What Your Lawn Can Tell You About Your Septic System
If your home relies on a septic tank system to safely dispose of sewage and wastewater, it is probably buried beneath your property’s lawn. This is because lawns make highly effective drainfields, which prevent raw sewage and other contaminants from poisoning local groundwater supplies as they exit your tank.
If you’re not sure if your septic tank system is functioning properly, the grass growing directly over your system can help you better understand your system. Unusual grass growth can be an early warning sign of serious septic tank problems. Knowing what’s happening when you spot the following signs can potentially save you thousands of dollars in septic system repair bills.
The Grass Over a Septic Tank Is Dying
If you notice that the grass growing directly over your septic tank has started to wilt and turn yellow, you may be worried that a leaking or damaged tank is killing your grass. Fortunately, while these patches of dying grass can be unsightly, they usually do not signify problems with your septic tank.
These yellow patches occur because the soil directly over your septic tank is much shallower than the deep deposits of topsoil surrounding the tank. This limits the amount of water the grass growing receives in the shallower soil.
During periods of prolonged dry weather, the soil over your septic tank may dry out completely, causing the grass to wilt and die. Florida’s unique climate means this is much more likely to occur during the winter months than the wet, humid summer months, which can be confusing for recent arrivals.
If you notice dying grass over your septic tank, the best thing to do is absolutely nothing. The grass will usually come back to life when wetter conditions return in the spring, and any patches of bare earth left behind can be reseeded.
Don’t be tempted to try and revive the grass with extra watering. Any water you add to the soil will percolate into the septic tank’s drainfield, which must remain relatively dry so it can absorb large quantities of wastewater from the tank. Overwatering your dying grass can leave the drainfield waterlogged, causing serious septic system issues where none previously existed.
The Grass Over a DrainField Is Lush and Green
Paradoxically, while dying grass over your tank is usually nothing to worry about, lush, green grass growing over the drainfield may signify serious problems.
Isolated patches of grass that have grown taller and greener than the surrounding grass may occur because your system’s drainfield has become saturated. When this occurs, unfiltered waste will start to accumulate in the trenches buried beneath the field.
To the grass growing above, this accumulating waste is an excellent source of nutrients, which causes the grass to grow taller. Most drainfields contain several straight, parallel trenches, and straight lines of lush grass growing over these trenches are usually a classic sign of drainfield failure.
If you notice any of these suspiciously healthy patches of grass, check for other signs of drainfield saturation. The drains and toilets in your home may function more slowly and can start to overflow in extreme cases. You should also check for other signs of trouble in the drainfield itself: bad smells; spongy, waterlogged earth; and pools of standing water can all signify serious drainfield problems.
If you spot any additional signs of drainfield failure, call in a septic tank maintenance service as soon as possible to pump and drain your septic tank. If you act quickly enough, this will usually allow some of the excess wastewater to drain back into the tank, saving your drainfield. However, badly waterlogged drainfields may require trench re-excavation and topsoil replacement.
If you have any more questions about how to spot problems in your septic tank or drainfield, contact the septic system professionals at Rob’s Septic Tanks, Inc., for expert advice.