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Time to Stop and Smell the...WHAT???

Updated on November 2, 2015

Landscaping around septic tanks

A winning combination of great-looking plants and ingenuity increase exterior home aesthetics.

City folk are unlikely to ever deal with above ground septic systems, but for those individuals residing in more rural and remote areas, a number of unsightly tanks built into a confined residential area are often as common as ants at a picnic.

Without detailing the mechanics behind hydro engineering, a septic tank is a big underground cement chamber which collects domestic waste water. Since the tanks are not connected to city plumbing, they need to be pumped out periodically. Each tank has an above ground lid that is slid open to allow easy access.

Be Inspired

In terms of landscaping, septic tanks present yet another eyesore (and nose sore), and challenge for the homeowner. Just like electrical boxes, telephone poles, water mains and the like, they are enduring, distinctive, and unattractive fixtures. But even though they are permanent, a savvy landscaper can lessen the impact and soften the look by the creative use of judicious plantings. If you are faced with this nasty dilemma, life is much too short not to do something about it.

Easy Guidelines

Having said that, let’s get started. The following guidelines will help you to understand a few easy-and inexpensive steps to developing an attractive landscape while adding value to your unique personal space. First:

  • Consult with your utility prior to digging or grading. If you reside in a condominium, phone the management company or condo board for approval of landscaping plans.
  • Clean and grade the area with a standard size rake or claw type hand tool. Remove and discard any debris such as weeds, dead leaves, twigs and branches. A fresh and clean medium is a must.
  • Prepare and have ready quality gardening soil, plants/flowers, mulch or gravel and all necessary tools including a shovel and hoe.
  • Shallow rooted plants work best here because their shallow root systems will not migrate into the concrete tanks. If considering something larger such as a shrub, small flowering azaleas are shallow rooted and would look lovely.
  • Dig holes for flowers using the plant stake as a guide for depth and width allowance.
  • Plan to situate material in a semi-circle, behind, or in front of the units leaving about six inches to one foot of space between flowers and septic tank. Small shrubs require about two-three feet of space. Proper spacing provides ample room for septic lid removal and professional servicing.
  • Decorative pots made of a wide variety of materials including ceramic, metal, glass, etc. are attractive and can also be strategically placed to cleverly camouflage an unattractive but necessary utility. Containers with patterns and/or designs will help draw the eye to the pots and flowers and away from the tanks.
  • Boulders and/or decorative stone lend a durable and natural texture to the area and can be easily rearranged or relocated.
  • As with any garden at the end of the season, plants should be cut back to about six inches above ground and mulched over for winter protection. In Spring, additional new plants can be added for greater fullness.
  • Cost for landscaping one to three tanks is between $50.00 and $100.00. Supplies can readily be purchased from a local nursery or hardware store.

A Return on Investment

Viola! An excellent transformation of an unsightly septic tank area will provide you-the homeowner with and aesthetically pleasing and functional place to enjoy life and entertain family and friends. Remember that this is your world and should serve as a place where you can enjoy loveliness and peace.




One of four tanks-this one at the walkway.
One of four tanks-this one at the walkway. | Source
The same tank with chasmanthium , pachysandra and eye-popping orange zinnias.
The same tank with chasmanthium , pachysandra and eye-popping orange zinnias. | Source

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