Planting on Your Drain Field

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Thinking about planting on your drain field or leach field? Many varieties of plants assist your septic drain system in functioning at optimal capacity by continually removing water and organics found in the soils that encompass your field. A lush bed of grass also assists in keeping the entire structure from eroding and plants work the same way. Large drain fields can be somewhat of an eyesore and many homeowners have learned to use that natural landscape as a perfect setting for a landscape masterpiece. No matter what your situation is, there are many options and solutions for beatifying your drain field or leach field and most will hardly dent your budget.

As a rule of thumb, look to add shallow rooted plants and shrubs when designing your drain field landscape. Some species of herbaceous plants have minimal root depth and only require a moderate water supply to flourish. Most drain fields and leach have perforated piping that run anywhere from 6 to 46 inches below the surface and heavy thick roots from the wrong type of flora can greatly inhibit or degrade the systems performance. Always consult an expert of what plants and shrubs might work best for your situation and do a little research before taking the plunge since digging up freshly planted shrubbery is not on the agenda.

Some plant recommendations might be shallow-rooted plants such as flowering perennials and annuals, turf grass, and other short root additions most often will not damage the lines and their root system is usually contained within a few inches of the base stem or trunk. When working with your drain field or leach field, remember to proceed with caution and carefully move the soil as you prepare for the additional shrubbery. Small trees and medium to large shrubs are possibly not the best choice for your drain field being their root systems might wander too deep and therefore interrupt the function of your field through root damage, soil shifting and excessive water absorption.

Keep trees to a minimum and stick to varieties that truly have a very shallow root system and the same applies to shrubs. I you do have a requirement in your design to add trees or heavy shrubs to the drain field or leach field system, attempt to place the flora outside of the drain field perimeter thereby allowing the root system to develop and thicken outside of your systems footprint. If you currently have deep rooted shrubs or trees near your drain field, you may want to consider relocating them to another are of your yard or removing them al together.

The cost of a new drain field can run into the tens of thousands of dollars range and can be a heavy hit to any ones budget when an unexpected collapse or shutdown occurs. Large trees should be kept at least 30 feet from your drain field system and regular checks for root invasion are an excellent precaution to avoid problems. Root blockades and barriers are also an advanced method of allowing specific varieties to be planted nearer the drain field than normally would be suggested. Consider the following as a “near drain field” shrubbery when making your choices;

• Carpet Bugle • Dogwood Hemlock • Sourwood Crape myrtle • Japanese Spurge • Blue-silver fescue • Periwinkle • Sword Fern • Irish Moss • Blue Star Creeper • Vaccinium • Creeping Rubus • Kinnikinnick • Blue oat grass • Vaccinium • Flowering cherry Crabapple • Black gum Goldenrain tree and the list goes on and on.

Keep in mind that your drain field and septic system are “alive” and need proper care to function at peak performance. Always think ahead before altering your leach field landscape and plan for the future when adding any flora to your yard and surrounding areas.