Why Growing A Ornamental Plants Over Your Septic Field Makes It Harder To Spot Problems

Posted on: 14 June 2017


While you definitely don't want vegetables and fruits growing over your septic system because of the potential for pathogen transfer, it is relatively safe for the field and tank to have some ornamental plants with shallow roots growing over it. If you're limited in your sunny spots for growing, it can seem like a match made in heaven to use an empty drain field. Yet planting an ornamental garden in your septic zone can actually interfere with your ability to tell if your septic system is functioning correctly or not.

Sucking Up Moisture

First, water puddling on the surface of the soil around or over your septic tank and field is a clear sign there's a big problem. Even a spongy spot that stays damp indicates that the water is not draining properly from your system and you need to have it inspected. If you've planted a bunch of shrubs or tall grasses, you may not be able to see the water until it rises so high it's causing your plants to die off. The roots of thirsty garden plants also suck up a lot of the moisture that would be the earliest warning signs, causing you to put off septic repairs while they're still affordable because you're unaware of the problem.

Disguising Nutrient Flush

Aside from releasing too much water for the soil to handle, septic tanks that are leaking or full also tend to push out too many nutrients. This leads to a lush and dark green jungle of a garden that you'll likely pat yourself on the back for, but it's not an accomplishment. Homeowners often notice nutrient flushing because it causes a patch of plain turf grass to turn a much darker green than its surrounding lawn. If the entire septic area is a garden rather than a homogeneous lawn, you won't have the same visible effect because everything in the garden will grow faster and greener and simply appear like a thriving plant community.

Alternative Ideas

It's still safe to plant on your septic field, you just need to understand the risks so you can work around them. Committing to checking the ground for signs of water and unpleasant odors on a monthly basis is an easy way to add a garden of non-edible plants without losing the early warning signs of damage. Growing plants that prefer low nutrient levels can also help because they'll have visual indicators of nutrient flushing, such as losing their color rather than looking healthier and greener.