Finding Plumbing Issues Early

Landscaping Tips For Your Septic Drain Field

by Chris Bowman

Your landscaping could be causing major problems with your septic system. Septic systems depend upon a drain field to operate properly. Too much moisture can flood the system, causing it to stop working or to cause sewage to leak. Compacted soil is also a concern, because it can inhibit the leaching action in the drain field. The following landscaping tips can keep your system running properly while still improving the appearance of your property.

Watch Those Downspouts

Rain gutter systems that are designed to carry water far from the home's foundation can unwittingly encroach onto your septic system's drain field. This usually isn't a problem except for when heavy rainfall occurs. Then the excess water flowing through the downspouts can flood your drain field and the septic system. Route downspouts away from the drain field, especially if you have underground spouts that dump water directly into the soil.

Plant Wisely

It's generally a bad idea to plant trees and large plants on a drain field. The roots can clog and compact the soil, or even grow down into your septic tank and cause damage. Know the estimated spread for the root systems of any shrubs or trees you plant near the drain field, and make sure the roots won't encroach into the space when the plants reach maturity.

Opt for shallow-rooted herbaceous plants directly on the drain field. Turf grass is the standard choice, but wildflowers and garden perennial flowers and foliage plants can also grow well in this area.

Consider a Berm

Berming in the drain field can help discourage traffic over the area, which will prevent soil compaction. Build up a low berm around the perimeter of the field, and then cover it with mulch and add your favorite herbaceous landscape plants or small shrubs. Just make sure to leave one entrance area so the septic service technicians can reach your tank and field for routine maintenance or repairs.

Skip the Lawn Maintenance

The landscaped area over the drain field only requires the most minimal of maintenance. You can mow and trim back plants, but don't water or fertilize the area. Watering can flood the system, while fertilizer can throw off the microbial balance in the septic system. Since drain fields tend to stay moist, skipping the irrigation isn't usually a problem. You also want to avoid deep tilling or digging deeper than a few inches into the soil. When you are doing minor work that requires that you work in the soil, such as planting, make sure you wear gloves.