You may be considering planting some flowers and bushes around the outside of your house, but worries about potentially damaging your septic drain field may keep you from enhancing the beauty of your yard. If your yard is of modest proportions, which means you must plant where the drain field runs, then you need to be careful with what plants, trees and shrubs you select. You want to avoid decisions that may contribute to a failure in your own drain field! Read on for more about how to plant septic drain field gardens.
While there is no easy answer to the question, “What am I able to plant?” there are some guidelines that homeowners should follow to ensure that they do not damage the proper functioning of the septic drain field. Planting the wrong plants or putting them in the wrong places can lead to expensive septic system repairs.
What To Plant
First and foremost, the leach field should be planted with grass or native grasses, native wildflowers and ground covers. These plants stabilize the soil in the septic drain area and they do not interfere with soil transpiration or evaporation. Shallow-rooted, herbaceous plants are recommended. Their roots do not obstruct the perforated underground pipes that leach wastewater back into the septic drain field. Flowering perennials and annuals are good alternatives. These plants can actually help your septic drain field. They remove moisture and nutrients from the soil, thereby making the cleansing of the effluent more efficient.
Trees and shrubs present riskier choices for the drainage field. The roots of willow and popular trees are notorious for causing problems with drain field pipes. In general, smaller and less aggressive woody plants are more suitable for planting over a septic drain field. If possible, plant the shrubs between a drain field’s lines. Normally, drainage trenches are 3 feet wide, with 6 feet between the trenches.
If you decide to throw caution to the wind, then try to select trees that will be the least disruptive to the drain field. Or, plant them a longer distance away from the drain field, in order to mitigate the threat of root intrusion. In either case, you should be prepared to face the consequences in a few years when the tree is fully matured.
The big question is whether you can safely plant fruit trees or vegetable gardens over your septic drain area. Experts are divided on whether there are health hazards associated with consuming fruits and vegetables that are grown over septic drain fields. This is because some of the contaminants or pathogens found in sewage and effluent may be absorbed during the growth of the fruits and veggies.
The best advice for planting septic drain field gardens: Avoid planting crops for consumption and plant grasses and flowers instead.