Water-Loving Tree Between a Driveway and a Septic Leach Field

labwench(MI/Zone 5)April 7, 2012

Hi All,

Newbie here. Please be gentle. We just moved into a new house that has 2 acres and very little in the way of plantings. I suspect, I'll be asking lots of questions as we try to make the yard look a bit better. OK, the question:

We have this one area in the front yard with a bit of a dip that stays a bit damp. We would love to plant a tree there. The problem is that the area is about 10 feet from the driveway and 30-35 feet from the septic leach field. I don't want the roots from the tree to do damage to either.

Any suggestions for a tree with deep rather than wide ranging surface roots that could stand the extra moisture? I'd love a magnolia, but I don't know much about their root spread up here in the midwest (where they grow smaller than my home of TN). Or should I just make a nice feature garden there?


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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

Great handle, labwench. I'm married to one...

A tree as a permanent plant would be a poor choice, for exactly the reasons you are concerned. There is no temperate tree with roots that only go down. Roots colonize quality growing environments, and the top two feet of soil under normal conditions are where they usually hang out. Provide additional moisture and nutrients, well - you've just set up a buffet.

I suppose you could select a tree species that really prefers xeric conditions, that would be repulsed by wetter conditions. It would likely have a short life and never invade your leach field.

The best choice would be to select a more modest stature plant, like a handsome shrub/small tree. Did I hear someone mention viburnum...

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 10:39PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


two new acres .. and you are fixated on this BAD SPOT ... i had the same problem when i moved to acreage ... enjoy this summer working on the other 1.98 acres ...

you just moved in.. how about .. not unlike a scientific experiment.. you spend the next year or two.. studying this spot.. and its YEAR ROUND water patterns ...

and THEN think about planting something there..

you just moved in.. how have you come to conclusions at this point???? .. heck i am in adrian MI. and in a normal spring.. the ground would have thawed barely last week ... and it is not uncommon to have standing water at such time ...

if water does actually remain a year round issue.. how about you fill in the hole.. regrade.. or whatever.. and then think about planting there...

and i am pretty sure.. no tree .. will fix a drainage or water issue ...

come on wench.. you're a lab rat.. think analytically ...

my total GUESS... its a transitory spring issue.. and most likely.. you are not limited as to plant choice.. depending on your native soil structure ...

i would start .. by digging a hole .. and finding out if you are dealing with clay .... and then do a perk test.. as to drainage in your garden ... then the yearly water pattern ... and then a plant ...

i hope that is gentle enough.. i got wound up on your lab-ness ... and analogizing to that ...

good luck ...


    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 8:30AM
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labwench(MI/Zone 5)

Ha! Thanks guys. I am actually committed to not planting anything permanent in the yard for the first year. As Ken suggested, I am watching and taking notes on the various areas. I actually have a notebook - I am really that much of a geek! But as things come to my attention, I'll be asking questions as I try to figure out our plan going forward. Those plans may change with changing conditions but I'm also trying to learn about trees and gardening as such before bumbling into anything.

The only thing I do want to do this year is get my grass in better condition and possibly plant some ground cover to stop erosion into a drainage pond on the back of the property (I'll post more about that later and possibly in a different, non-tree forum).

This spot is a dip in the front yard, and a similar one in the back of the property has wetlands type grasses growing where the previous owners never mowed. Our neighbors have similar problems with dippy areas. I'm hoping it is a spring thing, but...

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 9:11AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

But as things come to my attention, I'll be asking questions as I try to figure out our plan going forward.

==>> perfect .. i was worried you were in the checkout line at bigboxstore.. when you first posted. lol ..


    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 8:21AM
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We moved into our house on a 3/4 of an acre lot about 6 months ago. It is in a four year old addition, and they loved their bulldozers.

My first objective was to plant those trees and bushes that take the longest to mature, such as the oaks, and several flowering trees. We also planted azaleas, which while blooming the first year, will takes several years for them to get big and shaggy. This fall we plan to put in camellias for the same reason.

I figure I have years to work on the lawn, but to ever have a chance to enjoy big trees and shrubs, they have to go in first.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 11:27AM
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labwench(MI/Zone 5)

We at least have some landscaping. Few trees and stupid placement of the ones we do have. Don't get me started about the maple behind the septic system and way too close to the house. Or the little paved loop with an oak in the middle of it.

I'll start a separate thread with my questions about those jewels.

It takes me so long to make a decision, if I don't get started now, we'll be retiring in 20 years with a house with no plantings.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 1:08PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hey.. how come your location is in this post.. whats that all about ...

can there really be more than one labwench .. lol ..


    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 1:23PM
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