Newbie ?:OK to put the garden over the septic drain field?

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by ellebeaux, Jan 1, 2006.

  1. ellebeaux

    ellebeaux Well-Known Member

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    Here's my next naive question: The ideal sunniest spot in my backyard is directly over the septic drain field. I can tell because when it snowed that was the only place where the snow melted, so it's getting plenty of warm bacterial action there!

    Somewhere in the back of my mind, I think it may not be a good idea to grow food where my waste is percolating. Even if it is my own. Is this true?

    If so, how far away should I move the garden? 5 feet? 10 feet? I am limited by shade from the trees. If I have to move it, is it better to have partial shade in the morning or evening?

    I'd like to have the garden in my backyard, just for asthetics. My yard's a 0.25 acre so there's not a lot of room.

    If not, if it is okay to leave the garden where I planned, directly over the septic field, what happens if I need to get it drained? If they have to do work on the septic system, will they just dig up the pipe that goes in or will they dig up the whole field?

    thanks and Happy New Year!
     
  2. MsPacMan

    MsPacMan Well-Known Member

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    We have a septic system, but I have 10 acres so I never had to make this decision.


    But it seems to me that if you build a raised bed -- that is, one that is ON TOP of the existing ground level -- that you would be OK. (Building a raised bed is what I was talking about on the other thread.)


    I mean, don't you walk on top of that area without cleaning your shoes afterwards?


    I don't know that I would want to double dig over my field line, but I would not hesitate to build a raised bed on top of it.


    Edited to add: This is assuming that your field line does not percolate "mess" on top of the ground. Mine does not, but now that I think about it, my neighbor's does. If yours percolates "mess" on top of the ground, then I would not plant anywhere near the field line. But if yours only grows greener grass, like mine does, then there should not be a problem putting a raised bed on top.
     

  3. Marcia in MT

    Marcia in MT Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The last time I saw "official" information about this, the advice was to plant only -above-ground-bearing crops. So lettuce and tomatoes would be ok, while potatoes and carrots would not.

    Also, beware compacting the ground over the lines by running machinery over it.
     
  4. ellebeaux

    ellebeaux Well-Known Member

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    hmph. Well there goes my 'carrots love tomatoes' plan...but I guess I'd rather be safe than sorry.

    But that's great to see that above ground is okay. I wonder if the concern is the dirt contains the potentially dangerous bacteria, not the plant roots themselves. If that's the case, then I guess they are reasoning that you wouldn't be able to wash all the bacteria off.
     
  5. claytonpiano

    claytonpiano Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Several years ago we lived on a small lot and the only place we could plant was over the septic field. I was concerned about it so I called my local department of health. They told me there was nothing wrong with planting over the field provided that it drained well. We ate off that garden area for at least two years and then moved farther down hill after a hurricane took out the trees. We were careful about potatoes and planted them on top of the ground and covered them with mulch. I planted the carrots in a flower bed.
     
  6. MsPacMan

    MsPacMan Well-Known Member

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    Marcia,


    I believe that if you go back to your source on this recommendation, that you will find that they were assuming the gardener would be double digging or else tilling the existing soil above the field line. In such a case, this advice would seem warranted.


    However, if one builds a raised bed that is situated on top of the existing soil, instead of digging or tilling into the existing soil, then growing potatoes or carrots should not be any different than growing tomatoes or lettuce or squash.


    Just another reason why, IMHO, building raised bed is the best way to go for great organic gardening.
     
  7. Firefly

    Firefly Well-Known Member

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    I'm more concerned about what you'll do to the drainfield than what the drain field will do to you! Drainfield's are very sensitive to roots. Some vegie roots go quite deep; tomatoes go down 4' or more. They will go to those lovely watery tasty drain pipes like a heat-seeking missile! Plus when you water, you may over-saturate the soil around the pipes so that they can't drain properly. It costs a LOT of money to get your drainfield replaced. And if there is a problem, yes they will dig up the garden to repair it. It sounds like your pipes are quite close to the surface if the snow melted above them; my snow melted above the tank but not the drainfield. I saw on another post that you want to plant fruit trees, too. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES plant trees over the drainfield! :eek: You mentioned esthetics; I think a vegie garden looks lovely in the front yard and makes the residents look very intelligent :cool:
     
  8. ellebeaux

    ellebeaux Well-Known Member

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    I think I meant the tank not the drainfield - it's about 8 feet from the house where the snow melts. I've never owned my own home before (can you hear the pride in my voice? I'm still not used to the idea!) so I honestly don't know how septic tanks are constructed.

    But I thought about what everyone said and I think that only one 3 x 8 bed is over the septic system/snow melt area. So I will plant lettuce and herbs and low root things there. Then in the next one over I will plant my carrot loving tomatoes and make that bed extra high so the carrots will grow long. And then the third bed, under the clothesline will have my peas and beans and cukes so I can tie strings up to the line and prop up fencing on the clothesline posts. And if I need to put up netting I can run it from the clothesline posts down over the beds.

    I also figure this way I'll be getting the most sun on the plants, heightwise, though all the areas should get plenty.

    Potatoes, squash, and berries I will run along the fence line. The Gurney's seed catalog has a cool circular strawberry thing but I don't know if I want to spring for all that. I think I'll put another post about it!

    Thanks all!

    p.s. I can't decide what to do with the front yard yet. I kinda like the simple view of the disrepaired house next door. I don't want to add anymore clutter to my field of view. At least there are several awesome trees next door to look at. This year's goal is to plant roses trellised on either side of my front porch and I have one small bed of bulbs under the birdfeeder.
     
  9. bill not in oh

    bill not in oh Well-Known Member

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    If your local university or extension office offers a food safety course, I would urge you to take advantage of it just so you understand the risks you MAY be taking. They probably will (should) tell you not to use uncomposted animal manure to fertillize with or to grow edible crops immediatly following livestock grazing. Some of the pathogens that CAN exist in these areas COULD be transferred to the food crop via direct ground contact (root vegetables) or indirect contact like dust or mud splatter. Most states have regulations addressing these issues, and although they are created for commercial producers, they are for the most part fairly logical and pretty much just simple common sense.