Septic fields are a critical component of any home’s septic system, as they play an essential role in treating and recycling wastewater. However, septic fields can also be a potential source of contamination if not properly maintained. For this reason, many people wonder if it is safe to plant a garden over a septic field.
Planting a garden over a septic field is unsafe due to the potential for contamination. When not properly maintained, wastewater can seep into the ground and contaminate the soil, spreading harmful bacteria and viruses. The roots can also damage the septic field, leading to expensive repairs.
However, if you properly maintain your septic fields and have taken proper precautions, it is possible to have a garden over a septic field. This option will not only beautify your home but can also help to prevent soil erosion. Read on as I explain in-depth about planting a garden near septic fields, potential risks, and best practices for growing a garden over your septic field.
Why You Shouldn’t Plant a Garden Over Your Septic Field
The large, wide-open, sun-soaked area of your septic field seems the perfect spot to grow a lush and beautiful garden. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. To avoid contaminating your septic system and your home’s water supply, you must steer clear of planting any garden over your septic field. Why? There are two primary dangers—let’s take a closer look at each of these dangers.
Contamination of the Soil
The most significant danger of planting a garden over your septic field is soil contamination. If your septic system is not adequately maintained, sewage can leak and contaminate the surrounding soil. This situation is a severe health hazard, as the contaminated soil can spread harmful bacteria and other microorganisms.
Since plants absorb nutrients from the soil, they can also absorb these harmful contaminants. Eating fruits or vegetables grown in contaminated soil can lead to food poisoning or severe health problems.
In some cases, this can even lead to the contamination of groundwater. When contaminated water seeps deep into the ground, it can pollute underground aquifers and wells. Cleaning contaminated underground water is a challenging and expensive process, so it’s best to avoid spoiling it in the first place.
It’s essential to have your septic system regularly serviced and repaired as needed by a professional to avoid contaminating the soil. Blocked or damaged septic systems are more likely to leak, so keeping them in good working condition is essential.
A Garden Might Damage the Septic Field System
As your plants grow, their roots will spread out in search of water and nutrients, penetrating deep into the soil. In the process, they can damage your septic field system by clogging or breaking pipes. This issue can lead to costly repairs or even the need to replace your septic system entirely.
It’s best to avoid planting trees or other deep-rooted plants near your septic field to minimize the risk of damage to your septic field system. Instead, opt for shallow-rooted plants like grass that are less likely to damage the pipes.
It’s also important to avoid planting vegetation over the actual septic tank. The weight of the soil and plants can put unnecessary pressure on the tank, leading to cracks or overall structural damage.
Planting a Garden Over Your Septic Field
While planting a garden over your septic field comes with some risks, it is possible to do so safely if you take the proper precautions. The soil around the septic tank has high concentrations of nutrients, making it ideal for gardening. However, before you start planting, there are a few things you need to do:
Have Your Septic System Inspected and Serviced Regularly
One massive problem with septic fields is you never know something is amiss with the system until wastewater backs up into your home or sewage starts bubbling up in your yard. And by then, the damage to your system—and potentially your home—is extensive.
It’sessentialt to have your septic system inspected and regularly serviced to avoid this issue. This way, you can catch any potential problems early on and have them repaired before they cause extensive damage.
When hiring a septic professional, make sure they are licensed and insured. You can also ask for referrals from friends or family members with septic systems. This way, you can be sure you’re getting a reputable professional who will do a good job.
Choose the Right Plants for Your Septic Field Garden
Planting over your septic field is only safe if you choose the right plants. Avoid deep-rooted plants like trees, which can damage your septic system. Shallow-rooted plants like grass are a better option.
Although leafy vegetables are a healthy option, avoid planting them in your septic field. Splashing sewage water or runoff from the septic tank can easily contaminate your plants. Use trellises for cucumbers and vine crops like tomatoes, peas, and beans. This way, they are less likely to come into contact with contaminated water.
It would be best to avoid planting your plants directly over the septic pipes or tank. The weight of the soil and plants can put unnecessary pressure on the system and damage it.
Avoid Raised Garden Beds on Your Septic Field
Raised garden beds are a popular gardening trend, but they are not safe to use in your septic field. The soil in a raised garden bed is much deeper than in a traditional garden, putting more pressure on the septic system. This issue can lead to damage or even collapse of the system.
A septic field system needs to allow moisture to escape so you may adequately treat the sewage. If you use a raised garden bed, the soil will be too dense, preventing the moisture from escaping.
If you want to use raised garden beds, build them on another part of your property that is not over the septic field. You can enjoy the benefits of raised garden beds without damaging your septic system.
4. Don’t Overwater Your Plants in a Septic Field Garden
It’s essential to water your plants regularly, but avoid overwatering as this can saturate the soil and damage your septic system. Stick to a regular watering schedule and water your plants deeply but less often. This process will encourage proper root growth and help your plants withstand drought.
Before watering, perform a simple test to see if the soil is dry enough. Stick your finger in the soil 2-3 inches (5.08-7.62 cm) deep. If the soil is dry to the touch, it’s time to water. However, if the soil particles stick to your finger or the soil is cool to the touch, it means the soil is still moist, and you don’t need to water the plants.
Mornings are an excellent time to water your plants—as is the early evening to avoid evaporation. This schedule will also help prevent fungal diseases, as wet leaves overnight can create a favorable environment for fungal growth. Drip irrigation systems are a great way to water your plants efficiently and reduce the risk of overwatering.
5. Mulch Your Garden To Protect Your Septic System
Adding a layer of mulch to your garden is a great way to protect your plants and reduce watering needs. Mulch helps hold moisture in the soil, preventing evaporation and keeping the root zone cooler. This method can reduce watering needs by up to 50%. It also helps suppress weeds, which reduces competition for water and nutrients.
Organic mulches, such as wood chips, straw, and shredded leaves, are the best options for septic systems. They break down over time and improve the quality of the soil. Inorganic mulches like gravel and stones don’t break down and can eventually clog the pores in the ground, preventing proper drainage.
Apply a 2-3 inch (5.08-7.62 cm) layer of mulch to your garden and replenish it as needed. This barrier will help you save water and keep your plants healthy.
6. Maintain Your Septic System
Proper maintenance of your septic system is essential for its longevity and performance. Pumping your septic tank every 3-5 years will remove the accumulated solid waste. This process will prevent the tank from overflowing and damaging your septic field.
You should also regularly inspect your septic system to ensure it functions correctly. When issues are detected early, you can often repair them before they cause significant damage. Partner with an experienced septic professional to perform regular system maintenance and inspections. They have the expertise to properly care for your septic system and keep it running smoothly.
Planting a garden over your septic field is unsafe due to the high contamination and damage risk. However, proper planning and maintenance can protect your septic system and enjoy a beautiful garden.
Have your system regularly inspected, choose the right plants, and practice appropriate gardening techniques to keep your plants healthy and your septic system functioning properly.