Planting over septic tank

Contents

Planting Tips

Is your septic system drainfield an eyesore? Are you unsure how to care for it?

Your drainfield represents a substantial investment. Treating it right, and protecting it from damage, can save considerable time, work, and money.

The following is taken from the brochure: Landscaping Your Drainfield .

Planting your drainfield may be different than other experiences you have had landscaping.

  • It is unwise to work the soil, which means no rototilling. Parts of the system may be only six inches under the surface. Adding two to three inches of topsoil to the drainfield should be fine, but more could be a problem (too much can prohibit the exchange of air and water).
  • Any plants should be relatively low in maintenance and water needs. Select plants that once established will not require routine watering.

Acceptable Plants for Some Drainfields

The following shallow-rooted plants can be grown on standard drainfields or mounds. Broken down by the amount of sunlight needed, they include groundcovers, ferns, ornamental grasses, and wildflowers.

Deep Shade (receives no direct sun)

  • Carpet Bugle (Ajuga reptans): an aggressive groundcover with blue flowers in the spring
  • Japanese Spurge (Pachysandra terminalis): an aggressive evergreen groundcover; once established, it forms a thick cover, minimizing weeds
  • Periwinkle (Vinca minor): an evergreen groundcover with periwinkle blue flowers in the spring. Moderately drought tolerant in shady areas
  • Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum): a native evergreen fern that in a shady location is very tolerant of our dry summer months — easy to grow
  • Irish Moss (Sagina): not a true moss, but a good look-alike and much easier to grow — does best when mixed with ferns and other plants

Partial Shade (receives about 4 hours of sun)

  • Blue Star Creeper: an attractive, fast-growing groundcover with tiny blue flowers
  • Carpet Bugle and Sword Fern (see above): also suitable, but the fern will not be as drought tolerant as in the shade
  • Creeping Rubus (Rubus pentalobus): species of ornamental bramble, but its leaves and small flowers are much more decorative than its thorny cousins — the rooting carpet of stems can easily grow four feet a year
  • Vaccinium “Well’s Delight” (Vaccinium crassifolium): shiny, dark evergreen leaves with dainty pinkish flowers — a good, three-inch-tall groundcover for partial sun

Full Sun (receives sun all day or about 8 hours)

  • Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi): a native evergreen groundcover known for its drought tolerance once established. Requires a well-drained soil; not tolerant of wet areas.
  • Blue-Silver Fescue (Festuca cinema): an ornamental grass with blue-silver blades. A short, clumping grass requiring a well-drained soil, not drought tolerant.
  • Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens): an ornamental grass with stiff evergreen blue blades. Requires well-drained soil.
  • Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopercuroides): an attractive fountain grass with arching stems bearing soft, bottlebrush clusters of fuzzy flowers. Grows to about 1 1/2 to 2 feet and is tolerant of moist soils, unlike some other ornamental grasses.
  • Vaccinium “Well’s Delight” and Creeping Rubus, noted above, are also suitable.

Wildflowers

A meadow with a mix of native grasses and shallow-rooting flowers can be very attractive, and good for wildlife, too. The use of wildflowers with bulbs is an easy way to landscape the drainfield and have two to three seasons of color. Daffodil and crocus bulbs are easy to naturalize and both are reasonably drought tolerant and will return year after year. When selecting wildflower seed, there are several important considerations:

  • Be sure the seed is viable and not left over from the previous year. Many mixes currently available may not be well suited for our Northwest climate.
  • As with the Acceptable Plants above, seed selection must be based on the amount of sun. There are a variety of native seed mixes for all types of sun-shade situations.
  • The seed mix needs to be a blend of annual and perennial seeds. Avoid wildflower seeds that contain knapweed, hawkweed, or other noxious weeds. Packets of wildflowers from out of state may contain weeds considered a nuisance here in Washington. Look for Washington state labeled packages that say “no noxious weeds” or “no detectable weeds.”
  • If your drainfield currently has grass, you cannot just spread the seed over the grass and expect it to grow. Remove the grass in small areas, six inches or so in diameter, and sow the seed in those areas. The grass needs to be kept out of the area until the seed has germinated and is large enough to compete with the grass.
  • May is generally the best month to sow wildflower seeds, when we still get enough rain to keep the seeds moist during germination. If we have a dry month, sprinkle the seeds with water twice a week.

Talk to your septic system designer or installer for more answers to your questions, or call Thurston County Environmental Health’s Septic Helpline at 360-867-2669. The TDD line for the hearing impaired is 360-867-2603.

Steps

2. Keep trees to a minimum and stick to varieties that truly have a very shallow root system and the same applies to shrubs. If you do have a requirement in your design to add trees or heavy shrubs to the drain field or leach field system, attempt to place the flora outside of the drain field perimeter thereby allowing the root system to develop and thicken outside of your systems footprint. If you currently have deep rooted shrubs or trees near your drain field, you may want to consider relocating them to another part of your yard or removing them all together.

Tips

  • Blue oat grass

  • Flowering cherry Crabapple

  • Irish Moss

  • Keep in mind that your drain field and septic system are “alive” and need proper care to function at peak performance. Always think ahead before altering your leach field landscape and plan for the future when adding any flora to your yard and surrounding areas.

  • Periwinkle

  • Creeping Rubus

  • Sourwood Crape myrtle

  • Kinnikinnick

  • Dogwood Hemlock

  • Black gum Goldenrain tree and the list goes on and on.

  • Consider the following as a “near drain field” shrubbery when making your choices;

  • Sword Fern

  • Carpet Bugle

  • Blue Star Creeper

  • Vaccinium

  • Blue-silver fescue

  • Japanese Spurge

Warnings

  • The cost of a new drain field can run into the tens of thousands of dollars range and can be a heavy hit to any ones budget when an unexpected collapse or shutdown occurs. Large trees should be kept at least 30 feet (9.1 m) from your drain field system and regular checks for root invasion are an excellent precaution to avoid problems. Root blockades and barriers are also an advanced method of allowing specific varieties to be planted nearer the drain field than normally would be suggested.

Article originally featured on WikiHow

Developing Your Spring Fertilization Program

For customers with septic systems in their yards, it’s crucial to know the ins and outs of what can and can’t be planted and installed around them.

The myth is that you shouldn’t plant or install anything at all near or around septic systems if you want them to be able to work properly, and to a point that is true. If you’re talking about a patio, sports court or swimming pool, the answer is no, don’t put those near the septic system, but if you’re talking about a few plants to liven up the area, those can actually prove beneficial.

If plants are close enough to the septic system, their roots can actually help absorb excess water and nutrients from the soil, which will help with erosion.

However, there is a right and wrong way to go about planting near septic systems, so take a look at a few rules to keep in mind when working with your customers to make their system area look more appealing.

Trees and plants

Much like the foundation of your customer’s home, tree roots can grow deep down and damage the pipes and tanks in a septic system, which means you want to steer clear of planting trees with deep roots in the area.

Even if it’s a smaller sapling, the roots can sometimes grow very quickly, such as white oaks, hickory, walnut, evergreen figs and more. Because of this, it’s recommended that no trees be planted closer than 30 feet away from a septic system.

If you want to stay on the safe side regardless, consider talking to your customer about only having trees in the landscape that are known to have roots that won’t grow quickly.

Another good rule of thumb when choosing plants to go near a septic system is to pick out plants with shallow roots that won’t require a lot of water.

If water-craving plants are near a septic tank system, they could potentially send their roots down lower into the ground in search of water or days when they feel particularly parched, which could spell out trouble if they end up disrupting the system’s pipes.

Plants that require ample watering can also cause a problem because of the excess of water that will be present in the area. It’s best to keep the drain field free of as much additional water as possible, as it can interfere with the job the system is already working to do.

The best options to suggest to your customers are drought-resistant plants with shallow roots, which can include ground cover, flowering perennials and annuals and herbaceous perennials.

Grass, gardens and maintenance

Overall, the safest method for sprucing up your customer’s septic area is to add in grass to cover the space. Grass will quickly absorb excess moisture from the soil, which will allow it to continue to process wastewater efficiently.

Regardless of where you’re located, there should be multiple grass options your customers can choose from. Just make sure that whatever they choose will be easy to care for, as you won’t want anything that will require bringing mowers and other heavy equipment to the area for maintenance purposes.

Customers might see the open area around their septic system, hear the idea of planting something there and immediately think they should add in another garden since that space is free. Heavily advise against this, though. The most obvious reason being do your customers really want to grow vegetables on a space where their septic system is the source of fertilizer?

If customers ask about the addition of raised beds in the space as an alternative, remind them that the extra weight of the beds could compromise the pipes below that run from the septic tank to the field or the tank itself.

As you would when performing maintenance on other plants in your customer’s landscape, be sure to keep tabs on their septic system and remind customers to check it routinely.

Remind them that it needs to be professionally inspected for issues and pumped out periodically. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it’s recommended to have your septic system inspected every one to three years and pumped every three to five years.

Guidelines for Planting Your Garden Around a Septic Tank

Your septic tank is made up of a main outlet, a holding tank and a drainage field. The tank receives wastewater from your home plumbing system where it collects for a certain length of time until it exits the outlet and empties into the drainage field. There are certain plants that will fare better on or around your drainage field. So, what plants are good or bad for your wastewater treatment system? Here are some helpful “do’s” and “don’ts” for planting a septic tank friendly garden:

DO stay shallow

While being “shallow” is not considered a positive personality trait, it is very important that you stay shallow when it comes to planting your garden over a Ri-Industries septic system. A septic tank is generally installed about 0.6 to 0.9 meters underground, meaning you do not want the root systems of your small plants or shrubs to extend below this depth. The best plants to use near drainage fields are flowers, grasses, and small groundcovers that will not grow deep enough to disrupt the pipeline of your septic tank.

DON’T plant trees too close to your septic system

While Ri-Industries septic tanks are made from 40 MPa concrete, and the engineer-designed tanks are built to withstand anything, contractors generally believe that no tree is safe to plant too close to a septic system. This is because the root system provides a tree’s primary way of absorbing water, and those roots will extend toward the most abundant source of water in your yard. This means that if a tree is planted too close to a septic system, its roots will grow in the direction of the wet drainage field around it. Trees with smaller, less complex root systems are less of a risk to plant near the septic system, but especially try to avoid planting gum trees, cypress trees, maples, or willow trees anywhere near your Ri-Industries septic tank.

DO use shrubs that don’t require a lot of water, or are drought tolerant

Hydrophilic (water friendly) plants will grow deep into the ground, searching for moisture. The root system of water-loving shrubs can become entangled in the pipes of your septic system if planted too close to your drainage field, and cause problematic clogging. Try planting smaller shrubs whose root systems won’t cause a disturbance to your Ri-Industries septic pipes.

DON’T plant veggies near your septic tank

Fruits and vegetables should be planted at least three meters away from the drainage field of your septic tank to avoid bacterial contamination. This seems fairly simple, but it is also important to keep in mind as you plan out your planting!

DO plan ahead

Lay out the location of your shrubs before you start any digging. Plant shrubs near the end of septic tank lines where the soil is drier, or at least three meters away from the drainage field. You can also plant shrubs at the base or on side slopes of the septic mound, still keeping at least three meters away from the septic lines. Bushes planted downhill will absorb water and prevent erosion. Plants with shallow root systems can be planted right on the drainage field, while trees with deeper root systems should be planted at least 15 meters away.

Have any questions about how to design the perfect garden around your septic tank? Don’t hesitate to contact us with questions.

Make Sure to Choose Appropriate Plants to Grow Above Your Septic System

Have you ever thought about what plants go where in your yard? Now, have you ever thought about where the roots of those plants will grow? Part of keeping your home safe is knowing where different utility lines and services are on your property, be sure to keep this in mind next time you plant anything in your yard. If you are unsure, remember that you can always get a Colorado utility locate by calling 811.

What Plants Are Safe to Grow Over Septic Tanks and Drain Fields

Certain trees and shrubs can cause damage in around septic tanks and drain fields with their aggressive roots. Which plants were the worst to grow over a septic system and which are safer choices?

Plants Safe to Grow Over Septic Tanks and Drain Fields

Do not become so paranoid over the potential of damage to septic systems caused by roots that you abstain from planting these areas altogether. Growing the right kind of vegetation here is not only permissible but actually advisable.

Plants will prevent erosion and suck up some of the excess moisture from the drain field.

Perennials, annuals, small, non-woody ground covers, and grasses (including ornamental grasses) work best around your septic tank and drain field because their shallow root systems are less likely to invade the underground system and cause it damage. There are, of course, innumerable examples of such plants, so you will want to narrow down your choices. A good way to start is to consider growing conditions:

  1. If the area is sunny, consider these ten best perennials for sunlit areas.
  2. But if the spot does not get much sun, you will probably be happier with these shade-garden plants.
  3. The soil around septic tank drain fields is sometimes wetter than average, sometimes saltier than average — and sometimes both. Cover both bases with perennials such as bee balm, hollyhocks, and wild violets, which tolerate both wet ground and salt.
  1. Bambi will not turn his nose up at plants growing over septic systems, so if you have a problem in your region with this big pest eating your plants, you will want to look into deer-resistant perennials and deer resistant ground covers, as well as spring bulbs and ornamental grasses that deer do not eat.

It is not safe to grow (and eat) food crops in the ground around a drain field because eating them might entail ingesting harmful bacteria.

If you must grow trees and shrubs, shallow-rooted kinds are better to grow around septic tank drain fields. Shallow-rooted trees and shrubs include:

  1. Dogwood trees
  2. Japanese maple trees
  3. Eastern redbud trees
  4. Cherry trees
  5. Azalea shrubs
  6. Boxwood shrubs
  7. Holly shrubs

The Worst Plants to Grow Over Septic Systems

Generally, avoid planting large, fast-growing trees. But, in addition, some of the worst offenders are trees and shrubs with root systems that aggressively seek out sources of water. They are not fussy about the water source they tap into, meaning the pipes in your septic tank drain field are very much fair game. Weeping willow trees are a notorious example. There are many trees and shrubs to avoid, but here is a small sampling:

  1. Pussy willow shrubs
  2. Japanese willow shrubs
  3. Aspen trees
  4. Lombardy poplar trees
  5. Birch trees
  6. Beech trees
  7. Elm trees
  8. Most maple trees other than the Japanese
  9. American sweetgum trees
  10. Ash trees
  11. Tulip trees

Let’s say you have avoided growing any of the most problematic plants directly over your septic tank drain field. Are you out of the woods? No! There is still a danger posed by any large, mature trees that may be growing anywhere near your septic system.

The general rule is that such a tree needs to be as many feet away from your septic drain field as it is tall — and that is a minimum requirement. So a specimen 50 feet tall at maturity should stand at least 50 feet away. Failing that, it is possible to install root barriers to try to keep tree roots from invading your septic drain field (similar to the bamboo barriers used in controlling invasive bamboo).

Why You Have to Be So Careful Planting Over Septic Tank Drainfields

It is primarily the drain field pipes that you have to worry about when planting around septic tanks. You do not want roots penetrating the perforations and gumming up the works. All of the parts of this carefully tuned system must be functioning properly, else the result is a mess — and a costly one, at that.

While annual flowers are sufficiently shallow-rooted to serve as plants for septic fields, what makes them less than ideal is that they have to be planted every year. The less gardening work you have to do in a septic tank area, the better (both for you and for the septic system). Always wear gloves when digging in a drain field to protect yourself. Never dig deeply (you could damage the system).

Read the full article here: The Best and Worst Plants to Grow Over Septic Systems http://bit.ly/2xzOmB3

Shown here are creeping phlox, dwarf boxwood, hebe, thyme and iris, which would be considered safe to plant over the septic field.

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Onsite Systems + Get Alerts

Making your daily pumping rounds, you’ve witnessed the myriad of ways homeowners sabotage their septic systems through poor landscaping or other uninformed land-use choices. When the driveway is crowded, they park cars over the septic system. They construct a wooden deck over the septic tank, hindering your access. They plant a water-hungry weeping willow tree next to the drainfield.

They invite root intrusion, soil compaction and broken and damaged drainlines, and then wonder why they’re having problems maintaining the septic system. You patiently share the do’s and don’ts of caring for a septic system and wish someone was out there to educate these homeowners before they make mistakes in the backyard that lead to costly repairs or replacement of the septic system.

Enter Wynn Nielsen, a landscape/garden designer on Bowen Island, a 20-minute ferry ride from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. To help frustrated property owners – who don’t understand how their septic system works or maybe don’t even know they have a septic system – Nielsen recently created a presentation about landscaping around the septic system. She teamed with Scott Stevenson, owner of Bowen Island Septic Services, for a talk with 60 local gardeners.

Landscaping designers are typically late to the game when properties are being developed, Nielsen says, when homeowners already have preconceived notions about how they want to utilize their lots. Unfortunately, Nielsen often has to shoot down those notions.

“Septic fields tend to occupy the most desirable areas of the lot and people tend to want to use them,’’ she explains. “People want to put patios and decks and hot tubs there. They want to create soccer fields and grow vegetables. I’m the one who has to come in with the bad news that you can’t do that without damaging the septic field.

“There’s a lack of education out there about septic fields,’’ she continues. “Having more awareness of the end-user would be great.’’

Most pumpers are getting ready to kick off the busy season. You’ll surely confront homeowners with little understanding of proper landscaping around the septic system. Bits and pieces of Nielsen’s presentation may help you explain how each planting decision can impact the effective use and longevity of a customer’s septic system. And Nielsen has another bit of advice for the septic pumpers and installers: When homeowners have a lot of questions and concerns about their landscaping, don’t be afraid to call in a professional designer.

STEER CLEAR OF THESE

You’re familiar with the first rule of planting around the septic system: Avoid thirsty plants that set deep roots. Nielsen tells homeowners to keep a distance for water-loving trees that include willows, birch, silver maple, elm, beech, walnut and linden. She cautions against planting aggressive, dense ground covers that will interfere with the evaporation process, including pachysandra, cotoneaster and periwinkle. Other plants to avoid for their aggressive roots are vines, wisteria, bittersweet, morning glory, campsis and hops.

Nielsen has developed a general “badass’’ list of plants to avoid near the septic system:

  • Bamboo (any variety)
  • Any trees with particularly strong lateral root growth
  • Water-loving, large-scale pond grasses
  • Native clematis (self seeding)
  • Cedars (except genetic dwarfs)
  • Woody vines

Prairie grasses and meadows can be no-mow and restrict traffic over the septic fields, which are good things, so people think they are desirable. But Nielsen says these are often unwise choices for the septic field. “Prairie grasses and perennials have some of the longest, tangliest, toughest roots around,’’ she says. The drought-resistant nature of prairie grasses translates to aggressive roots adept at seeking out water sources like perforated drainpipes.

Cedar trees and shrubs — evergreens perfect for many screening situations — are a favorite of homeowners, but they are also a no-no, Nielsen says.

“Cedars are wonderful, but they are a problem next to the septic field. Either you’re going to have a short-lived septic field or you’re going to cut those roots on a regular basis,’’ she says.

In general, it’s better to choose trees with vertical root growth if you want to plant near the septic field. When homeowners insist on planting trees with strong lateral root growth, tell them to back off.

“The rule of thumb is to keep a distance equal to the anticipated height of the tree at its maturity, plus 20 percent. Thus, a tree 30 feet tall at maturity should be kept 36 feet away from your septic field,” Nielsen recommends.

Those who want landscape-intensive yards also have to be warned not to plant vegetables over the septic field. Nielsen said some clients insist the drainfield, with its nutrient-laden effluent dispersal, makes a perfect spot for vegetables. But she warns them that disturbing the soil with these annual crops is bad for the septic system, and the effluent could transmit pathogens to the edibles.

GO AHEAD AND PLANT THESE

While traditional lawns are acceptable over septic systems, Nielsen says many homeowners are moving away from that maintenance-heavy chemical input and water-intense ground cover. She points to a few grass varieties that are generally better than others. Safer choices may include:

  • Pre-mixed eco-grass with fescues
  • Small grasses, including tufted fescues, feather grass, pennisetum, deschampsia
  • Grass-like choices, including mondo grass, liatris, liriope, armeria

“Lawns are not very ecologically friendly. They don’t make good habitat for most things, but we still have children and dogs and they provide great places to run around on,’’ she says.

Rather than traditional lawns, Nielsen recommends drought-tolerant plants with short, fibrous root systems chosen for hardiness in your climate and in sun and shade conditions as required. Her list of top choices includes microclover/ecograss/carex pensylvanica dwarf, introduction of white clover, carpets (thyme, sedums, low-growing ground covers), shallow, short/soft rooted perennials, bulb/corm/rhizome/tubers in lawns, and moss.

Microclover, she says, is the “weed we used to eradicate in our lawns,’’ and that the “old enemy is now your best friend.’’ It’s low- or no-mow and deer and bees love it.

Other good choices to add landscape interest without placing a septic system at risk are interspersing annuals or bulbs in the ground cover, Nielsen says. Those include hardy cyclamen, crocus, narcissus/daffodils, snowdrop, alliums and anemones. And newer dwarf tree and shrub varieties are also not the same threat as their bigger siblings. They include cedars, cherry, crabapples, dogwoods, cotinus, cercis, snowbell, acer palmatum, acer grisem and acer amur. Shrubs with fibrous root systems include boxwood, potentilla, daphne, choisya, hebe and euonymous.

CONSIDER LAND USAGE

Typically, homeowners hire Nielsen to draw a landscaping plan after a site has been developed and a home has been built. But ideally, developers and septic installers would involve a landscape designer earlier in the process to result in the best usage of the property, Nielsen says.

Often the lot clearly dictates one location for the septic field, and it’s usually the flattest, sunniest area that is also the spot best suited for intensive gardening, according to Nielsen.

Sometimes the lot leaves little choice to move the drainfield, but often changes can be made in the planning stage to allow better placement for the homeowner.

“Sometimes their ability to use property they paid a lot of money for is really inhibited by these decisions and it’s sad,’’ Nielsen says. “People developing the land put (the septic system) in the most convenient, accessible place. They’re not thinking about how the homeowner is going to want to use the property. A little more up-front thinking would make my job a lot easier.’’

Through her landscaping presentation and getting to know pumping professionals on Bowen Island, Nielsen is looking to educate homeowners and maybe save a few septic systems in the process.

Serving Northeast Ohio

  • By Tom Frank
  • In News
  • Tags damage, planting trees near septic, septic tank cleaning, tree roots in septic

Planting Trees and Bushes in the Septic Area

Here’s another great question that we get asked all the time. “Is it safe to plant trees and bushes in the septic area?”

Our normal response is, “No!” The area around the septic tanks should be kept clear so that the tanks are easily accessible and, more importantly, you do not want the tree roots to enter and damage the tanks, piping, or treatment area.

Avoid Planting Trees and Bushes in the Septic Area

Your treatment area should be planted in grass and kept as lawn. Trees or bushes should not be planted in or near the treatment area. Industry professionals recommend that trees be kept at least 50 feet away and small trees and shrubs at least 20 feet.

The root system of any tree provides its primary way of absorbing water and nutrients from the soil. Not all tree roots grow in exactly the same way. How that happens is governed by many factors: what species the tree is, where it is growing, annual rainfall amounts, and availability of water. Tree roots naturally seek out the closest and most abundant source of water, which means that if a tree is planted too close to a septic system, its roots will grow in the direction of the wet soil around it.

Tree roots can cause havoc on a system by blocking or even breaking drainage and distribution pipes. Roots can also penetrate the tank, blocking off the inlet or outlet pipes.

Costly Repairs

Costly repairs can usually be done to remove or slow down the roots, but the best choice is to avoid planting trees and bushes in the septic area.

The photo at the right shows a root mass we removed from a lift station. The roots entered the tank the size of a pencil next to the inlet pipe. The mass hung in the lift station and grew into the inlet pipe of the lift station causing the water to back up.

If you think you may have a similar root problem in your septic system, give us a call. We can help assess the situation and determine the best course of action.

Tim Frank Septic Tank Cleaning Company has been serving Geauga and the surrounding counties for 47 years. Since 1966, we have been your go to team for all your septic cleaning, maintenance, and repair needs.

Landscaping Your Septic Drainfield

Septic drainfields can be an expensive investment if not taken care of properly. But like the new home that you put time and effort into, you want your yard to reflect that as well. This is where landscaping comes in. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want their yard to look nice? Well, if you have a septic system and drainfield, you need to tread carefully. Which is why we created this guide to landscaping your drainfield.

First, Here Are Some Quick Tips and No-No’s

  • Never plant trees or woody plants and shrubs near the septic tank and drainfield. The aggressive root systems can penetrate your septic system causing expensive headaches in the future. Another reason to keep trees and such away from the septic drainfield is because you don’t want too much shade over your drainfield. The more sun the drainfield receives, the better it will work.
  • Always wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly when working with the soil above the drainfield. Not only will you protect your hands, you will need to wash your hands after potential contact with harmful bacteria.
  • Never plant vegetables on or near your drainfield. You can risk bacterial and viral contamination from the effluent.
  • Keep excess water off your drainfield such as from irrigation. Also try to direct the water from your gutters away from the drainfield.
  • Be careful digging/tilling over the septic drainfield, as you never know how close the drain lines may be to the surface. Also, never add additional soil over the drainfield unless it is a minimal amount used to restore an area that may have been eroded or pulled up from removing another plant.
  • Minimize traffic over the septic drainfield, meaning, plan for minimized foot traffic and activity over the area as well as keeping heavy equipment, vehicles or heavy animals off the drainfield. Compacting the soil in the septic drainfield can ruin the absorption and filtering process.
  • Keep the mulch layer to a minimum so as to not restrict evaporation of the moisture in the soil.

What Kind Of Plants Are Safe Near A Drainfield?

  • The best plants for landscaping near your drainfield are those with shallow roots that are not excessively water-loving.
  • Shallow-rooted herbaceous plants such as annuals, perennials, bulbs and ornamental grasses are usually the best choices for use on a septic drainfield.
  • Other shallow-rooted herbaceous plants include turf grass, weeds and many ground covers.
  • Remember, larger plants have larger root systems, so tall grasses, shrubs and plants are not recommended. However, mixes of wildflowers, grasses and bulbs provide an attractive cover. The key is to do your research on the type of vegetation you want to include in your landscape.

Landscaping Around The Septic Tank Riser

Septic tank risers allow maintenance and inspections to go smoothly. On the other hand, risers can also be an eyesore. So what do you do? First, it’s important to remember that these risers must remain accessible to service inspectors and providers.

  • Never bury the riser and try to always keep the area around the riser manicured. Keeping the area trimmed will also help keep snakes and rodents away.
  • You can purchase fake rocks, fake wells and birdhouses, which can camouflage the risers while making your yard more appealing.
  • Although risers are durable, it is not wise to plant trees or shrubs near the risers as the root systems can still cause expensive damages to your system.

Planting Trees and Shrubs

Although we highly recommend keeping trees and shrubs away from your drainfield, if you absolutely must have one, follow these guidelines to keep from damaging your septic system.

  • Shrubs with less aggressive root systems should be planted at least 10 feet away and small, less aggressive trees no closer than 20 feet from the drainfield.
  • Another method to use when planting trees is to plant the trees as far away as their estimated root spread at maturity.
    • One rule of thumb is that roots extend out from the tree two to four times the diameter of the canopy.
    • Another rule is that tree roots spread out one to three times the height of the tree.
    • These calculations are the bare minimum so to be on the safe side, the trees should be planted even further away from the drainfield.

Just because you have a septic drainfield, doesn’t mean the yard in front of your home can’t look well kept. Follow these tips for landscaping your drainfield and you should have a great looking yard while preventing any expensive damages in the future. If you have any concerns about your septic system, give us a call at Lapin Services and we’ll be glad to help.
For your Plumbing, Septic Tank, Drainfield or Commercial needs please call Lapin Services.
Lapin Services, LLC
3031 40th Street, Orlando, FL 32839
(407) 841-8200

Landscaping Around a Septic System

The Do’s and Don’t’s of Planting Around The Ol’ Honeypot

More than likely, the area around your septic system is devoid of any large plants, patios, or other fixtures. After all, the prevailing and common wisdom is that you should really avoid both building and major landscaping around a septic system. As a broad, general statement, this is a good rule of thumb for you to follow when moving forward with your landscaping projects.

If you like it when your septic system runs properly, placing swimming pools, patios, and large trees are surefire ways to ruin your day eventually. But, since plants do a great job of absorbing excess moisture and slowing erosion, doing some landscaping around your septic system might not be the worst idea in the world. But, there are both good ways and bad ways to go about it, and that’s what we’re talking about now.

10-Second Summary

Should I include some landscaping around the septic system?

  • Grasses: Yes, provided the grass species doesn’t require maintenance with heavy machinery
  • Gardens: Yes, if we’re talking about flower beds. But no, if we’re talking about woody plants, raised gardens, or crops.
  • Trees: No. Keep trees at least 30 ft from your septic system.
  • Be sure to have your septic system inspected and pumped regularly, and check for root systems infiltrating your septic system

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The Grass is Greener…

Grass is great for the area around your septic system. It happily absorbs extra moisture from around the soil, allowing your septic field to continue to process wastewater effectively and efficiently. Most grass types are fine, but you’ll want to make sure that it’s easy to take care of with a regular, light mowing. Ideally, you’ll want to keep the maintenance to a minimum. Basically, you don’t want any sort of maintenance that requires you to drive heavy mowers or other machinery over any pipes that lie close to the surface.

While grass is good, you’ll probably want to stear cleer of planting gardens. It’s likely that you, or your customer, will look out to the big open space surrounding the septic drane field and think that it would be perfect for planting crops, but resist that urge. Here’s why: anything that grows there will have used wastewater to grow, and do you really want to scarf down that tomato that sprang forth from the fruits of your bowels? I mean, the circle of life is cool and all, but gross.

Raised beds present an alternative here, but again, this might not be the best idea. The weight of the raised garden bed could compromise the integrity of any pipes or the drain field itself. It’s best to set them off to the side of the drain field and away from the septic tank.

Putting Down Roots

But what about plants that aren’t for eating? Can I plant a garden in the area that just looks pretty? Well, maybe. But, you’ll still want to avoid any plants that need a lot of water to thrive. The problem with super thirsty plants is that if they don’t get enough to drink, they’ll send deeper roots that could mess with your pipes.

What about plants that aren’t gluttons for hydration? Well, you’ll still have to water them, but adding extra water to your drain field could get in the way of the job your septic system is already doing. Do you really want to gum up those particular works?

If you really want to work some landscaping around a septic system, choose plants that are known for their shallow root systems, and which tend to be more drought-resistant. Flowering annuals and perennials are a good idea, just avoid plants with woody stems.

Trees + Your Septic System = Bad News

As you can imagine, if planter boxes and heavy machinery can cause problems to your drain field and septic tank, the chances are pretty good that trees are generally a bad idea too, right? That’s correct. Just like with your house’s foundation, roots can cause a lot of damage to your pipes and septic tank. Particularly, trees that grow deep roots can wreak havoc, but it’s best to keep any trees at least 30 ft away from your drain field and tank.

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Preventative Maintenance

Your septic system requires regular maintenance. Likewise, the landscaping around your septic system requires the occasional inspection as well. That means that you’ll want to have your tank inspected every three years, and pumped every three to five years. While you’re having that done, take the time to look for any rogue roots that might have crept their way into dangerous territory. The last thing you really want is for a network of roots to wind their way into your system and infiltrating your pipes or tank. Fixing root damage can be costly.

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