Dear God . .. . HELP . . . disguise septic mound

pinkclogs1August 1, 2008

We are under contract to buy a new house, great lot, wonderful back yard and house, *BUT* huge negative, about 1/3 of the center of the front yard is a huge septic mound. I really had to talk myself into getting over that little issue.

So, anyway, does anyone have any ideas for disguise? I've read that I can't plant deep roots, and I'm not even sure planting would do the trick (wouldn't that make the mound even higher/more noticeable??) I was thinking of a white picket fence around the entire front yard. But not sure if that would help. What about raising the entire front yard with retaining walls near the front door? Seems weird, too.

Does anyone have any ideas that have worked for disguising these ugly things???!!! Pictures would be wonderful. The house is a larger older ranch style house . . . with some brick . . . if that makes any difference.


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It is hard to know the options without knowing the size of the space you have to work with, how high the mound is, the systems design, or what regulations govern what you can do.

Here is one option which you may or may not be able to do.

Retain the back side of the mound between it and the house. That space could be relatively flat and at a "normal grade (crowned to drian toward the side lot lines. It would have a sunken courtyard affect. You could have a nice walk, a small patio (greeting area), and plant lots of nice colorful plants in it. The area between the road an the wall can be graded to slope toward the road. That could be simply a sloped lawn or a more contoured berm. In either case the retaining wall should be just behind the new ridge that you would create.

I've done some designs for fully walled systems. One was a Zen Garden within the walls with an Asian inspired rock garden bermed up against the wall to reduce the amount of wall exposed. - not sure if this has been built yet, the design was while the house was in permitting.
I've hidden them with hedges.

I have designed some free standing mounds with shallow rooted native plants. These were not out in front yards though.

If the aesthetics work, it is safest to use turf grass (at least up here with our cool season grasses) because a lot of shrubs will put their roots down deep. Be careful of deep rooted grasses like American Beach Grass or others that run deep with their roots. If you use turf grass (a regular lawn) have 4-6" of organic soil for the roots to live in. I know that a lot of areas down there have very sany soil (as do I) and that some of your turf grass will grow directly in it (St. Augustine's?), but it would be safer to use a grass whose roots will likely stay in that organic soil layer.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 7:19AM
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davidandkasie(Z8 MS)

before you go to teh expense of regrading, you need to check with the local health dept. they designated that the system be a mound, and if you change it they CAN deem the house uninhabitable and force you out until you put it back original. rare that this happens, but certainly not unheard of in cases where teh HD has a control freak working there!

personnally i would put some shallow rooted flowers or soomething on it and make it a bed. as long as the plantings don't deep root, you will be fine.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 1:39PM
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Yep. Up here (WI), there is a great nursery with native seed just for septic mounds. Note: They should be drought tolerant with shallow root systems.

I think my best tip would be don't point out the septic by planting something there that isn't around the septic, also. IOW, don't plant native wildflowers on the septic with turf grass around it -- it will end up directing everyone's attention to the mound system.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 5:46PM
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cynandjon(Z 5/6)

Hi we have a HUGE septic mound but in order to plant we made the berm bigger. Sometimes to disguise something you have to add to it. You can do anything to the berm as long as the plants arent water seeking plants, and You dont want a vine type plant that will go into the pipes.
I dont have a current picture but Ill try to take one tomorrow. Lots of people have come to our house and didnt realize it was a septic mound.
This is last years picture. We didnt plant anything but grass on the top. I will be planting some sort of small ornamental grass along the top of the beds.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2008 at 11:38PM
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Had to read the thread, then do a search, just to satisfy my curiosity as to what a septic mound is/looks like. Found the following article from the U of Minnesota that looks like it has some great general information:

The recommended plants are not likely to be suitable for you in Florida, but perhaps your state university extension has a similar publication? Or some other southeastern university - Georgia, Louisiana, Missississpppi?

Definitely a challenge, but, working with a mostly level lot myself, I have to say that a changes in grade can be a very nice opportunity, too.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2008 at 8:16PM
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Have you thought of Canadian Hemlock trees (monler variety) to plant in front of the mound? A row of these might do the trick...than plant clems to grow up them. Trees have more height than spread, which is nice. Stagger them when planting for the best look.

Tsuga canadensis ''Monler''

Dark green foliage remaining through winter. Great for hedges or screens. Narrow upright form. Plant in full to part sun.

USDA Hardiness Zone
6-10 Feet
2-3 Feet

DavidandKasie, your posts are always so pessimistic and dramatic. I doubt that shallow rooted flowers are going to do anything to "disguise" a septic mound, it will only enhance it.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2008 at 11:02PM
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