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Country Girl
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Discussion Starter #1
Something Shrek said got me thinking. He said that a friend had 10 raised beds over an acre of drainfield and all was well. Has anyone else done that? 3/4 of my 3/4 acre is covered in 2 leach fields. One failed after 10 years and the second one is 20 years old. I have a thing that enables me to switch between the two which is good in the winter when the snow is melting and saturating the soil. I do have one raised bed in the main area but I have read that too much weight on top not only crushes the pvc pipe but the water is not able to evaporate as easily. My soil in that area is only about a foot deep. They had to blast for the second drain field. I live on a volcanic plateau. Anyone else have any experience in this problem? I sure would like to increase my garden area.
 

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They took up almost a half-acre with my drainfield when I moved to the farm. I wasn't happy with it, but there wasn't any other spot that wouldn't be enroached by maples. I asked the installers what I would be able to do with that half-acre and the response was, "not much". My pipes are deep down in the clay (ranging from a foot to about 4 feet depending on the slope) but apparently the ground above them needs to be kept clear for evaporation. Also there was some concern about contamination in root crops or anything with roots much deeper than lettuce.

In the end, I seeded it with grass and turn the goats and chickens out onto it.

I think raised beds might be ok, but you're going to want to distribute the weight pretty evenly to avoid soil compaction that will prevent evaporation. I'd consider putting the raised beds over the failed field since it's already a lost cause. A good resource to check would be the county zoning board who approves drainfields. Each one must be inspected for its location and the inspector would probably know what kind of usage the land will sustain afterwards.
 

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Country Girl
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Thanks Ernie - I asked too what I would be able to do with the leach field afterwards and they said to plant grass also. That's when I quit big gardening and got my goats, pot belly pigs and chickens. It was a perfect domain for them. Now that the goats and pigs have lived out their natural lives and gone on to critter Heaven - I am hoping to garden again somewhat. I fenced in a place along the edge of my property where I know that there are no leach lines and don't have any root crops there in case of drainage. I got a bunch of half whiskey barrels and have placed them along a couple fence lines and will use them for root stuff next spring. Even the newer leach field is 20 years old and I'm kind of afraid to put any more raised beds out there as I can't afford to have it all redone again. My neighbors are having the same problem. They just moved here a few months ago from Wyoming with the hopes of having a large garden. I had to be the one to tell them that most of their land was leach line too. The previous owner didn't say a thing about it and they had never owned a home in the country before and didn't think to ask about it. :( They were going to plant some fruit trees but after doing a bunch of test holes - if there wasn't leach line - the soil was too shallow. They had to take their trees back to the nursery. :(
 

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I ended up buying the farm where we live now on the basis of the soil. I dug holes and had tests done and generally freaked out the home owner before we moved in. Yet I still had a big surprise waiting for me. We bought the place in winter when there was nothing but dead grass in the field. Come spring we got a great crop of clover and then the weeds moved in. Now it's 5 acres of thistle, Queen Anne's Lace, and Ox-Eye Daisy. The previous owners had too many horses grazing it and the grass is almost all gone. The weeds have taken over. Now I'm getting hands-on training in "pasture management" and trying to bring back the grass. Cows will help some, once I can find what I'm looking for. They eat the grass in a different way, actually encouraging its growth instead of killing it like horses. The goats have been entirely ineffective in eating the weeds ... they prefer the trees.

The soil itself is good though, for Western Illinois. A deep clay loam. We're on the northern slope of an ancient lake bed.
 
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