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PAL Questions: 2 - Garden Tools: 1 - Recommended Websites: 1

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Keywords: Land treatment of wastewater, Landscaping drain fields, Ground cover plants, Grasses, Drought-tolerant plants

PAL Question:

I am looking for plants suitable for a septic drain field site. I have a very large north facing slope in open sun with a drain field running along the top half. I would like to plant low to no maintenance ground covers and low growing shrubs to cover this area. This is a focal point when driving up to my house so I want it to be eye catching and interesting year round.

I thought of heaths and heathers as a possibility, but I'm not sure if the root system is shallow enough. I also would like to include native ground covers such as ferns, Gaultheria shallon and any others that you might think would work, as well as ornamental grasses and perennial flowers for interest. Can you please offer a resource for planting over drain fields or a list of plants that you think would work?

View Answer:

Trees or large shrubs should be kept at least 30 feet away from your drain field. If you do plan to plant trees near a drain field, consult an expert to discuss your ideas and needs. Trees and shrubs generally have extensive root systems that seek out and grow into wet areas like drain fields. Grass is the ideal cover for drain fields. Grasses can be ornamental, mowed in a traditional lawn, or left as an unmowed meadow. You can also try groundcovers and ferns.

The key to planting over the drain field is to select shallow-rooted, low-maintenance, low-water-use plants. When tank covers are buried, keep in mind that plantings over the tank--from inlet to outlet--will have to be removed every three or four years for inspection and pumping.

Planting your drain field will be much different from other experiences you may have had landscaping. First, it is unwise to work the soil, which means no rototilling. Parts of the system may be only six inches under the surface. Adding 2 to 3 inches of topsoil should be fine, but more could be a problem. Second, the plants need to be relatively low-maintenance and low-water use. You will be best off if you select plants for your drain field that, once established, will not require routine watering.

SOURCE: WSU Cooperative Extension - Clallam County

Information can be found here.

Thurston County, Washington, has some information about landscaping a drain field, including plant suggestions, here.

Additionally, the Pacific Northwest Gardener's Book of Lists (1997, by R. & J. McNeilan) offers a number of groundcover lists for various situations, including groundcovers for dry sites, slopes, and sun and shade. The Miller Library has this book.

Season All Season
Date 2008-01-03
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Keywords: Festuca rubra, Poa macrantha, Lathyrus littoralis, Glehnia leiocarpa, Carex macrocephala, Convolvulus soldanella, Abronia latifolia, Elymus mollis, Native plants--Washington, Grasses

PAL Question:

I live in a community on Camano Island. We have some communal beach front property and would like to plant some native beach grasses that are about one foot high. What species do we have to choose from and where can we purchase them?

View Answer:

I found a list of native Northwest beach grasses in an online symposium moderated by Alfred Wiedemann of Evergreen State College in Olympia. (The symposium was about an invasive species, Ammophila arenaria, or European beach grass, which has been crowding out native species.) Here are some of the plants he mentioned:
Elymus (Leymus) mollis (Dunegrass)
Abronia latifolia
Convolvulus (Calystegia) soldanella
Carex macrocephala
Glehnia leiocarpa
Lathyrus littoralis
Poa macrantha

Here is a Seattle Times article about beach plants by Valerie Easton that may be of interest to you. The Miller Library has the book that is mentioned in the article, Native Plants in the Coastal Garden by April Pettinger (Timber Press, rev. and updated, 2002), and it includes a list of native grasses. These two grasses were specifically recommended for beachside gardens:
Elymus or Leymus mollis (also listed above)
Festuca rubra (Red fescue)

Washington Native Plant Society might also be a good resource for you. They provide a list of nurseries in our area which specialize in native plants. King County's Native Plant Guide also has a list of sources.

Season All Season
Date 2007-01-09
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Keywords: Seed dormancy, Propagation, Shrubs, Seeds, Perennials, Herbs, Grasses, Ferns

Garden Tool: A book by Jekka McVicar called Seeds: the ultimate guide to growing successfully from seed (Lyons Press, 2003, $22.95) will help you turn your seedy hopes into plant reality. Thirteen chapters are divided by types of plant including ferns, grasses, shrubs, perennials and herbs. The practical information that applies to all kinds of seeds, such as what type of soil to use, and how to break seed dormancy, is included in the last chapter. Color photos illustrate throughout. For online tips for seed starting go to:
http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/pnw0170/pnw0170.pdf from Oregon State University.

Season: All Season
Date: 2006-03-01
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December 12 2014 11:33:49