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Agriscaping Week 5 - Drainage Fail & Graywater Success

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

This week I want to share some of the little adventures we’ve had as we’ve started on our Agriscaping transformation. I keep having to remind myself when we lose a plant that gardening will never have a 100% success rate, but we can learn from our failures and hopefully keep the plants a little bit more alive the next time.

Drainage Fail

First off, I’ll admit the banana plant was a bit of an impulse buy. We got so excited that there was even the possibility of growing bananas in Phoenix that we jumped in and got one before having our full Agriscaping plan together. So the first problem was that it was in the wrong place for our final plan and was going to have to be transplanted, which I’m not sure it would have survived even if it had been healthy. We also didn’t realize, when initially digging its hole, how important it was in our area to make sure it would adequately drain by digging deeper and adding soil/lava rock mix to the bottom to give space for the water to go away from the roots. The problem is we have a fairly thick layer off caliche clay under our yard. A lot of Phoenix has this problem, in differing thickness. It’s the consistency of concrete and definitely stops water from draining through it. So the water we fed our banana pooled and sat around the roots, which bananas definitely do not like. And as the roots rotted, and our banana started to look like this, poor guy:

On the left below, you can see we attempted to dig a new hole for him, but it too wouldn’t drain, even when we tried shooting the bottom of it with a power washer to try to punch a hole through the caliche. You can see how deep the layer went - the length of the power washer at least! In the end, you can see we tried cutting him down to give a chance to regrow another shoot, and he started (the middle section started growing again), but at that point, we were ready to demo, and transplanting wasn’t really an option. So RIP little banana.

Luckily my dad planted a banana the same time we did, and his is flourishing. It already has its first “pup!” So we’re hoping he’ll share the pup with us when it gets time for us to plant our replacement, so we don’t have to buy a new one.

Graywater Success

Now that I’ve shared our first failure, I’d like to share our first successful creation! My husband is very excited about the idea of designing a graywater system for our house. It’s a bit of daunting project because for some reason, despite living in the desert, we are having difficulty finding a plumber or contractor who is experienced in existing house graywater construction and setup. If you know of one, let us know!! Because he’s super handy (fixing airplanes for his day job) my husband is about ready to design and install it himself, but it requires a lot of through-the-bathroom-wall pipe installation, so I’ve requested that we put the brakes on that idea for now until we see how much the landscaping is going to cost us to set up. In the meantime, we are playing with design ideas that include an outdoor shower and sink setup, where the runoff water can be used for the trees. While dreaming about someday reusing more of our graywater, he saw some free water and decided to use it on our royal poinciana tree.

We hooked some irrigation piping up to the condensation pipe from the AC, and ran it right over to the tree. It’s not the prettiest setup yet, but we haven’t had to water the tree all this long, hot summer, and it seems to be enjoying the steady dripping of daily water. I think as we complete our irrigation install, we are definitely going to integrate this idea more elegantly into the final design somehow, either into rainwater collection, or by hiding the pipe underground. Free water + a happy plant = our work here is done (for today anyway).

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