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A common question homeowners have about their drain fields is, “What type of landscaping can I do here?” Understanding how your septic field works is key to answering this question.

Effluent from the septic tank drains slowly through the septic field. Soil microbes, dirt and other natural elements filter the effluent. They neutralize harmful bacteria along the way. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Your septic field needs oxygen to deliver effective filtration, so loose soil is critical. Compacting the dirt in any way reduces its effectiveness. That includes parking on it, driving on it and even walking on it. Another way to increase the effectiveness of your drain field is to protect it from excess water. That means routing sprinkler heads and downspout runoff away from your drain field.

Function of your drain field comes first

Contrary to what you might be thinking at this point, landscaping in the septic field can actually be desirable. Careful landscaping helps avoid soil erosion. It can also absorb excess moisture that could otherwise disrupt the field.

Effective landscaping requires an understanding of how your drain field is constructed. Your drainage pipes won’t be buried deeply – maybe as little as 6 inches – so avoid aggressive soil preparation. Do not add soil to the septic field unless you’re attempting to correct soil erosion. If that’s the case, add only what’s needed to rebuild the field to its engineered level. If you’re not sure about how much soil you can add, consult with a septic professional before making any changes.

Always wear gloves and protective clothing because a septic field can be contaminated with dangerous bacteria!

Choose low maintenance plant species that have shallow roots and can get by on average rainfall. Avoid species that form aggressive groundcover. These plants may shade the ground too much, and interfere with the function of the septic system. Avoid mulching and fertilizing, since these may also interfere with the evaporation of moisture from the septic field.

Ornamental grasses are often a good choice for septic landscaping. Bulbs, sunflowers, day lilies and lily of the valley are also good choices for drain field plantings. Consult with your local extension service for more information about recommended landscaping for septic fields in your area.

Do not plant bushes, trees or shrubs in or near your drain field. A septic field requires sunlight to work properly. Trees will not only shade the field, but also break up the drain lines for your septic system. To avoid accidental damage from tree root invasions, do not allow any trees to grow anywhere near your septic field. A general rule of thumb is to restrict tree planting to a distance that is 2-3 times the height of a mature tree. In other words, if a mature tree will reach 25 feet, keep that tree 50-75 feet away from your septic field. You may need to inspect your drain field several times per year to eliminate “volunteer” saplings that have taken root near your system.

If you’d like more information about drain field landscaping, please contact us at Clear Drain Cleaning at (330) 343-7146 to schedule a visit!