garden over a leach field??

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by cc-rider, Jun 23, 2004.

  1. cc-rider

    cc-rider Baroness of TisaWee Farm Supporter

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    Can I or can't I?? The property I'm looking at is only 1 acre, and darned near 1/3 of it seems to be a leach field!!! If I put in a barn and some fruit trees, the only other clear space is over the leach field.

    I'm guessing I can't build the barn over it? Fruit trees' roots would be bad for it too, I'm guessing.

    Is it dangerous to grow food crops over it??

    I posted this to the gardening section, too, but thought maybe you'd have ideas about what I could do with it if I DON'T garden on it.

    Thanks!
    CC
     
  2. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    With a garden over your drainfield, first of all, I'd be a bit concerned about roto-tilling your garden.....depending on the depth of the trench, you could dig into it.

    Secondly, your drainfield area does not need any more water applied to it. Consequently, you shouldn't water a garden over a drainfield.

    Lastly, if you live in a northern climate, you want a ground cover over the drainfield to catch snow for insulation.

    Safety? Yes, it is perfectly safe to grow veggies over the drainfield (assuming your drainfield is functioning properly.)
     

  3. I would be concerened about root crops, like potatoes & carrots & the like. Just digging them would cause some problems.

    And deep-rooted things like rasberries would be about like the trees....

    Surface crops should work, if you don't have to water or till too deep or they don't root too much. Some folks might not want to know where their meal greens are coming from when you invite them over.... ;) That part is kinda to each their own. :)

    If there is much regulation of spetic systems where you are like there is here in MN, then I would just plant it to sod & leave it alone, let it work as long as possible, treat it nice. Not worth the chance of doing something the inspectors don't like & creating another $8000 bill to make a new one.

    You are correct, no buildings or trees or roads on top of a leach field.

    --->Paul
     
  4. Shrek

    Shrek Singletree Moderator Staff Member

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    What about raised bed boxes and BISF / SFG ? I put some racks 18 inches deep by 4 ft wide and 18 feet long over my leach field. The worms thrived anmd used the moisture, I have alternated crops in the 4 beds and my system doesnt back up or experience any other problems.
     
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  5. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I intrude on the leech field a bit with short raised boxes like Shrek's. No problems so far.
     
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  6. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

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    When I was a kid our garden was raised bed over leach field....It was a very productive garden! :haha:
     
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  7. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    I personally would not do it! Here is the reason and I am not insinuating this would happen here but I like to be on the safe side. I worked in Asia and they use human waste as fertilizer. At the time I was there, there was a cholera outbreak. The government conducted a study of food sources as a source of the cholera and out of a sample of 112+- food items 98 checked positive for cholera. I remember very well that one of the foods was a watermelon that had never been cut prior to sampling.
     
  8. barbarake

    barbarake Well-Known Member

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    Agmantoo - I understand being careful but it can be carried to extremes. In Asia, the human waste they use as fertilizer is spread directly on the fields. That's not the case here.

    Also, cholera is practically non-existent here in the US. I highly doubt that anyone with cholera is going to be using the OP's toilet facilities.

    Personally, I would avoid root crops. I think things like beans, okra, tomatoes, etc. should be fine.
     
  9. BrushBuster

    BrushBuster Well-Known Member

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    my uncle has had his garden over his for years with no problem i think the lines are about 2' deep. just your typical crops...tomatoes,corn,beans,ect. the only root crop i know that he grows is potatoes
     
  10. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    barbarake
    When it comes to others, I to am not into extremes. However, when it comes to me and my family I feel that I cannot be too careful. Maybe I am paranoid and selfish but so be it. Error on the side of safe is what I am stating. :)
     
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  11. GRHE

    GRHE Mountain Ogre

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    As long as you are not getting surface or near surface water, and the leach field was built to a reasonable original depth you should be fine. If you are afraid of surface water, try digging an 18 to 24 inch hole and let it set for a few days, especially through a wash cycle. If it does not fill with water you should be fine. If it does fill with water you probably need work on the field. The amount of household water we use in the US should be enough to prevent concentrations of bacteria, that is the purpose of a leach field. This is actually a common "gray watering" technique to get a secondary use from water from the house. Remember that the majority of the water you are dumping into the field is from baths, washing clothes and dishes, not human waste.
     
  12. missyinohio

    missyinohio Well-Known Member

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    I asked about this when we had our new septic put in last year. Because of the layout of the property they had to run the lines about 150 feet to the leech field which is next to our hay field. He told me that any shallow root crop could go over it with no problem.
     
  13. limhyl

    limhyl Well-Known Member

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    When I bought my first house 12years ago I had no idea where the septic tank or drainfeilds were. I built 12 raised beds and commensed filling them with various flowers and vegetable. It was only eight years later when we went to sell the house and had to have the septic pumped that I found out where it was located. There was no problem at that time with the septic so in our case it did not cause a problem. Besides, there must be a reason the grass is always greener over the septic tank. Mabe the lettuce will be greener too! :haha: .
     
  14. Shrek

    Shrek Singletree Moderator Staff Member

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    A properly enzymed sediment tank minimizes desiese risk by properly composting the waste before it enters the leach field. Composted urban sewage is a common soil amendment in the U.S. and has been for quite some time.
     
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  15. dla

    dla Well-Known Member

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    If you say you are "looking at" this property, does that mean you are considering renting/buying something?
    Then the leach field is from someone else's septic.
    They may have certain rights to the property which may include raised beds or raspberries.
    Just a thought.
    In addition, would you be trying to build on it?
     
  16. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    Shrek, your posted reminded me that a couple years back the nearest town had a representative from the sanitation departement to contact me regarding using a large field that abuts a paved road for sludge application. One of the drawbacks was that the field could not be used for certain crops after the application. I was to be limited to growing only animal feed or soybeans. No root crop was permissible nor any vegetable crop for human consumption. I do not recall the reasons.
    I found this in my records regarding the above application
    Disease-Causing Organisms
    Only sludges treated by digestion or chemical stabilization to reduce pathogen levels and the potential for disease transmission can be applied to land. Land application further aids in destroying pathogens by exposing them to sunlight, the soil environment, and drastic temperature changes. Sludge- application sites are restricted to general public access for 12 months after the sludge has been applied and three months for grazing animals. Only crops used for animal feed can be grown on sludge-application sites and the permit requires an 18-month lag between sludge application and growth of crops for human consumption.

    I think I will continue to refrain from growing my food over the septic drain field.
     
  17. Shrek

    Shrek Singletree Moderator Staff Member

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    A properly enzymed septic system and leach field functions as a digester system.
     
  18. GRHE

    GRHE Mountain Ogre

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    Agmantoo:

    I would always stick to what is comfortable to me as well. One of my goals in growing my own food is always the improved sense of well being regarding the makeup of my food. If you go through practices that effect that sense you might as well buy you food at the local "Megala-Mart".

    Why I would feel OK about it is that there is a big difference between the processed sludge and the leach field. The sludge from a treatment plant concentrates a lot of nasty things. Its not the bacteria in question in most cases, but things like heavy metals and chemicals that composting can not break down for long periods such as lead, mercury, PCPs, and so forth. If it were the bacterial levels they were worried about an application could contaminate the ground water, not just the field it was applied to.

    At the same time, I refuse to use most fertilizers and chemicals on my plants and medicines to my animals that most people find totally acceptable. I am uncomfortable with them and the effect they have on me, my food, and the environment I'm growing these things in. They may be perfectly safe in many cases, but they effect my piece of mind so I don't use them. We have to make our choices on what we feel safe with, which is not always what others feel on the same issue. I just suggest gathering info and sharing it to help everyone make those choices.
     
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  19. cc-rider

    cc-rider Baroness of TisaWee Farm Supporter

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    DLA, I'm looking to buy a property, and the leachfield on this property is from THIS PROPERTY's septic tank. I was thinking of building a barn over it, but because of previous posts, I now realize that was a stupid thought.

    In fact, I think I'm probably ruling this property out because of the huge leachfield. They just put it in about 3 years ago -- don't know where the old one was. If I don't put the gardens or the barn over the leachfield, there isn't really enough room anywhere else to do it. Since I don't want to put either of those there, my options are to find another piece of land elsewhere....... or stay in town. My 1/2 acre lot in town actually has more usable space because I don't need a leachfield or septic system.

    But I really want in the country. :)
     
  20. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    I guess I'd better chime in here. I am a soil scientist and state regulator for waste application to land, septic tank systems and landfills. Comparing the risks of sewage sludge (biosolids) use to septic tank effluent is like comparing apples to oranges. The only concievable risk to a garden from placement over a drainfield is from pathogens. Pathogens move with percolating water in the drainfield....in other words, downward. Now if your drainfield is undersized or plugged, it is possible for the effluent to move upward due to flooding. Consequently, crops, especially root crops, could come in contact with the effluent under this scenario. That is why I prefaced my comment yesterday that it is safe to grow crops IF the drainfield is functioning properly.

    Pathogens are not taken up by plants roots, they are too large to penetrate the root membrane. Roots that could potentially grow down into the drainfield trench will not contaminate the crop growing above the surface with pathogens.

    I guess the long and short of it is this, if there is any chance that any edible portion of a crop could come into physical contact with the septic tank effluent, don't grow it there. If your drainfield is working properly, I would have no problem with having a garden there....but don't water your garden....the pupose of the area is to get rid of water.

    BTW, I get all of my beef from a farmer who has used municipal biosolids for over 20 years.
     
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