Can I plant a vegetable garden on my septic tank leach field?” – Eric

The septic tank leach field is a tempting spot for a vegetable garden – it’s large, flat, and usually sunny. However, it is generally not recommended to plant vegetables in this area, for several reasons:

There is a risk of contamination:

    • As septic tank effluent drains out into the lines, it is filtered slowly through the soil, and beneficial soil microbes digest harmful bacteria and viruses. That means that near the lines, there is some amount of contamination, and the extent depends on the type of soil, the rate of absorption, and the quality of the system. While septic systems are designed to prevent disease-causing soil contamination, there’s no easy way to know if your system is functioning properly.
    • In addition to bacteria, think about all the household chemicals that go down your drains every day. In general, plants help the environment by absorbing and processing chemicals – which could end up in your vegetables.
    • Root crops are more easily contaminated, and their roots can interfere with the drain lines.
    • Leafy vegetables can be contaminated by water splashing up from the soil surface.
    • Taller or fruiting plants (such as tomatoes, cucumbers) are less likely to be contaminated – problem is, there’s no way to tell what kinds of (or how much) bacteria is on them.
  • If you have a water-softener system, it will discharge brine (salt) into the system, which will harm salt-sensitive vegetables such as peppers and beans.

Also, the proper functioning of your septic system can be harmed by:

  • Raised beds that interfere with the evaporation of moisture.
  • Tilling, digging, and foot traffic, which can damage the septic lines.
  • Irrigation, which upsets the careful process of filtering and evaporation.

Instead of vegetables, plant your septic leach field with shallow-rooted, drought-tolerant ornamental plants, grasses, or ground covers. For more information, and plant suggestions check out:


Editorial Contributors
Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio,, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

Learn More

Comments are closed.