Owning a home that has a septic tank & drainfield and having a gorgeous well cared for lawn does not have to be difficult. With the right landscaping techniques, you can create an attractive landscape while safeguarding your drainfield. In this guide, we’ll provide you with valuable tips and precautions for landscaping your drainfield effectively.
Section 1: Quick Tips and Precautions
- Avoid planting trees, woody plants, and shrubs near the septic tank and drainfield. Their aggressive root systems can damage the septic system and hinder its performance. Additionally, excessive shade caused by trees can adversely affect the drainfield’s efficiency, so it’s best to keep them away.
- Always wear gloves when working with the soil above the drainfield and wash your hands thoroughly afterward to protect yourself from harmful bacteria.
- Refrain from planting vegetables on or near the drainfield to minimize the risk of bacterial and viral contamination from the effluent.
- Prevent excess water from reaching the drainfield, including irrigation water and water from gutters. Direct the water away from the drainfield to maintain its optimal functioning.
- Exercise caution when digging or tilling over the septic drainfield, as the drain lines may be close to the surface. Avoid adding additional soil unless it’s necessary for restoration purposes.
- Minimize traffic over the drainfield area, including foot traffic and heavy equipment or animals. Compacted soil can disrupt the absorption and filtration process of the drainfield.
- Keep the mulch layer to a minimum to avoid impeding the evaporation of soil moisture.
Section 2: Suitable Plants for a Drainfield
To ensure a healthy drainfield, choose plants with shallow roots that don’t require excessive water. Here are some plant options that work well in landscaping a drainfield:
- Shallow-rooted herbaceous plants such as annuals, perennials, bulbs, and ornamental grasses are excellent choices for your drainfield area.
- Turf grass, certain weeds, and many ground covers also have shallow root systems, making them suitable for landscaping near a drainfield.
- Remember that larger plants typically have larger root systems, so it’s advisable to avoid tall grasses and shrubs. However, a mix of wildflowers, grasses, and bulbs can create an attractive cover. Conduct thorough research on the vegetation you plan to include in your landscape to ensure their compatibility with the drainfield.
Section 3: Landscaping Around the Septic Tank Riser
Septic tank risers are crucial for easy maintenance and inspections. Follow these tips to enhance the appearance of your yard while keeping the risers accessible:
- Never bury the riser and maintain a well-manicured area around it. Regular trimming will also help deter snakes and rodents.
- Consider using decorative elements such as fake rocks, fake wells, or birdhouses to camouflage the risers and add visual appeal to your yard.
- Avoid planting trees or shrubs near the risers, as their root systems can still pose a risk of damage to your septic system.
Section 4: Planting Trees and Shrubs
While it’s best to keep trees and shrubs away from the drainfield, if you insist on having them, follow these guidelines to minimize the risk to your septic system:
- Plant shrubs with less aggressive root systems at least 10 feet away from the drainfield. This distance helps prevent the roots from infiltrating the septic system and causing potential damage. Select shrubs that are known for their compact root growth, such as dwarf varieties or those specifically labeled as septic system-friendly.
- If you absolutely must have trees near your drainfield, take extra precautions to avoid any harm to your septic system. Plant small, less aggressive trees no closer than 20 feet from the drainfield. Remember that tree root systems can extend far beyond the canopy, so it’s crucial to consider their estimated root spread at maturity.
- One guideline to follow is that roots typically extend out from the tree two to four times the diameter of the canopy. This estimate provides a rough indication of the potential root reach.
- Another rule of thumb suggests that tree roots spread out one to three times the height of the tree. Keep these calculations in mind as a minimum distance requirement, and it’s advisable to err on the side of caution by planting trees even further away from the drainfield.
- Research and consult with a professional arborist or landscaper to select tree species that are known for their non-invasive root systems. Some tree species that are generally considered compatible with septic systems include dogwood, cherry, redbud, crabapple, and serviceberry. These trees tend to have less aggressive root growth and are less likely to pose a risk to your drainfield.
- Regularly monitor the area around the trees and shrubs planted near the drainfield. Look for any signs of root intrusion, such as persistent wet spots, slow drainage, or foul odors. If you notice any issues, it’s important to take prompt action by contacting a professional to assess and address the problem.
Remember, maintaining an appropriate distance between trees and shrubs and your drainfield is crucial for preserving the integrity of your septic system. By carefully selecting compatible plant species and monitoring their growth, you can enjoy a visually appealing landscape without compromising the functionality and longevity of your drainfield.
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