Sure could use some help with this dilemma

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Simple Sam, Feb 24, 2004.

  1. Simple Sam

    Simple Sam Member

    Jul 26, 2003
    Hello fellow gardeners,
    I've got a real problem that I'm hoping someone can give me some advice with. Last fall, I tilled a new veggie garden, adding lots of compost, manure and green sand. Then I planted it with clover for a winter cover crop. A couple nights ago, I was reading a gardening book that said never plant a veggie garden over a septic tank or it's leach bed. The book said I could get sick from soil borne viruses, etc that the plants could take up thru their roots. You guessed it, the new garden is right over the tank!
    Has anyone planted over a tank/bed before, and if so, what have your results been, and how long have you been gardening in that area? The spot I've chosen is the sunniest spot I've got for a garden, on a south facing slope to boot.
    I talked to a doctor friend last night. He felt if I didn't allow anyone with Hepatitis to use my septic system, that it should be ok. SHOULD BE!
    ANY feedback on this would be appreciated. I can't find any other reference to this in any of my other gardening books, so I'm hoping someone here has 'been there, done that'.
  2. suelandress

    suelandress Windy Island Acres Supporter

    May 10, 2002
    The Quiet Corner of CT
    I had my garden over my septic for 3 years at my last address. Of course I lived alone, making what went IN the system , ummm, lets say familiar to me :)
    I seem to have survived it :haha:

  3. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

    Dec 9, 2003
    Is the garden over a tank or septic field?

    Most modern septic systems include both, I think. Some older systems and perhaps some modern ones may use only a tank. If its only a tank, I'm guessing all the stuff is inside the tank and not available to plants. If you planted the septic field, you may want to check with your county sanitation engineer.

    Most annual root systems are pretty shallow. Your septic field might be deep enough to be out of reach of the plant root systems. You could add more soil or construct boxes. Maybe you could send a soil sample for testing.

    I remember reading in this forum about septic-free people who use a 5 gal bucket in the house and take their stuff to the compost pile. If planting in the septic field was such a problem, wouldn't these 5 gal bucket people suffer the worst consequences?
  4. KrisW

    KrisW Well-Known Member

    Sep 27, 2002
    California, just short of indecision
    I also asked this question here about a year ago. Don’t remember who assured me it was fine.
    When you think about it, goat, horse, cow, chicken manure is one of the things most if not all, people put on top of their garden. The septic tank in down about 5 or 6 feet down. Can it be that bad? I didn’t think so,

    Expanded the garden over the tank 3 years ago. I still grow the lettuce, tomatoes and root crops in the old plot. Everything else is over the tank. I feel fine with this situation.

  5. snoozy

    snoozy Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 10, 2002
    Kitsap Co, WA
    One thing you might be concerned about is deep roots breaking into septic field lines and clogging it up -- that would be an expensive garden!
  6. Sedition

    Sedition Well-Known Member

    May 30, 2003
    Here is the straight answer.

    It is IMPOSSIBLE for you to get sick from eating plants grown over a leech field. The only way you can get sick, is if you use human waste impregnated water in a foliar application (sprayed on top of the plants). That is the only possible way.

    In fact, there are “green” human waste treatment plants that use a hydroponic system to pump human waste water to the roots of plants, which are later consumed. Nobody has ever gotten sick.

    Now, that doesn’t mean I’d plant my garden over a septic tank. My garden sees a large amount of mechanical activity throughout the year. My septic system is also about 75 years old, so I try not to bother it much. It’s made from brick and field tile, not the most shock resistant materials to get nudged with a spade, tiller or plow.

    But no, human waste is wonderful for plants. Your leech field will have a small amount of water soluable nitrogen in the form of urea as well as some bottom heat provided by the digestive action of bacteria. My leech field is the first spot of my lawn to thaw out after snow, and in fact gets so hot in the summer, that I can not grow bluegrass on it – it dies. The garden at my old house sat on top of a long abandoned outhouse, parts of the foundation of which I dug up in preparing beds. That was the best growing soil I have ever had the pleasure of planting seed in.
  7. amwitched

    amwitched Well-Known Member

    Feb 14, 2004
    I also have been researching this subject.

    Last year I threw wildflower seeds over that area and had the most fantastic show of flowers. Huge flowers!!

    I have learned that above ground plants and dwarf fruit trees are just fine. You should find another spot for your root vegetables.

    Check out this website for written proof:

    I know that I sure am hoping that my vegetables will be as productive as my wildflowers were.
  8. diane

    diane Well-Known Member

    May 4, 2002
    South Central Michigan
    "It is IMPOSSIBLE for you to get sick from eating plants grown over a leech field. The only way you can get sick, is if you use human waste impregnated water in a foliar application (sprayed on top of the plants). That is the only possible way"

    As an RN, I would have to agree with Sedition. I sure have a hard time understanding why a doctor would say anything like that. He certainly has lost whatever knowledge of microbiology he once had.

    In fact, you could take it one step further than Sedition did and add to the above statement..........and did not wash the could become sick.

    There are several types of Hepatitis and each one require the DIRECT INTAKE of the contaminated fecal material or blood to contract the disease.

    A properly installed leach field should not be damaged by typical garden crops.
  9. lynpea

    lynpea Well-Known Member

    Feb 11, 2003
    I agree with the "no-problem" posters. We had this disussion just recently in one of our gardening meetings. SS- you said that your garden is on a south facing slope. Your leach lines should run paralel to the slope, and as noted should be 4.5-6' deep. Any bacteria, actually anything, has to percolate up through the soil, and with all the microbes available to do the job that they were created to do you really don't have a problem to worry about. If you are concerned with the root crops, then build a raised bed to grow them in. AS for the theory "the grass is always greener over the septic tank" I believe that it's due to the amount of water that goes through a typical septic system and maybe not human waste. My opinion is just from observation........lynpea
  10. Simple Sam

    Simple Sam Member

    Jul 26, 2003
    Thank ya'll so much for all the info. I've done some more research, and agree that it is safe to plant over the leach bed and tank, and intend to do so. I will wash the produce carefully, and will plant root crops in raised beds. I knew I could get good info here. A million thank yous!
  11. I agree you shouldn't worry--but I would worry if I were you if you are planning on driving your truck up to the garden for harvest, or using a tractor. I know someone who is having to rebuild thier septic because they were moving dirt with their tractor to plant grass there. The tractor fell in. HUGE expense.
  12. Mullers Lane Farm

    Mullers Lane Farm Well-Known Member

    Feb 27, 2003
    NW IL
    The mator plants that were planted on the end of the garden directly over the leach field yielded the biggest and best 'mators I've ever seen.
  13. SueD

    SueD Well-Known Member

    Aug 1, 2002
    Over the tank itself shouldn't be much of a problem, other than its a consideration if that tank leaks.

    Planting over a septic field, though is interesting. First of all, its not just diseases which can be passed and viruses spawned. And, purely human diseases are not all that needs to be taken into consideration!!!

    The decay of any form of fecal matter can contaminate the soil, and form a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, viruses and all sorts of other nasties that have absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with human waste (which must be composted for more than a year before being safe to use on vegetable ground anyway).

    Urine is not a problem... Urine is sterile in most instances (barring certain diseases and illnesses), and need not be composted. Fecal matter of ANY kind (other than rabbit) is another story.

    Beyond the living worries in the soil, septic systems need regular cleaning, with chemicals you wouldn't want to be eating, some of which DO in fact, get soaked up into plants with other soil nutrients. Most of the stuff you are supposed to toss down the toilet to promote 'good' bacterial growth in the system are laced with heavy metals.

    Don't really care how healthy you are at the moment - or how healthy you intend to be in the future:

    Move the garden - unless it is over the tank, and not over the field. Over the tank? Have it checked for good seal and any leaks.

  14. RoyalOaksRanch

    RoyalOaksRanch Royal Oaks Taxidermy

    Nov 14, 2003
    I personally wouldnt care if it was over the leach field or not... But as far as your leach field being 5.5 to 6 ft down you better check and make sure. My tank is about 5 ft down that tank is totally contained and wouldnt have any affect on growth of plants planted on top of it.., the actual leach field runs out the to the front of our property where the leach lines run. Those leach lines are NOT that far underground. Im talking approx 18 inches in the ground, rock on top, with a 12 in cap of dirt... That isnt very deep.. My system is identical to a standard leach field but I have a pump that doses each side of the field at intervals... Its supposed to make my septic system last longer and be more efficient. I know these depths for fact since we installed it ourselves per county codes.
    You might want to check the depth before you start tilling ground too LOL
    Our leach field sets on the best dirt we have on the whole property. When we did the perk tests we dug 4 ft and never hit hardpan!! No rock, no hardpan, just the nicest dark earth you can imagene... So of COURSE that would be where the septic would have to go LOL....
  15. Shygal

    Shygal Unreality star Supporter

    May 26, 2003
    New York
    you also have to remember that when your septic needs pumping out, that means a big truck backed up there and the cover dug up..... or for some reason it has to be replaced, there goes your garden.