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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Landscaping around septic systems

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jenna Smith
Having a septic system is a necessity and can be unsightly with aboveground pipes, risers, ventilation systems or large mounds.

However, homeowners can landscape around these problem items.

When landscaping around a septic system, you must take care to choose plants that grow well without interfering with the operation of your septic system.

The soil absorption field is the area where any kind of septic system discharges wastewater. At least 12-inches of soil must be on top of the soil absorption field.

When putting in a septic system, make sure that the soil absorption field is covered with topsoil instead of subsurface soil. The topsoil will provide you with a more natural and correct growing media to grow your plants in. Please realize that because of the nature of the septic system, the water holding capacity of the soil absorption field will be lower than other places in your property. The lower water holding capacity will thus require you to only place plants over the soil absorption field that can tolerate dry soil conditions.

Having a good mixture of pore space within your soil around your soil absorption field is important. In order to maintain that pore space, it is important to prevent soil compaction by only planting low maintenance plants around the soil absorption field.

One option to have an eye appealing, yet low maintenance landscape over your soil absorption field is by planting a mixture of native wildflowers and grasses to form a meadow.

To do this, first establish a nice turf. Then, plant a mixture of native wildflowers. Examples of native wildflowers include purple coneflower, rough blazing star, black-eyed Susan, old field goldenrod, and smooth blue aster.

While planting the wildflowers, go ahead and add some native grasses. Switchgrass and prairie brome are examples of two native grasses that can survive our climate in central Indiana. Not only will the mixture of native wildflowers and grasses be eye appealing, they will also help attract wildlife to your property, including birds, squirrels and deer.

If your septic system does have items that stick above the ground, which you wish to cover up, you can add other items to your meadow. For example, you can add shrubs or tall grasses to help conceal access ports associated with risers above septic tanks and pump tanks. If you would decide to add a shrub, please place them at least 10-feet outside the soil absorption field to prevent their roots from interfering with the trenches and drain pipes.

Climbing rose, maple leaf viburnum and coral berry are examples of native shrubs you can add to your meadow to help conceal unsightly septic system items.

Having a septic system is a necessity that helps ensure the quality of our environment. However, you do not have to live with the unsightly presence that owning one might cause. Instead, you can properly landscape around it to help attract wildlife to your property.

For more information on landscaping around a septic system, please review Purdue Extension publication HENV-15-W, "Landscaping Over Septic Systems with Native Plants."

You may obtain your own copy by going to http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia..., or by contacting your local Purdue Extension Office.

As always, if you have any questions or would like information on any agriculture, horticulture or natural resource topic, then please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay County or 812-829-5020 in Owen County, or reach me directly at smith535@purdue.edu. Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:

* May 21 -- Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment Forest Tour, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Martinsville. Cost $5. Contact 765-342-1010 to register (limited seating),

* May 25 -- Goat workshop, 6-7:30 p.m., Owen Valley FFA Goat Farm. RSVP to 812-829-5020 by May 23, and

* May 30 -- Extension Office closed. Memorial Day.