Planting over a drain field - Knowledgebase Question

Murphy, NC
Avatar for bremsech
Question by bremsech
April 9, 2007
We purchased a mountain vacation home in southwestern NC with a septic system. We have never had a septic system before and want to make sure we take care of it properly. The system was put in in 1999 when the home was built and the house has always been used as a vacation home.

I want to get rid of the grass (that needs regular mowing and at the moment is mostly weeds anyway) in this area and plant it with more natural vegetation and perennials that would be less maintenance, since we aren't there all the time. My neighbor told me that he was told by the septic installer that grass was the best thing to plant in a drain field, but then he also told me he puts Rid-X in his system regularly and I have since found out that you shouldn't do this. Are there plants that are better than others for a septic system drain field? I also have some concern with the soil eroding without the grass since it is on a hill. I know I need to stay away from anything with deep roots, but are there any specific plants that do a better job of helping you maintain the system? I would consider some of the longer more natural grasses if grass is necessary or does it need to be a lawn type grass? Any info you can give me would be appreciated.

Thank you for your time,

Answer from NGA
April 9, 2007
Finding just the right plants to grow over a drainfield can present a real problem. You don't want to hinder the natural evaporation, and you don't want plants with invasive root systems. Grass is the first choice because it wicks water away, helping it evaporate quickly. But, there are some other choices, as well. Groundcovers and shrubs include Ajuga (carpet bugle), Calluna (heathers), cotoneaster, ground ivy, Arctostaphylos (kinnickinick), Vinca (periwinkle) and Saponaria (soapwort). Wildflower meadow mixes look nice in the right setting, too.

Hope this information helps!

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