It is hard to believe, but fall will be here in a matter of weeks! We are entering the end of the summer growing season and quickly approaching the cooler time of year when it is optimal to get young plants started. The relatively mild temperatures of autumn allow new plants to establish themselves without the stress of excess heat or frost. Whether you’re just patching up some spots in your lawn or you want to “go big” with some native grasses or even small trees, there are guidelines you should keep in mind to protect your septic system.
Proper landscaping of your septic system’s drainfield can be of benefit to your yard and the system in several ways. Plants help the soil utilize the moisture generated by your system. They also reduce soil erosion by helping to hold it in place with their root structure. Lawn turf is always the safest choice, as it will serve these purposes without any risk to your pipes.
On the other hand, your options for a garden or some ornamental planting may be limited to the drainfield, depending on the size of your lot, location of trees, and the amount of sun the drainfield receives. In that case there are a variety of plant types you can safely choose and others you should avoid.
The main concern with any plant is its root system. Drainfield plants must have shallow root structures to avoid damage to your system’s pipeline, which can be as little as 6 inches deep.
In addition to turf being a good choice, herbaceous plants, such as annuals, perennials, bulbs and ornamental grasses are generally the best choices for use on a septic drainfield. Grasses have the advantage of providing year-round ground cover and a dense, fibrous root system. Avoid dense or overactive groundcover, as it can trap moisture from your septic system and inhibit its evaporation.
Plants and trees with large or woody root systems should be avoided. The rule of thumb is that a plant’s root system will be as wide as the plant is tall. So be sure you know how tall a tree or shrub will grow before you plant it. Not only should trees not be planted on your drainfield, care should be taken to that they are at least 20’ away. Some trees such as poplar, maple, and elm will even seek out wet areas and should be at least 50’ away or avoided on your property altogether.
Vegetable gardens are also not recommended. Vegetable gardens require frequent watering, soil cultivation, foot traffic, & fertilization, all of which are discouraged in a drainfield. There is also the possibility that contaminants from your effluent (septic water) will be absorbed by the vegetables.
If you have any questions about the function or health of your drainfield, reach out to the pros here at Got-A-Go. We will help you make safe choices that protect your septic system while providing your home with an enjoyable and attractive outdoor space.