Extended periods of hot weather and limited rainfall can dry out the grass above the drain lines.

Brown Grass in a Leach Field

by Daniel Thompson

Maintaining a functioning septic system is an integral part of keeping your home safe and your family healthy. During warm months you may notice brown streaks in the green grass in your leach field. These harmless strips of brown grass are often unsightly, but they are not caused by a problem in your leach field. There is little you can do to prevent these streaks in your lawn, but you can effectively prevent your lawn from becoming an eyesore.

1. Cause

Brown streaks of grass often appear in leach fields during warm summer weather. In most cases, the drain lines in a leach field are surrounded by gravel or another porous material. The soil above the drain lines and gravel is usually much shallower than the soil in the rest of your yard. When warm temperatures begin drying out your grass, the limited amount of water available in the shallow soil above the leach lines can't meet the demands of the grass growing there, and the grass dries out as a result.

2. Caution

During extended periods of warm weather there is little that you can do to alleviate this problem. If you water the brown strips of grass, you may flood the drainage lines in your septic system, causing it to fail. A flooded leach field is a common cause of sewage backing up through home plumbing fixtures. Also, the amount of soil over your leach lines is carefully calibrated to promote the continued flow of water through the septic system. Adding soil over your leach lines to alleviate this problem can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of your septic system and could cause backups during periods of heavy rain.

3. Landscaping

Planting a more drought-tolerant groundcover over the affected areas of your leach field can help cover the brown spots in your lawn. Use shallow-rooted herbaceous plants that do not have aggressive, woody roots over a leach field. Planting drought-tolerant flowers or ornamental grasses over the offending drain lines in your leach field is another way to cover up brown spots in your yard. You should avoid flowers or groundcovers that create a dense mat of foliage over the ground since they can prevent water from evaporating and reduce the effectiveness of your leach field.

4. Considerations

Wearing gloves while you are working on soil in a leach field helps protect you from harmful micro-organisms in the soil. These micro-organisms can infect fruit and vegetables grown on leach fields, and cultivating the soil may damage drainage lines. In most cases it is not a good idea to use your leach field to grow edible plants. The color of the grass in your drain field can also indicate other problems in your drain field. Strips of dark green in your leach field and constantly wet soil are often a sign that the leach field is overloaded with waste water. This issue is usually the result of a serious problem in your drainage field that will need repair.

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