Sunday, April 29, 2012

Landscaping Part 2

I did not want to do this project.  If grass would grow over the septic tanks I would have no problem with a lawn there, none at all.  But there wasn’t enough soil over the tanks to grow grass.  I thought about making a mound of soil over the tanks and seeding it with grass.  I might as well put up a sign that says “Mound of dirt covered with sod that is supposed to hide septic tanks.”

So I chose to build a flower bed over the tanks.  With the edging in place, a few more inches of soil could be added and (knock on wood) something would then grow.  How hard can it be? 
That’s what I’ve been working on for the past three weeks (see April 15 post for part 1).  The first week I put in edging.  Part of this bed had already been built into the slope a few years ago.  At that time I just wanted to get some bushes to hide the big blue bulb.  (Why couldn’t they make it green?).  But the problem with the dead vegetation over the settling tank just wasn’t going away.  Corner posts were set, string was strung between the posts, and a trench was dug.  

Each edger was set in place to the string after much (emphasize much) trial and error, which means adding or removing dirt until the edger sits just right.  I'm a stickler for getting the edgers in line. 

Another course of limestone block was added to the terraced side of the bed, which was built a few years ago. 

Some of the plants were relocated in the bed and new ones put in at the edge of the bed, which is not over a tank.  The internet sources advised to use only perennials and small bushes near a septic tank, not big woody bushes.  I planted mounding plants - magic carpet spirea, rug junipers, creeping phlox – that would spill over into the areas over the tanks. 
That’s when the fun really began.  I found that the dirt over the tanks was hard Indiana clay, very little topsoil – no wonder nothing would grow.  That’s when the project expanded.  First the sod was scraped off and carted to a low area next to the driveway.  Then I dug out about half of the clay, about a cubic yard, and carted it to a low spot on the pond levee and spread it there.   At that point I had three projects going.  Well I had to do something with the dirt, and I did not want to put it in a pile and move it again later.
The remaining clay was chopped up with a hoe then broken up more with a small tiller.  It’s easy to say “chopped up with a hoe” but the reality is it took two days to break the clay up.  I hauled in two yards of dirt/compost mix and added it to the bed.  That was mixed in by shovel and hoe then broken up again with a tiller.  This is where it is now. 

Some of the dirt was put against the house foundation and graded to improve slope away from the house – a fourth project.  
I think it was Thursday morning when I tried to get out of bed and realized that work had to stop for awhile.  I plan to seed the soil over the beds with a perennial mix and hope that something grows over the tanks.   I think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, the end being the end of landscaping.  There’s one more project to do, a foundation bed in the northwest corner that will make a proper setting for the bench that I finally put together after it sat in the minibarn for five years.  In comparison that will be a piece of cake.


Unknown said...

Projects never seem to go as planned. It may take you a little longer to complete them all, but it will be worth it. I can't wait to see the new garden all filled in with new plantings.

WbrookCT said...

Hi Mike. Very nice garden and pictures. I noticed with interest the work you are doing over your septic tank. Can I assume those are the two covers to the risers which access the tank for cleaning, and that you have a leaching field extending out adjacent to your raised beds? If so, I have a very similar arrangement and my 11" raised beds are between 10' and 30' from the edge of the septic field. Do you have similar? I believe I'm safe growing vegetables in raised beds and not directly over the septic field, but there are mixed opinions on the internet. Just wondering if you went through a similar thought process.

Good luck with your garden!

gardenvariety-hoosier said...

WbrookCT - I had the same concerns. I have a two tank system. First the effluent goes into a settling tank and then overflows into a dosing tank. The dosing tank has a pump with a float that pushes out the liquid into the septic field. The line goes about 30 feet directly away from the vegetable beds before splitting into 5 drain lines. From what I've read the microbial action of the soil in the drain field completely breaks down any harmful pathogens or chemicals, in fact that is where the real digestion occurs. I took up a sample of water in my dosing tank and it is close to gray water with very little odor. I have to believe that there is no chance of any E coli surviving a trip through both tanks, going through the soil microbes in the drain field then migrating at least 40 feet through clay soil to my vegetable beds. It's important to not add bleach or harsh chemicals to the waste system so the tanks can do the initial job of breaking down things. Ten feet is a little close and you may want to look at which way water flows. Does it flow downhill from the field toward the beds? It the beds are above the level of the drainpipes you should not have a problem in my opinion. If the drainage goes toward the beds you might look at putting in a drainpipe between the beds and field that will divert water away from the beds. I think that unless your soil is sandy that any liquid coming out of the pipes will migrate so slowly that any contaminants will be completely broken down.

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