We are seeing more and more people moving to rural areas where they find themselves dealing septic systems for the very first time. Lots of questions arise and one of the most common is, “What is safe to plant over and around the drain field?”
All that water… and well… fertilizer…
It’s only natural to think about the flowers you could grow, lush gardens, and beautiful landscaping. You can certainly improve the aesthetics of your property but in order to avoid long-term problems and expenses down the line, you do need to follow a few landscaping guidelines.
What is the purpose of a septic drain field?
Your drain field performs the final treatment of your household wastewater and is crucial to the process.
When you use water, it goes down the drain and into your septic tank. There, liquids separate from the solids and are treated. The treated liquid flows from the tank through drain lines located in the ground. This wastewater gradually works its way out of the lines and into the soil of the drain field. The soil acts as a filter and second treatment of the wastewater.
For this reason, it is important to keep the area near the field open, clean, and free from heavy traffic. It is also important that the underground pipes are accessible and safe from roots and other intrusions.
Should You Landscape?
Planting over your drain field has both advantages and disadvantages, which must be carefully weighed based on location, climate, plant type, and other factors.
- Stops soil erosion over field
- Plants increase and optimize oxygen exchange
- Plants promote moisture removal from soil
- Improves appearance of home
The main disadvantage of landscaping over your drain field is the possibility of deep-reaching roots penetrating and growing around your drain field pipes. This creates clogs and blockades, causing your overall septic system to malfunction. If the roots are too strong, it can lead to long-term issues that are expensive to resolve.
Which plants are safe for your drain field?
Fortunately, there are a number of landscaping plants that are considered safe to place near your drain field.
- Always choose plants with shallow roots.
- Avoid water-native plants that will immediately begin growing toward your pipes.
- Avoid planting dense, carpet-like plants that will prevent the drain field soil from getting the evaporation and oxygen flow it needs.
- Try not to till the soil near the drain field too aggressively. Drain lines are often located near the surface of the ground.
- Always wear gloves when working near your drain field to avoid contact with any harmful bacteria.
Is it safe to plant a garden near the drain field?
Landscaping plants with shallow roots are one thing but most experts don’t advise using your septic field for your garden. Even though the treated water is safe, you may not catch an issue until after you have eaten contaminated vegetables.
There is less of a problem with heavy clay soil but sandy soils can sometimes let bacterial contaminants leach into the surrounding area.
If you have no other place for your garden, then you can plant as long as you keep these things in mind:
- Avoid planting root crops like potatoes or carrots over the drain lines.
- Leafy vegetables such as lettuce or spinach can become contaminated by runoff or splashing during a rainstorm.
- Grow fruiting crops, such as tomatoes and cucumbers on a trellis so that the fruit does not touch the ground.
- Thoroughly wash everything before you eat it.
- Do not grow your vegetables in raised beds over the field. This prevents the evaporation needed to keep the drain field working properly.
There is no reason you cannot landscape in and around your drain field as long as you take the proper precautions. Definitely schedule a yearly inspection of your septic system just to make sure that you don’t have root issues or contaminants leaking into the soil.
Norway Septic is a service-oriented company dedicated to providing excellent septic tank cleaning and septic tank pumping services to homeowners and business owners in the Michiana area. We take pride in doing the job that others leave behind. If it’s time for you to get your septic tank pumped, or if you have any further questions, call us today.