The Q&A Archives: Locating Veggies Near a Septic

Question: We have very clayey soil so we are installing raised beds for vegetables and have read your comment on not to do this over a septic. How close is too close? We were thinking about starting at 5-10 ft to one side of the leach field. We are using 2 x 10's for the beds. Will that make a difference? Please advise.

Answer: If a septic system/leach field is operating properly, there should be no risk planting a garden relatively nearby. However, leach fields do fail, and do need periodic maintenance. I suggest you begin by looking at areas uphill and to the side of the leach field. In theory, materials in the leach field should flow downhill. Then, consider access to the leach field and septic tank. If--or should I say when--these need to be dug up for maintenance, you want to be sure there is adequate room for machinery. Also, examine the area around your leach field for signs of puddling water. I would avoid any area where water is not draining away fairly quickly. If your system is new, and working well, I would feel safe constructing a raised bed about 25 feet away--uphill from--the edge of the leach field. If it is an old system, I'd give it more space. You may want to contact the person who installed the leach field and your local Department of Health. They will know your soils and any regulations that may apply to your situation.

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