Trees can make your backyard more attractive, but if you have a septic tank, you need to be careful when landscaping. Here are three tips for planting trees safely:
1. Choose small, slow-growing trees
Some types of trees grow quickly and develop large, aggressive root systems. Since the roots seek out water and nutrients, they'll be drawn to your septic tank and drain field. The roots can then puncture your tank or crush the pipes in your drain field. To avoid these problems, make sure to choose small, slow-growing trees. Landscapers recommend removing and replacing these trees when they become large enough to threaten the pipes and tank.
Many trees fit this description, so you'll be able to get the look you want for your yard. You can choose between tree varieties like flowering dogwoods, smoke trees, European beeches, European hornbeams, and serviceberries. A landscaping professional can help you identify other suitable trees for your needs.
2. Plant trees a suitable distance away from the tank
Even if you choose small trees, you shouldn't plant them right beside your septic system. Look at the blueprints for your house or ask a septic tank contractor for help to determine the precise boundaries of your septic system. Ensure that any trees you plant are a safe distance from these boundaries.
The suitable distance will vary based on the type of tree, but as a general rule, take the height of the tree when it's mature and plant the tree at least that far away from the septic system's boundaries. For example, if you're planting a small tree that will only be 15 feet tall when it's fully grown, ensure that it's at least 15 feet away from the boundaries of the system. These rules don't apply to large trees with aggressive roots (which you shouldn't be planting, anyway).
3. Avoid planting mature trees
Mature trees let your backyard look more established right away, but planting them when you have a septic tank isn't a good idea. This is because mature trees are quite large and must be transported with tree spades. Tree spades are large, specialized pieces of machinery, and they should never be driven over your septic tank or septic drain field.
If a tree spade is driven over your septic system, the combined weight of the tree and the machine could compress the soil around your drain field. This means that wastewater won't pass through the soil well, and your yard could flood. The weight of the tree spade could also crush the pipes that take wastewater from your tank.
To protect your tank, only plant small saplings that don't require machinery. It will take longer for your backyard to be filled with large, attractive trees, but your septic tank won't be destroyed.
If you want to plant trees around your septic tank, make sure to involve a septic tank contractor in your landscaping plans.