What to Plant Around a Septic Tank – And What NOT to
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, keep major obstructions far away. Placing swimming pools, patios, and large trees nearby can eventually ruin your day. However, since plants do a great job of absorbing excess moisture and slowing erosion, adding some landscaping around your septic system might actually help.
We find there are both good ways and bad ways to go about landscaping around a septic system. We can share some of the things we’ve learned along the way.
Landscaping Around a Septic System Where 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 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.
Avoid Gardening Over Your Drain Field
While grass is fine, you’ll probably want to steer cleer of planting gardens. In truth, you do have a lot of open space atop the septic drain field. You might think it would make a perfect location for planting vegetables. Resist that urge.
For one, anything that grows there will have indirectly used wastewater to grow. While that may not be a huge issue, you also want to avoid any deeper roots that might grow down and into your drain field. Those tunnels need to stay clear and open for best performance. Over the years, a garden can do serious damage depending on what you plant.
Another reason not to plant overtop of your drain field has to do with erosion. Sometimes you lose track of just how much topsoil you have above your leach field. That means you could accidentally dig into your plastic leaching chambers when landscaping over a septic system.
Raised garden 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.
Smaller, lower garden beds get you back to our original point above. The roots might go deeper than you want.
Putting Down Roots
How about plants that aren’t for eating? Can I plant a garden in the area that just looks pretty?
Possibly. You still want to avoid 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 leach pipes.
What about plants that aren’t gluttons for hydration? These present better options. While you don’t want to regularly overwater a drain field, plants that don’t require a lot of water make great solutions for covering up a drain field. You may still need to water them on occasion, but drain fields get rained on all the time and do just fine.
If you really want to work some landscaping around a septic system, choose plants that are known for their shallow root systems. These 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 (and eventually will) 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.
Your septic system requires regular maintenance. Likewise, the landscaping around your septic system requires 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 infiltrate your pipes or tank. Fixing root damage can be costly.