Four Qualities To Look For In Plants For A Septic Field

Posted on: 11 June 2016

If you've just bought property that has a septic tank and leach field on it, and you're not used to dealing with those, you may have already heard that you have to be careful planting anything in the area. That's partly true; there are many types of plants that should not go near a leach field or septic tank. However, there are several types of plants that are just fine to plant in the area. Look for these four qualities when choosing plants for your septic system to help keep the system in good shape.

Non-Edible

This may seem obvious to many -- who wants to eat something that grew over a tank filled with sewage -- but confusion still exists regarding whether edible plants can be grown near a tank or a leach field. The general answer is that you should be safe instead of sorry and not plant anything edible in these areas. While in theory it might be possible, with modern septic systems and treatments, to have soil that is relatively safe for edible gardens, the risk of something going wrong -- a leak, an errant root that finds contaminated water, and so on -- is just too great. Anything you plant over the field or tank should be non-edible, or at least something that you're willing to forgo eating.

Shallow Roots (Almost)

The plants you choose for locations right above the tank should have shallow roots. Those roots typically won't grow downward and affect the structure of the tank. However, some shallow-rooted plants can be aggressive and become invasive if the tank leaks and roots sense the leaking sewage. And while deep roots over the tank are certainly bad, there are some trees with deep but stable roots (i.e., non-aggressive roots that won't seek to invade leaking pipes) that you can plant in the leach field away from the tank.

Low Maintenance

The more you walk over the area where the tank is and the more equipment you have to drag over the area, the greater the chance of you compacting the soil enough to affect the tank and the field. Compaction can make it harder for the soil in the leach field to filter the wastewater, and if the tank is old, the extra pressure from the compaction on top of it could create minute cracks in the tank, leading to leaks.

Light Cover

Whatever you plant should be able to grow without the help of a lot of mulch, and the plants should not be ones that are very thick and lush. You want a lighter, more open layer because that allows light and air to penetrate to the soil. Those, in turn, can make it easier for the soil to filter the wastewater.

Talk to septic maintenance companies in your area like Moon Septic and ask them which plants they've seen in other yards, and whether those plants work well. Sometimes a plain lawn is your best bet, but other times there are wildflowers and smaller shrubs that do quite well around septic systems.

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