Planting fruit trees near septic fields

Does anybody have any valuable input and experience on this topic? Is there a risk of toxins being absorbed by trees and finding its way into the fruit?
Any risk of damage from roots plugging the drain tile?

1 Like

The last thing you want is roots growing into your septic. The roots go toward moisture and they will plug up and also take up whatever is in there. Every once in a while I here on the news recall because of contamination in the water so I wouldn’t and did not plant near mine. With that said I planted uphill 20 feet some black berries. I feel confident berry plant roots don’t go that far. That’s my take on it.

6 Likes

To ere on the side of caution seems to make sense. However, for those of us with small yards the septic area can take up a considerable amount space and it just seems like a waste to me.
If the area is draining well and you know the field is below atleast 2-3 feet it seems like growing certain shallow rooted shrubs may be fine but again is it worth the risk…

If you ask your local health department they will probably advise against, even insist that you not do it. However, I planted for an extremely wealthy couple an orchard right in their drainage field and 20 years later there have been zero issues about it. The fruit has a special tang to it.:wink:

In my county the idea of worrying about roots interfering with septic drainage would appear futile as more often than not there are huge maples and other forest trees close enough by to extend roots aggressively in the allotted drainage area.

On my own property I have huge maple trees within 30’ of my drainage field. I’ve gone 10 years at a time without even pumping my septic tank and for 25 years I’ve needed no special service as a result of root interference.

1 Like

I have similar thoughts as well. My yard is surrounded by 50 ft white pines what would be only 20 to 150 ft from the tank location and even closer to the field itself. Even of more concern is the 50ft red oak only 35 feet away. The house was built 35years ago along with the septic area and still no issues.

I’m in the motion of installing a new septic system and I asked the septic company what the issues would be by having fruit trees around it or anywhere near it. He responded that in all his career he has never encountered any fruit trees penetrating the septic system. He mentioned redwoods and other large deep-rooted trees close by would be an issue but he had no issues with planting fruit trees near that leach field or the tank.
He said that he had installed septic systems all over Napa in commercial orchards were trees have literally been planted above it without any issues.

That said, I won’t worry about it, but where the existing leach pits are located, I’ll build a gazeebo or similar and plant the trees around it.

2 Likes

Most cities or counties require 2x or 3x the drain field as was required when homes were smaller and numbers of people in the house were greater…………and if the smaller systems of 40 years ago didn’t have problems, then obviously current requirements are overkill in most areas.

Solution would be dwarfing rootstock that doesn’t go very deep…and just plant the whole yard…that’s probably what I’d do if I had a little space and most of it was occupied by leach lines.

2 Likes

I planted blueberry bushes over our new drain field ten years ago. Their roots only go down about a foot. If they were deeper, the bushes would have died by now, since they are very sensitive to bleach in the laundry effluent. So far, so good.

2 Likes

Ah yes, that special 'tang"

1 Like

The yard between our house and the older house down the hill is roughly divided by a drainage ditch. Above the ditch on the north side are the drain fields, and the tank is between the fields and the house.

Below the ditch we have our largest garden plot, about 1500 sq ft. It’s been a very productive plot, but was that way many years before the newer house and septic system was ever there. So, I don’t think it’s been “influenced” by the fields.

The actual space in the upper yard that contains the tank and fields is about a third of the total yard space. But, I still haven’t and probably won’t plant any fruit trees and definitely no veggies. I think I could get away with some berry plants on the other end the yard, but that area has an issue with drainage. So I guess the only thing that yard will grow is grass and weeds.

I just planted a couple of plum trees about 20’ each side of my leach field. I will plant a couple of pecan trees later out past the end of the leach field about 50’ away.

i would not do this if i were you. you are what you eat. i would not risk the quality of the fruit, or that the roots will damage the septic system, that’s expensive. if you want to make use of that land, maybe plant wildfires so it helps support the honeybees? if you lack space for fruit trees without the septic land, go for berries or dwarfing rootstock and go potted.

Since I’m not flushing industrial waste down my toilet, I wouldn’t have the slightest qualm about planting over my leach field. Fruit & berry plants are not going to pull up and translocate any fecal coliform bacteria into the fruits. Really. There’s no danger.
There are ag. extension bulletins that address planting on the septic leach field. Here’s one from VaTech:

Our friends the Sternbergs have had their home septic leach lines running out through a heavily forested setting in their Starhill Forest Arboretum for decades, with no issues - they just flush a pound of CuSO4 down the toilet at least a couple of times a year to address any root incursion that may be occurring… has maintained the leach field, and has had no adverse effect on any of the trees in the area.

7 Likes

Seeing as how a number of nations, especially in Asia, use human manure to fertilize their gardens…and they are some of the longest-lived peoples on earth…

2 Likes

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the use of human manure (night soil) in Asia cycles the waste through fairly high temperature composting to help kill bad guys. So that would make a difference.

1 Like

I was told once that a tree on the edge of a leach field can actually improve the drainage of the system. There was probably a big emphasis on the “edge” part, and a species that would not go much farther to “overtake”.

That said, weigh the cost of repair against the perceived benefit.

gonna need some data to back that up buddy.

They might would have been long-lived once they got to adulthood, but they had a high infant/child mortality rate.

Ok, I concede I don’t have “averages”. Or rates for childhood deaths. But your oldest folks in the world aren’t in “civilized” nations.

1 Like

I don’t know the answer, but I do know that my septic system cost about $10K in 2012. I’d guess today it would be around $12K. I have zero interest in possibly shortening the time it fulfills it’s purpose, so I do my best to keep any brush/trees well away. Just my $.02