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Life Arts    H4'ed 3/27/09

A Nation of Small Farmers - Start Your Freedom Garden Now!

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By Shirley Braverman

Gardening On the Cheap

(Image by Unknown Owner)   Details   DMCA

Of course, it isn’t enough to garden. Your garden has to be economical. It has to produce ten to 100 times the amount of food you would get if you spent the money on food instead of the garden. That’s where the gardening "tricks" come in. The "special knowledge" that people absorb when they have spent their lives gardening.

So far, I have spent $20 for seeds and starter plants for my garden. I expect to harvest over $200 in tomatoes, squash (all kinds,) cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, chives, green onions and salad greens.

You can save money by harvesting your own seeds, but I mostly use hybrid seeds, so they won’t reproduce, but they grow well in the desert. I have rich soil already. I work on it all year round, but that’s another article. But whether you save or buy your seeds, mulch or buy some fertilizers, that all depends on where you live and your individual soil situations. I guarantee you that none of those things will be your greatest expense. No, your greatest gardening expense will probably be water!

Whose Water Is It Anyway?

In the South Western United States — Southern California, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Texas, we have what they blithely call: "A water shortage." i.e. We’re running out of water!!! That tends to make our very expensive!! Watering once a week in the winter with my drip system just to keep my shrubs and vines alive costs from 10 to 30$—depending upon the rainfall. But when the temperatures hit 110 and I need to water daily, the bill could easily go to $80 a month. Ignoring the facts that my own veggies taste better and are less likely to make me sick, without a few tricks, my garden would be a financial loss.

When I was a child, I used to watch my grandparents struggle to carry their wash water out of the basement to water their garden. Their basement, with walls four feet thick build with natural stones was warm in the winter, cool in the summer and safe against cyclones. But, alas, it had no drains.

During the summer, my grandmother would bring her little rick-a-dink washing machine up on the back patio under the elm tree to do her washing. Then she’d just attach a hose to the tub and let the water drain into the garden.

When I raised my four kids in Southern California, my washing machine was by a window, so I simply moved the drain hose to the top of the window and let it drain into a tub, with a hose connection to the bottom. The wash water drained out into my garden and since I washed at least every other day, that was sufficient. It drained naturally since the garden was lower than the tub. The tub was needed because water from washing machines often rushes out too fast for a small hose to carry and the waste water backs up in the machine. Draining into the tub solved that problem.

Grey Water Vs Toilet Water

Every home has two water systems. The sewer connected to the toilets is a closed system which runs straight to your city’s sanitation facilities to be treated These are the pipes the city always keeps digging up in Las Vegas. For a regular residential district a 3 to 4 foot diameter drainage pipe is sufficient. But then, build a six-story apartment building and the sewage could overflow. The casino hotels have toilet sewer pipes over twelve feet tall.

You mess with these sewer pipes under threat of death. February before last the Orleans Casino’s toilet sewer line was blocked. Instead of calling the company that usually dealt with these problems, and in spite of worker’s warnings and the noxious odors, a supervisor ordered two men to get into the sewer to check for blockage. Both men died almost instantly and another man who bent over to try to pull them out, got severe lung damage. That’s probably why most cities state that only plumbers can work on your drainage systems.

But the gray water system gets the waste water from your showers, your kitchen and bathroom sinks and your washing machine. This runs straight into your Street surface runoff system often called the Storm water Runoff System. It is not treated and in Las Vegas, it runs through the washes into Lake Mead. — evaporating as it goes. In your city or state, it could run straight into your rivers.

That’s why the Federal Clean Water Act forbids anyone to dump anything in this runoff system except natural urban run off. The biggest residential polluters are fertilizers and pesticide sprays. But since I use only organic soaps in my showers, sinks and washing machine (with a smattering of vinegar for the rinse,) none of this harms my garden plants. Indeed the soaps act as a lubricant and enrich the soil.

My son, the contractor, found it easy to divert his grey water into his garden. My plumber only charged me $25 and some tomatoes and squash from the garden, since crawling under my mobile home is not my strong point. It’s a rather simple procedure.

Water Wars And Water Laws

And yes, it’s against the law. But an unenforceable law. And then there’s water harvesting. That’s also against the law as Kris Holstrom of Denver, Colorado learned. 2. Every time it rains, Kris places fancifully painted 55-gallon buckets underneath the gutters of her farmhouse located on a mesa 15 miles from the resort town of Telluride. The barrels catch rain and snowmelt, which Kris uses to irrigate the small vegetable garden she and her husband maintain.

But according to the state of Colorado, the rain that falls on Holstrom's property is not hers to keep. It should be allowed to fall to the ground and flow unimpeded into surrounding creeks and streams, the law states, to become the property of farmers, ranchers, developers and water agencies that have bought the rights to those waterways.

Kris knows about these laws since she teaches a class on water harvesting. When she called her state water department last summer they assured her harvesting was technically illegal, though it was unlikely that she would be cited.

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Barbara H. Peterson is retired from the California Department of Corrections, where she worked as a Correctional Officer at Folsom Prison. She was one of the first females to work at the facility in this classification. After retirement, she went to (more...)
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