Summer Approaches - What to plant near a septic drain field.

Now that summer approaches many homeowners will start tending their gardens.

Planting certain types of vegetation on or near a septic system drain field is not recommended because of the threat that root intrusion poses to the drain field.

A layer of vegetation over the drain field, such as a lawn, is recommended to hold soil in place and increase the efficiency of the system. Plants help the system to function more effectively by removing soil moisture through transpiration.

Shallow-rooted plants that are well adapted to normal rainfall amounts for the area are best suited for use in a drain field planting. Plants that have aggressive, woody, water-loving, deep roots can potentially clog or disrupt the pipes in the system, causing serious damage that can be very expensive, very messy and threaten the environment. The key is to select plants that will satisfy landscaping needs while posing as minimal a threat to the drain field as possible.

Keep trees and woody plants far away from the drain field. Woody plants are mostly larger shrubs and trees that have woody stems and other woody plant parts that do not die back to the ground in winter. These plants are much more likely to cause serious damage to drain fields with their root systems.

Shrubs with less aggressive root systems should never be planted any closer than 10 feet and small less aggressive trees no closer than 20 feet from the drain field. Ask a local nursery-person what is right for your local area.

When planting shallow-rooted plants there are some general guidelines to consider when planting on a drain field:

  • Never add additional soil over the drain field unless it is a minimal amount used to restore an area that may have been eroded or pulled up by removing another plant.

  • Do not over till the soil for planting. Drain lines may be as close as 6 inches from the soil surface.

  • Always wear gloves when working with the soil in the drain field area to minimize your exposure to the soil and any harmful organisms in it.

  • If a groundcover is chosen, do not use species that create a thick, dense canopy that would shade the ground beneath and collect organic debris not allowing enough evaporation from the soil surface.

  • Choose species that are well adapted to the soils and average rainfall in the area. This may reduce the need for supplemental fertilizers and water, which can compromise the functionality of the system.

Plants, such as annuals, perennials, bulbs and ornamental grasses are generally the best choices for use on a septic drain field.

Before planting follow these guidelines and


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