Grass dies over septic tank

cas66ragtopMarch 2, 2011

I have a septic tank which is buried only about 2 feet underground. The heat generated from the tank is more than the grass can stand. I dug the whole area up last year and put in some nice rich soil and planted new grass and it looked wonderful - but quickly died off and now I am back to a big ugly patch of bare dirt. It is definitely the heat from the tank that is the culprit. When you are walking the yard in bare feet you can even tell a difference. So, it is obvious nothing will grow here, but I have a thought, and maybe you could tell me if I am on the right track. I was thinking about getting some 1/2 inch plastic or copper tubing and insterting it into the ground vertically, spaced a foot or two apart. I figured this could act as a vent to allow the heat to escape, and I could then plant grass again, which will hide the pipes. Does this sound like a good plan or just a waste of time? I would hope only heat would escape and not any foul odors from the tank. I can't place any kind of landscaping feature or any kind of lawn ornament over it to hide it because it is sitting sort of in the middle of the yard. Any thoughts?

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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

After reading that, I'm sure a lot of us feel that our own septic issues are much more minor than we had thought.

I don't know enough to address the tubing issue, or whether the system has more problems than simply a tank being located too high. Have you measured the soil temperature?

Depending what the temperature is, it may not be the heat that's killing the grass. The raised temperature may simply be causing the soil mosture to evaporate more quickly, to the point that grass can't survive. You might be able to grow grass (or xeric plants) if you water the area significantly more than you're watering the rest of the lawn. It would help to know your USDA zone (that tells us winter lows) and the general area where you live (so we have an idea of summer temps). If you don't know your zone, you can enter your zip code here:

As far as what to do to hide the problem, my reaction would be to make a landscaping feature there anyway.

We don't know how large the area is or exactly where, other than the middle of the yard -- but that shouldn't be an issue. It's quite possible to have a bed in the middle of the yard (I have one in the middle of the sunny part of the front lawn). You can add a bed most anywhere, though depending on exactly where in the yard this is, you may need to make the bed larger so it's a more pleasing shape. Can you post photos?

Spread mulch over the area. (Since nothing grows there, the mulch only has to be deep enough to conceal the bare ground.) Maybe edge it with bricks or pavers to keep the mulch from washing into the grass.

Then add the easy stuff:

A birdbath, either on a pedestal or simply a large saucer on the ground. You have the room and the birds will appreciate it. You can add a feeder on a pole as well (the fact that spilled seed won't grow is a plus!).

A good-sized rock or three (odd numbers will look better). Bury them a few inches, rather than simply plopping them on top of the soil. I'd have at least one that sticks up 1-2'. Add some smaller rocks to keep the big ones company.

Then add plants in containers. Make sure the pots are large enough, and water regularly. I know nothing about your zone, your current landscaping, or what plants you prefer, so I can only say what I'd do. I'd go to a good nursery (not a big-box store) and ask for advice about plants that do well in pots. I'd use at least one evergreen shrub, something relatively low and spreading: prostrate juniper, very dwarf mugo pine, cotoneaster dammeri ... my aim seems to be to grow something that will conceal the pot to some degree, but ymmv. In the warm season, add your favorite flowering annuals in additional containers.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 11:43AM
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Thanks missing...

I know this may be a silly thing to gripe about, but it is a pretty ugly little area of the yard. It measures 3 ft by 7 ft. With it being nothing but dirt, I have dogs that run through it when it rains and they track mud everywhere. I just need to fix this area, but I don't want to put something so permanent over it that it would make it hard to access the tank should I need to.

thank you

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 5:14PM
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I'm very skeptical that it has anything to do with the heat from your septic tank. .... especially if it is two feet below. I work in an engineering office that does at least 200 septic designs a year where septic tanks are typically 2' below the surface. This has never been a problem. When the grass is dead over a tank it is usually because the soil is not deep enough and dries out, but two feet should be more than adequate. Is there a possibility that something was spilled there?
One heat related possibility is that it may be a more suitable environment for some insects such as grubs to thrive or live in higher density and damage the grass.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 9:51PM
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