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Thread: Is it a bad idea to put in a garden directly over a septic field?

  1. #1
    Member whitewolf2025's Avatar
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    Apr 2009

    Default Is it a bad idea to put in a garden directly over a septic field?

    I am getting ready to put in a new vegetable garden this year for me and my husband at our new house, and I noticed that the brightest patch on our land is directly over the septic field. Is it a bad idea to put the garden here? Or will the vegetables just be bigger than ever?

  2. #2
    Moderator Daveinthebush's Avatar
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    Jul 2003
    Valdez, Alaska

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    The grass is always greener over the septic field. You should know how the field was constructed. Some fields are fairly shallow and roto tilling them could cause problems. If you are just tilling by hand with a hoe and rake, try a small area. My other concern would be deeply rooted plants getting into the pipes (through the pipe holes on the bottom of the pipe). Europeans use sewage all the time to help vegetables. Many farmers also use human waste to fertilize their fields, most people don't know this.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2006


    What you're seeing is the benefits of the septic's heat. I've never seen a septic system or leach field in Alaska that wasn't buried below the frost line. No regular garden should threaten that. You may not want to use a big tractor over an old tank or crib but a tiller shouldn't be an issue. If my lot favored a garden over the septic I'd sure do it. I could get about a month's head start on the rest of the yard.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    fishhook, ak


    I would not do it if I had other options. While the excess heat seems attractive, I think you are better with a nice green lawn in that area if you have other space for a garden. It really is optimal to not disturb your leachfield any more than necessary.

    There is plenty of heat provided by the sun if you use IRT plastic mulch and/or reemay floating row covers. If you want an early growing season you need a greenhouse. Foot traffic in a garden leads to substantial compaction in the rows (more pounds per square inch than vehicle/tractor tires), which is generally undesirable in a leachfield...the cushy-ness of a lawn absorbs the foot impact while a bare garden path will not. Also, you will get really fast growing weeds.

    The compaction isn't a huge deal but how old is your septic system? Especially in the 80s a lot of septics were installed with a 20 year mentality and it may need to be dug up at some point.

    Without row covers you really can not get a longer season out of just warm soil because the number of frost-free days will remain the same. Crops will grow faster but so will weeds, and the IRT will give you warm soil but also with weed suppression.

    That said, it would not be the end of the world to have a garden there but it wouldn't be my first choice. look into IRT and reemay if you want warm soil.

    Also, ask yourself if you are willing to have your vegetables drinking all of what you put down your drain, as liquids in soil move in all directions, not just down, and many of the household cleaning products will be there in addition to the beneficial nitrates and phosphates.

  5. #5
    Member big_dog60's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    between wasilla and palmer


    If you have a reasonably installed septic I doubt it will harm the septic as long as you only put annuals or shallow rooted perenials.
    My father had some raspberrys plants planted over his septic and eventually they did make it down to the leach field and plug it up.

  6. #6


    As Mr.Pid said the septic is a lot deeper than any roots are going to be if it is properly installed and in the fact that it is a new house the septic tank and leech field will be down below frost line or it would not make it through the winter. And yes a few degrees that you can gain will make a difference . Just don't want to use heavy equipment on it but a tiller would be no problem. Good Luck.

  7. #7
    New member
    Join Date
    Jun 2010


    My garden is over our leach field, although since it's a brand new system, I don't think it's technically a "leach field". I did make raised beds, although I was planning on doing that anyway. This will be the 3rd year of the garden and I don't think it has made any difference (positive or negative) being over the septic.


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