Gauteng and NW Province

Fertilizer vs Shampoo – grey water and your garden.

I have realised that most people are still under the wrong impression of grey water being harmful to their garden.

Although I mainly use ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly’ products in my house the ingredients in your common shampoo for instance are also found in fertilizer. The use of Grey water for garden irrigation will not damage your garden.

It is a well-known fact that, application of fertilizers can provide the nutrients, essential for plant growth. They are generally applied on the soil or leaves of the plants to promote rapid growth and development. They generally come in three basic forms; dry, soluble and time released. Soluble fertilizers are dissolved in water, while the time released fertilizers can come in both dry and soluble form, and they are released slowly over a period of time.

Fertilizer Components

Whether organic or synthetic, the key ingredients in fertilizers are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, usually referred as NPK. These are the primary macro nutrients, found in any fertilizer. However, their concentration can vary considerably from one fertilizer to another. The concentration of these three main components of fertilizers are expressed as, three numbers printed on the label of a particular fertilizer. For example, if a fertilizer is labeled as 10-5-5, then it contains 10% nitrogen, 5% phosphorus and 5% potassium.

1) Nitrogen (N)
Nitrogen is one of the vital nutrients, required for rapid growth of plants, growth of foliage and fruits. Plants synthesize proteins from nitrogen and they also need this nutrient to develop seeds. Plants generally, assimilate nitrogen in the form of nitrate, ammonium, organic nitrogen or molecular nitrogen. Though nitrogen is vital for healthy growth of plants, an excess of it can result in overgrowth, which can make the plants weak and vulnerable to diseases and insects. Therefore, nitrogen rich fertilizers are usually applied, when the plant establishes itself.

Nitrogen in shampoo:
A shampoo composition including from 3 to 50% by weight of one or more anionic surfactants and from 0.05 to 5% by weight of a quaternary nitrogen-containing cellulose ether having a predetermined quaternary nitrogen content, the anionic surfactants being selected from the group consisting of the compounds represented by the general formulas:

2) Phosphorus (P)
Plants require sufficient amounts of phosphorus for blooming and fruit production. Phosphorus is also required for growing strong roots, resistant to rot diseases, and to store energy in the form of adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Fertilizers containing phosphate is usually applied on the soil before planting, and continued until the plant establishes itself.

Phosporus is also found in:
Anti-frizz, Conditioner, Shampoo, Foot moisturiser, Facial Moisturiser/Treatment,
Feminine care (general), Eye drops/Artificial Tears, Hair Care (General), Skin Care (General), Scalp Treatment, Stain Remover, Dry Dog Food.

3) Potassium (K)
Potassium is mainly required for strengthening the plants. A deficiency of this macro nutrient can result in stunted growth and reduced yields. Phosphorus can stimulate early growth in plants, by increasing protein production, and increase their resistance to diseases and insect damage. Potassium rich fertilizers are typically used before or during the winter period. However, it should be kept in mind that, an overuse of potassium rich fertilizers can kill the plants.

Potassium in cosmetics, skin & hair care products:
Potassium and forms of potassium, such as potassium sorbate and potassium hydroxide, are common ingredients in cosmetics, skin care products and hair care products. In some hair care products, such as supplements, potassium is included for oral consumption. However, potassium is also an additive found in hair care products intended for topical use. Follow all directions on the hair care product to safely administer the ingredients, including the potassium. Hair care supplements and hair re-growth shampoos often contain potassium as a way to prevent and treat balding. Potassium deficiencies can cause a person to experience hair loss. Not enough potassium in the body can de-sensitize cells and prevent the cells from re-growing any lost hair. If you do not get enough potassium from food sources, such as bananas, oranges, pears and raisins, hair growth supplementation products can increase your daily intake.

Please re-cycle your grey water for irrigation purposes. You don’t have to harvest rainwater, store it in water tanks and then use it at a later stage to irrigate your garden. You can irrigate your garden the entire year with your grey water. Water conservation is a shared responsibility.

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