I dig it deeper and wider as well, to catch more water initially.
Then, thinking of that water running under the house I start shoveling mud from the pile of what I had dug out and start mounding it around the drain. I put it all up against the side of the house and all around, to block water from OVERFLOWING anywhere other than into the new trench!
And then I filmed video #2!!!!
Digging a trench for washer drain part 2
You see about half way through this video that this is the first time the water in the trench had MADE it around the corner and passed the first channel! It ALSO starts filling the basin and spilling over that brick wall on the front side AND a little bit starts spilling over on the right side going under the wire for the AC unit and back behind there. =( Add to that that once it got about half way down the channel, none of it was really deep enough so then it just started flooding the banks and overflowing. Lol! Learning as we go!
Overflowing the banks because all the channels were too shallow at this point.
Adding more mud around the main basin to keep water in the places I want it, without over flowing.
I dug every trench deeper and as the water would flow through I’d watch curves or corners where it’d slow down so as that would happen I’d be there with my shovel to make certain areas wider or deeper as needed.
At this point I still only have 4 channels off of the main trench. But I had dug them all to 4-5 inches deep, which was as deep as I felt they probably needed to be. So I ran the washer (not videoed) and with the washer draining TWICE with each load, it put out just enough water to fill the trench, all 4 channels and then over flow the very last channel but ONLY after that second drain cycle. So I concluded with a 5th channel, then it should be fine to hold (and trap, to soak into the ground to water nearby flowers) the water from 2 cycles from each load of laundry. I didn’t plan for it to hold more than that as we typically do about 1 load of laundry per day and that’s it, rather than doing a ton all in a day.
With water standing in the whole system it made for digging and trenching THAT much easier. Thank God for that with our Arizona hard, clay-like soil…if you can even call it soil!
I put 2 stray bricks on each side of the wiring for the AC unit just to try to keep water away from it and then put up a mud mound on the left side of it as well so that water won’t even go that way. I also put a mud mound on this front side of it where you used to be able to see the bricks in the ground, now you can’t.So it made that berm type thing about an inch taller.
By this time, I added that 5th channel off the end since it was still overflowing at the end after a second drain (2 per load).
Digging a trench for washer drain part 3
You can see in the video that channels 3 & 4 weren’t as deep as all the others yet.
You will also see by the time of this video I no longer had issues with escaping water at the start, from the drain or the basin! Yay!!!!
Time for clean up and small modifications!
I started working to level all the dirt at this starting point because although you can’t see it, where I’m standing to take these pictures is a small chain-link gate. So once I started this project I decided this gate and this area would need to stay clear for myself or handymen to come access the AC to work on it or when I clean it seasonally. So in the future there may be a cute little mulch or gravel walk way here. So I leveled out that mud that was just all in a pile before I got to raking everything BEAUTIFUL!
With all the trenches perfectly deep enough and 2 drain cycles putting out JUST enough water to fill all channels to the top but no more…the big work was done. So here I just leveled out the mud piles and started raking so that finished look I love so much!
Main trench, channel 1 and part of channel 4.
Channels 2, 3, 4 and part of 5!
This side that butts up against the house I noticed while working the ground slopes down to the house so all that excess mud I had I threw that way and at the end I leveled it out so that it is a flat surface but also berms up a tiny bit at the house so that rain water or anything will flow away from the house, as it should.
Digging a trench for washer drain part 4
Video 4 is just a picture, video collage I put together on my phone to try to show some photos of it start to finish. Again, video disclosure, no sound or music or anything fancy. =)
A FEW DAYS LATER…
Riley man came outside and offered to remove 2 stumps from some old bushes that used to be here. As far back as 3 years, any time I’ve ever been to this property, there were never bushes here. They were always just those stumps. So I think we could resolve that they were 100% dead. And Riley loves destroying things, being a typical 11 year old boy so he got the shovel and went to town.
ABOUT A WEEK LATER…
I was doing laundry and decided I’d come out to watch my little system with pride just to see how it was holding up a week or so after finishing and I decided the basin area just had to look a little cuter. So I gathered some bricks and river rocks from around the property and just made it cuter! My goal is to actually fill the trench and drains with sand one day so it looks cuter when it is empty and then of course I’ll plant roses. I recently decided I will be adding hibiscus to this flower bed with my roses and I can’t tell you how excited I am about that!
This is how the channels are holding up about a week later. You can’t really tell I raked which is a bummer but that’s fine, the dogs had to run around and explore what I had done differently of course. Plus after Riley removed the 2 stumps I didn’t rake so that is all disheveled as well but oh well! (You see that little green patch of grass that came up where channel 1 ends and some water pools right there? Nature is a beautiful thing!
Digging a trench from washer drain part 5
Video 5 I filmed one morning early after I had started laundry AFTER everything was done and I added the rocks to the basin. You can hear the birds chirping, my dogs eagerly running around for the first time in the morning and my son Riley off in the distance in his chonies (not pictured, of course!) because he came out to see what I was doing, lol!
I love how in this video within just like 20 seconds the water is marching down that main trench like it is on a mission and it knows exactly where it is supposed to go. No issues in the way, no confusion, nothing. Just on it goes to fill up the whole system with ease. Bliss. And perfection! Pride swells!
True before and after of the whole thing! =D
3 WEEKS AFTER THE PROJECT WAS COMPLETED…
I was outside walking around and I hadn’t done laundry in maybe 2 days so these channels were just dry (which is fine) but I noticed something green. So upon closer examination I found 4-5 spots where little grass is shooting up in the trenches or on the sides! How marvelous is that!!!!
Since I’ve spend this whole last week currently studying Permaculture like it was my last dying wish or something (seriously, about 45 hours this week of studying and researching) these little green patches of life make me so happy and proud. Because Permaculture teaches that Mother Earth will rebound and heal itself and become lush and wonderful with a few simple techniques. These trenches I dug to redirect washer gray water are a small scale version of exactly what Permaculture is all about. All I did was redirect a wonderful resource like water and although I haven’t planted anything here yet, nature is responding, the dirt is happy, it is moist and it gets ample shade and sun and it is coming to life all on its own! It is just such a wonderful thing for me to see in action! Someday soon…or maybe in the spring, there will be happy roses and hibiscus of 10 colors here!!! And…as expected, I will smile every time I come home and walk passed this garden to get to my front door as I see the beautiful colors and smell those glorious roses!!!