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Clover over septic field Good Bad Ugly

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kwschumm
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5764 NW Oregon
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2003-08-19          62185


We have a large septic field visible from our living room and it's sort of an eyesore. I bush hog it every month or so but it still looks like a weed field so I'd like to fix it up. Obviously you can't plant trees over the septic field and I don't want to have to mow a lawn twice a week (not to mention soil compaction issues) but something needs to be planted there to dress it up a little.

I've been thinking of planting clover to draw some wildlife, but I know nothing about it. Would it be OK for a septic field? How deep are the roots? Are there any downsides? How much maintenance is required? Any chemicals required? Etc.

Thanks in advance for any info.


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Chief
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 4292 Southwest MiddleTennessee
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2003-08-19          62187


Have you thought about Z-52 Zoysia or Emerald Zoysia grass. These grasses do not grow any where near as fast as typical grasses, like fescues. They grow into a lush thick mat of grass that looks great. Only draw back is that they go dormant in cold weather. Deer and wildlife love clover but if you plant it over your septic drain field. You will be cutting it big time. Clover can really grow fast if it has lots of water, nutients, and sun. ....

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harvey
Join Date: Sep 2000
Posts: 1544 Moravia, NY
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2003-08-19          62192


Ken why don't you just mow it with your finish mower? You will/should not have a soil compaction issues with your little JD. I would not drive a BIG dump truck across one.

Clover works raelly good for helping nitrogin in the soil. And it works real well with other grasses. If kept mowed clover looks real nice but if you decide to go after the broad leaf weeds with a chemical you'll loose your clover.

All the leach fields around here are mowed. ....

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kwschumm
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5764 NW Oregon
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2003-08-19          62194


Chief, thanks, I'll look into zoysia. I don't much care if it goes brown in winter, but I don't want to mow it. I didn't know clover required mowing - yech.
....

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kwschumm
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5764 NW Oregon
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2003-08-19          62195


Harvey, I don't have a finish mower! If I had a choice of mowing or letting the weeds grow I'd probably opt for the weeds :)

I worry about soil compaction and leach field damage because our septic is only about 12-18" deep with plastic covers over the drain pipe. I forget the name of this type of drain field, but it seemed pretty fragile to me when they installed it. When dry I probably wouldn't worry about it as much but the normal condition here is wet and squishy. ....

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kwschumm
Join Date: Feb 2003
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2003-08-19          62196


Chief, does zoysia every stop growing? I don't care if it grows to 8" and stops but I don't want to mow it. Well, I guess I'd be willing to bush hog it once or twice a season but that's about it. ....

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harvey
Join Date: Sep 2000
Posts: 1544 Moravia, NY
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2003-08-19          62199


Ken How about a 10# bag of wild flower seed mix. That makes a real nice cover and they bloom all summer with different colors.
....

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Clover over septic field Good Bad Ugly

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Chief
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 4292 Southwest MiddleTennessee
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2003-08-19          62201


During droughts and cold it will stop growing. Even when it is growing at its fastest, it spreads out and thickens more than anything else. If you let it go for a long time it is really thick to cut but I like it. I have have my yard growing it and each year it takes over a little more. It chokes out pretty much everything else and make a nice outdoor carptet. ....

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Peters
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 3034 Northern AL
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2003-08-19          62202


Centipee also is a good choice. I mow only once every couple of weeks even in the spring.
The only problem with the dormant varieties in the north west is that the weed never really stop growing and may over take the grass.
Is there natural ground cover in your area? Salal would look nice and could become a second income if you have a customer for it, like a flower shop. It goes wild in B.C. and WA but I am not sure how far south it grows.
Deer ferns might be another option and can also be sold to flower shops.

....

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kwschumm
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5764 NW Oregon
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2003-08-19          62204


My dumb questions will expose me as one who is completely and totally horticulturally impaired. For some reason when it comes to plants and animals I suffer from CRS. I can remember anything about cars and trucks though :)

Anyway, a friend of my wifes came over early last year and brought a bag of wildflower mix with her. "It will be so pretty", she said. Well we spent an hour throwing handfuls of seed all around the septic field and waited all spring for the blooms. Then we waited through the summer, then the fall. Nothing but weeds, no flowers, nada. I suppose the birds ate all the seeds.

Peters, thanks for the tips on Centipee and Salal. I've never heard of them. We are only a few miles from Washington so maybe one of those will work.

If I went with Zoysia maybe I'd only have to mow the weeds until the Zoysia thickens up. That may not be too bad unless it takes a year to thicken up.

We have these ferns that grow like crazy in the septic field. I bush hogged to 4-5 inches two weeks ago and there are already ferns that are two feet tall out there. I don't know what kind they are - time to buy a book I guess. ....

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Peters
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 3034 Northern AL
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2003-08-19          62207


I am not convinced that the Zoysia would over come the weeks. It certainly has not been the case in my lawn. In fact the centipee has grown in to the area I planted.
Salal grows up to about 1.5 feet high and should not put roots into the septic field. It is dark green and is used as greenery in flower arrangements. It has edible berries and small flowers like blueberries. There are a bunch of other ground covers that grow in that area. ....


Link:   Salal Pictures

 
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kwschumm
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5764 NW Oregon
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2003-08-19          62210


Thanks for the Salal link. The link says that it will grow up to a max of 10 feet high (!), typically 5-6 feet. That's a little tall for us, although in our septic field it would be exposed to full sun so it would be shorter. It sure is pretty. ....

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kwschumm
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2003-08-19          62211


One thing we'd like to do with the septic is to plant something that will attract the deer. When we first moved here we had them around all the time, but ever since the folks down the road built their house the deer have disappeared. I'm not sure there's a connection there but timewise that's what happened.

Anyway, we miss seeing the deer out there. There's nothing like sitting on the deck with a rifle waiting for dinner to peak out of the woods (just kidding, well, sorta). ....

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Peters
Join Date: Feb 2002
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2003-08-19          62212


I have never seen Salal in the wild over about 2 feet and I picked it for a while as did my brother.
Low bush blue berries would attact all types of wild life and would look similar but not in the winter. You might not want the bear either.
They call it deer fern but I am not certain that deer eat it.
I emailed you on the other info on OR macroman = peters ....

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Peters
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 3034 Northern AL
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2003-08-19          62213


A number of people in B.C. gave up on grass and let the moss take over. They liked it as they never needed to mow and all they need to do was remove the odd weed.
Below is a post for BC government listing of native plants for the garden. Why buy when its on the web.
Peters ....


Link:   Other ideas

 
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Clover over septic field Good Bad Ugly

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kwschumm
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5764 NW Oregon
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2003-08-20          62220


Thanks again for the link. The thing about moss here is that it seems to only grow where you don't want it. We have it on our roof, walks, and driveway but it never seems to grow in the septic field where it would be useful :( ....

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TomG
Join Date: Feb 2002
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2003-08-21          62289


I wonder if it's possible that the septic installer put back little or any to-soil on the leaching field? If nothing but weeds grow then maybe poor soil is the reason. Soil improvement may help grow something you want there. Another possible explanation is that the system isn't working that well and the field is too wet for most grass.

We have very sandy soil around here and the perc rates are high. You can't distinguish leaching fields from the rest of the lawn except during dry weather where there's enough additional moisture to keep it green. Most people around here treat leech fields no different than the rest of the lawn, but you don't drive anything real heavy across them.

I don't know if leech fields are covered with non-treated building paper before back-filling to keep soil out of the stone until it firms up (the paper eventually deteriorates) but there shouldn't be much worry about soil compacting below 2' from a CUT. The stone itself doesn't compact. If the field is wet, installing a gray water pit will help out the septic system.

Leaching fields aren't the only places where heavy vehicles shouldn't go. Our fire crew is doing a water survey. One person with waterfront property was very agreeable to allow our tanker access to the river. He thought it looked like the truck could squeeze passed his well OK (it's a dug well). Fortunately the guy who did the survey has heavy equipment experience and said: 'Oh no, you don't want a loaded single axle heavy truck anywhere near a dug well casing.' On his own, the property owner advised us that the tree that was blocking access isn't there any more. He was even more than very agreeable. ....

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kwschumm
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2003-08-21          62319


I don't think there's a problem with the septic system. It's only a few years old, way oversized for our house, and the soil is as dry there as anywhere else. The health inspectors in our area are very, very strict regarding perc rates and inspections.

The lack of topsoil is a possibility. When they installed it they dug only the trenches for the leach lines so part of my brain thinks that there would be a growth pattern visible in the existing vegetation to indicate where the drain lines are but we can't see one. I think the lack of good stuff growing there is simply because it was let go to grow wild until I got the tractor a couple of months ago. Regular bush hogging might fix that problem. ....

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Murf
Join Date: Dec 1999
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2003-08-21          62331


I want to add a word of caution here, septic system leach fields are a little more delicate than most people think.

The old wisdom was 'just keep really heavy things off them', unfortunately this was based on the misconception that the water coming out of the leach field was supposed to DOWN into the ground and if you drove something heavy over it the damage would be from crushed pipe (in the days of Terra Cotta clay pipes) and nothing else. In fact in a lot of cases the water does go down, unfortunately it is supposed to go UP to the surface where natural evapouration and plants, grass and ground cover type plants only, hopefully, will absorb the moisture and give it off into the atmosphere. This is why the trenches are so close to the surface.

Tom's comment about compaction below 2' (no offence to you Tom) is exactly the kind of situation you want to avoid. A typical leach pipe should never be deeper than 3' to the BOTTOM of the trench, the top of the entire setup (pipe, sand & gravel) is only a MAXIMUM of 2' down. If you compact ALL of the soil above the pipe you dramatically slow down the process of evapouration & therefore reduce the effectiveness of the whole system.

In fact one of the best, yet seldom done, things you can do is to RELIEVE the compaction over the tile field. A slit-type (or spring-blade type) aerator is the ideal for this type of operation.

When it water goes down it becomes contamination in the ground-water table, not a good thing at all.

One of the best things you can do for a septic system is to keep it covered with a healthy cover of grass and keep it well cut. This will take the most water out of the soil possible.

Best of luck. ....

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Misenplace
Join Date: Jul 2003
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2003-08-21          62374


If it were me I'd plant aspen or cotton woods over the top. They'll get a lot of fertilizer and grow like CRAZZZY ! ....

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kwschumm
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2003-08-21          62377


You don't want to plant anything over a leach field that has deep and extensive root systems. The roots are invasive and will PLUG the leach field. It may not plug it this year or next, but I'd bet within 10 years after planting you'd have big problems. ....

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TomG
Join Date: Feb 2002
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2003-08-22          62413


Yes Murf! I have heard that before and maybe it was from you then too. Funny how old notions keep cropping up. Guess how I'll keep it straight in my own mind is thinking that ground water has its own pressure and that pressure is going to go up as well as down and out. I guess that in general no compaction is best but whether use of a given CUT on the soil there creates a problem is another question.

Along the same lines, I'll make the distinction that we often think of a French drain as just a leaching pit. I believe it technically is a leaching in the middle of a large shallowly buried rock face. The idea to prevent effluent from entering the surface water table at least until it travels through gravel on top the rock face. Presumably some water would make it to the surface and such a drain would put less water into the water table as well.

I believe I can see where Doc's coming from but I think weeping willows may even be better. They'll even grow roots through foundation walls. They'd make a lot of shade in no time at all and avoid the need to drive over the field for at least the short time the field would be in use.
....

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Misenplace
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2003-08-22          62423


That's correct Tom, In some areas wher smaller field or those that have shorter life spans this is often used. Some prefer fruit tress as every thing grows well there, most use some sub specie of Poplar but The willow would be a good choice as well. Dave ....

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Clover over septic field Good Bad Ugly

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TomG
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 5406 Upper Ottawa Valley
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2003-08-23          62506


It's good to think about alternative approaches. I started out with the conventional wisdom that a leaching field should never be anywhere a tree. It's always good to question convention, and you never know what you'll find.

Mind you, I don't think I'd go out and plant trees on top my field unless I knew how much life to expect from it or if there are any tricks to keep roots out of the lines. Tree sure would sop up water but I don't think I'd want to count on them curing a wet field problem during the winters around here.

All sort of alternatives such as whole water systems that use ponds and plants are around, but few alternatives would get past health inspectors.
....

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Misenplace
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2003-08-24          62562


Tom, most of the folks I have seen use the trees put them in well after inspection. About an hour from my property where my folks live the water table is very low. Fields are often dug much deeper and sometimes further from the house due to the hiils. This is where its more common to see this. By my property the water table is so high that drain fields look like a giant mound in the yard as they have to be built up. There everyone uses grass. so like many other things it is regional based on the soils and local enviornment. But as they say, there certainly is more than one way to get the job done right. Dave ....

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TomG
Join Date: Feb 2002
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2003-08-24          62568


Remembering Murf's comment that exapourating water is good rather than having it go into the water table, I'd guess that trees may be a benefit to a deep leach field. Even if the roots stayed above the field, they'd dry out the area and more water would be drawn closer to the surface. Of course the trick would be knowing what could be done without having roots clog the lines. I imagine that our new codes would prevent codes from being very deep now and I guess it's the evapouration thing. I finally have the idea in mind now.

Our camp has a water table that's about 5' during the summer. We decommissioned the septic system there (rumored to be an old buried car). Instead of a new very expensive system for a recreational property, we went with a gray-water leaching pit and a composting toilet. I built the gray water system and it had to be raised. Grass would work on the mound but we just left it alone and daisies and brown-eyed susans come up most years so it looks pretty good without having to do anything.

The link below shows the feed-line to the pit and our raised wash-shed behind at our camp (The shed is on stilts so it has a drainage angle to the raised pit). The 3' high pit itself is off to the right and looks mostly like the top of the feed-line. Just goes to show how much can be accomplished by doing nothing, but there aren't any lines for roots to clog.
....


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Peters
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2003-08-24          62582


If you do not want to mow it I would stick with a natural ground cover like ferns or the Salal.
If the spot is shaded then the deer fern should grow well and look nice. I might scout around and find some on the road side and transplant to the area.
I would not grow tree as it is a little to dig up a section to fix or replace with trees over the area. I have had to help dig up a few that had the tree roots in the tile.
I am not sure I would go for some foriegn ground cover as we are still dealing with the mess left by the rail roads, Kudzu.
Murf is correct that Ont has determined that most of the water is removed through evaporation and design the new systems accordingly. As they have marginal soil on the Canadian Shield (all but a small southern section of the province) I assume they had to study the problem more than most. This is not the case in many states as they still rely on perk tests and soil composition.
I believe Ont found it is straight soil evaporation and I am not sure that the plants on the surface make any appreciable difference.
Willow and cotton woods will absorb a lot of water in the summer but will not absorb any in the winter. This is one of the reason that people have problem with their systems in the winter. This is not the time of year you want to try and repair they system. The roots on a willow will enter most system and cause problems.
The new style with the plastic covers like you have I am not sure of. I would think the shape would prevent roots from entering the distribution pipes.
I am currently 3 for 3 in terms of having my systems worked on at my houses in 3 different states. 4 for 4 if I added the cottage in Ont.
I have 2 systems here one for the garage and the other for the house. My field lines here are in the horse pasture. I regularly mow over them with my 65 hp tractor. I can easily tell where the lines are on the field in the summer as the grass stays a little greener over them. My tractor puts a lot less psi on the ground than a car or even the horses. I am not too worried about compaction, they have been there 20 years.
....


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gauthier
Join Date: Jun 1999
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2003-08-24          62625


Plant red glover like you wanted to,the roots are not that deep,deer love it,it will grow in most soils.You will have to mow about anything you plant at least once or twice a year,if you want to keep the brush and stuff from taking over,just maybe keep off of it when its real wet with your tractor,since you only want to mow it as few tines as possible,that shoudn't be a problem.If the dirts real poor,put a little 10-10-10 and lime on it after you break up the top of the ground which you need to do so the seeds have some dirt to start rooting in,and after planting your seed mulch it with some straw lightly. Richard Gauthier ....

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DennisCTB
Join Date: Nov 1998
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2021-07-09          200419


Quote:
Originally Posted by Murf | view 62331
I want to add a word of caution here, septic system leach fields are a little more delicate than most people think.The old wisdom was 'just keep really heavy things off them', unfortunately this was based on the misconception that the water coming out of the leach field was supposed to DOWN into the ground and if you drove something heavy over it the damage would be from crushed pipe (in the days of Terra Cotta clay pipes) and nothing else. In fact in a lot of cases the water does go down, unfortunately it is supposed to go UP to the surface where natural evapouration and plants, grass and ground cover type plants only, hopefully, will absorb the moisture and give it off into the atmosphere. This is why the trenches are so close to the surface.Tom's comment about compaction below 2' (no offence to you Tom) is exactly the kind of situation you want to avoid. A typical leach pipe should never be deeper than 3' to the BOTTOM of the trench, the top of the entire setup (pipe, sand & gravel) is only a MAXIMUM of 2' down. If you compact ALL of the soil above the pipe you dramatically slow down the process of evapouration & therefore reduce the effectiveness of the whole system. In fact one of the best, yet seldom done, things you can do is to RELIEVE the compaction over the tile field. A slit-type (or spring-blade type) aerator is the ideal for this type of operation.When it water goes down it becomes contamination in the ground-water table, not a good thing at all.One of the best things you can do for a septic system is to keep it covered with a healthy cover of grass and keep it well cut. This will take the most water out of the soil possible.Best of luck.


Murf I was searching the site for an thread on weeds when I saw this old post. I am always impressed with all the things you know the answer to. Glad I came across this post this AM! ....

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Murf
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 7207 Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada
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2021-07-09          200422


Quote:
Originally Posted by DennisCTB | view 200419
Murf I was searching the site for an thread on weeds when I saw this old post.I am always impressed with all the things you know the answer to.Glad I came across this post this AM!


Thank you for the kind words Dennis, when it comes to growing things a farmer has to have a broad knowledge to get by, there's no 'help desk' to ask. LOL


Best of luck. ....

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