3 Planting Mistakes to Avoid on Your Drainfield

The drain field is a vital component of your septic system. It is where the main biological work of breaking down the effluent happens, as soil microbes work in this area. This means that it is a somewhat delicate area of your landscape. Most homeowner know better than to drive or build on the drain field, but plants can be a bit more confusing. The following are three plant mistakes you want to avoid on your drain field.

#1: Allowing heavy weed growth.

As a homeowner you probably feel as though you have minimal control over what weeds blow onto your property. While this may be the case, it's vital that you prevent them from overtaking your drain field. Many weedy plant varieties have deep roots, which can damage a drain field.

Another issue is with the dense root systems of some weedy plants. These form a mat that prevents moisture from percolating properly within the drain field. Pulling weeds by hand is the best way to manage them, but it isn't always practical. You can use herbicides, just verify with a septic tech that the herbicide you want to use won't harm your drain field if it leaches into the system.

#2: Growing anything with deep roots.

Trees and bushes are a no-go on a drain field. The deep, woody roots of these plants can penetrate into the field where they can damage the septic tank and pipes, or compact the soil so severely that the field doesn't operate properly. As a general rule, avoid any perennial woody plant, since even those with shallow roots can bind the soil enough to compromise the integrity of the drain field.

#3: Leaving the field bare.

A bare soil or dirt drain field also isn't a good idea. Your field needs plants—they play an important role in helping to break down microbes in the soil into a benign and useful form. Fortunately, there are many good options.

Both perennial and annual grasses are a safe choice, just opt to maintain the lawn in this area with a lightweight riding mower or a push mower—no heavy tractors equipped with grass cutters. Any non-woody groundcover will also work as long as it allows moisture penetration. Another good option is annual plants, such as wildflowers. Just don't plant anything edible, as you don't want to eat vegetables grown upon the drain field.

Contact a drain field or septic contractor in your area for more help.