planting vegetable garden near the septic

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by Milagarden, Apr 8, 2015.

  1. Milagarden

    Milagarden New Member

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    Hello. I'm new to this site, in fact - we just moved from Alberta to BC and bought a beautiful house in Langley, so I'm also new to BC. I was full of excitement with the 0.2 acre back yard and started to make plans on how I will grow my fruits and vegetables. Me, eating raw food mostly, it cost a lot to buy it, so growing your own would definitely help. Unfortunately, little we know, that the septic system on our yard is taking the majority of the yard and I have almost nothing left for my garden. After lots tears and big disappointment ( after dealing with hot-hot-hot Vancouver house market ) I decided to educate myself more on this topic and started reading different posts. I should of learn more about the septic, but it is what it is now and maybe some of you may help. So, this is what I'd like to know:
    How far can I build a green house from the septic field?
    Can I build raised beds for cucumbers and greens? and if yes, than how far from the septic field?
    How far can I plant strawberries, raspberries, cherries, ecs. mostly dwarf trees?
    Is it safe? I hear different opponents on that too. Some people say it's to dangerous due to bacteria coming from the septic or contamination, but some say that people did it for centuries in different parts of the world and it's absolutely safe.
    Please, if you are an experienced gardener and have an experience with the septic system, help me.
     
  2. Sundrop

    Sundrop Well-Known Member

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    These were different times when septic systems contained only natural human waste. Now they are full of synthetic chemicals mostly from laundry detergents, but not only. I would not be afraid of bacteria, although who knows what kind of bacteria is there nowadays, as much as I would be of those chemicals.

    As for raised beds, yes, in your circumstances it could be a solution.
     
  3. eric the midget

    eric the midget New Member

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    google a local septic services company, i'm sure they'd help ya.
     
  4. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    one major important rule re: your septic system is - do not pave or cover the "field" - no deep digging - and NO invasive roots

    - in other words, you have the pipe that drains waste water out of the house - it goes to a big tank in the ground (your septic tank) - then from the tank there is a "distribution box" - then several rows of drainage pipe called the "field"

    the purpose of the field is to slowly drain and evaporate the waste water (solids accumulate in the tank and every few years need to be pumped FROM the tank by a big truck septic service) - so be very careful about planting anything (or digging deeply) in your field area. And do not block access to the tank (even tho you possibly cannot see your tank, it is just a few inches under your lawn and when the pump truck comes, they search around, dig up a patch of lawn, and remove the "hatch" on your tank --- pump it out - then put the hatch back and smooth out your lawn again.

    this "no digging, no roots" rule applies whether you are planting edible garden or a decorative garden.

    as well, you cannot apply more earth on top of the "field" - the drain pipes have to be a certain depth in order for them to work properly. This is part of the overall system design.

    for sure never plant a willow near your septic - it will make for some very expensive repairs. (roots)

    you should have a "plan" of your septic system - did the seller of the house provide a plan? If not, depending on when your house was built, there may be a record of it at your local health authority office. Start there and they can guide you. You could also ask at the local city hall (or regional district office - depends if you live in Langley City or out in the countryside)

    for sure I would not plant edible on the septic system.

    I would be reading up on "small space" gardening - as it is amazing how much one can grow vertically - for example, at our cottage, our neighbor had an upright system for growing lettuce and spinach etc - made a tremendous amount of sense because the slugs left the plants alone - yay!

    as far as seeds for veggies for this climate (coast BC) - check out West Coast Seeds website. I have very good success with their seeds - they have lots of resource info on their website (and in their email newsletter) https://www.westcoastseeds.com/

    the other useful resource for the west coast is the Sunset magazine WEstern Garden Book - http://www.oxmoorhouse.com/storefro...ew-western-garden-book/prod9780376039200.html

    you can read lots of articles in the garden section of the Sunset website www.sunset.com - lots of small space ideas for kitchen gardening.

    maybe there is a community garden plot in your town? That could help expand your space. Here is an example of what I mean - I see they have plots avail now - http://www.maplesliving.ca/
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2015
  5. Milagarden

    Milagarden New Member

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    Thank you very much Georgia, you gave me some great tips.
    I actually already did lots - calls, talks. What I really need to focus on here is a creative gardening. I like the idea of vertical garden. I 'l try that for sure.
     
  6. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    from what i remember of the upright lettuce garden -
    it was the approximate overall size of a normal door put sideways. So about 4 feet tall and 6-6" long.

    he had two pieces of lattice - like this http://www.homedepot.com/b/Lumber-Composites-Lattice/N-5yc1vZbqna

    (the lattice is the sides thru which the lettuce grows)

    then - the bottom and two ends were approx 8 or 10" wide planks

    the bottom was on wheels so it could be moved around on the deck (more or less sun, etc)

    now you have a long, narrow box with an open top
    then they lined each lattice side with a good quality landscape fabric (not black plastic) - get the best quality landscape fabric because it will be in place for a few years

    then filled with good container (potting) soil - I like Sea Soil ---- the one for pots. Make sure your soil mix is not too heavy as this will cause the structure to bow out (sag) - in fact, the man who built this frame must have had some cross bracing of some sort from one side of the lattice to the other side lattice - maybe some non-rusting wire? (before installing the fabric and soil)

    then - carefully make small holes thru the lattice openings in to the landscape fabric. Insert a couple of seedlings in each lattice opening.

    water from the top

    you can plant both sides of the frame. and a few plants in the top too.

    you will need to feed the soil sometimes.

    *(I notice that the lattice is avail in real wood and also composite plastic type material ---- is it safe to grow veggies against red cedar?)

    here is a picture of a similar idea simply using pallets (recycle!) - and I know I have seen pricier "kit" versions -
    http://homegardenair.com/the-models-of-vertical-garden-that-you-can-choice/vertical-vegetables/

    here is another one using those hanging shoe organizers - http://www.instructables.com/id/VERTICAL-VEGETABLES-quotGrow-upquot-in-a-smal/

    (I don't think i'd put a damp vertical garden wall against any structure that you want to keep in good shape, like the siding on your house / shed - esp considering that your siding might be treated-stained etc)

    lots of ideas - just google "vertical garden vegetables" - and ask Google to show you "images"
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2015
  7. Milagarden

    Milagarden New Member

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    Thank you Georgia. Amazing ideas!
    I will also think how to maximize the use of my front yard - that would help too.
     
  8. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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  9. Milagarden

    Milagarden New Member

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    I'm thinking of installing a short fence in front to protect the garden and plant mostly berries and shrubs or dwarf trees.
     
  10. pmurphy

    pmurphy Contributor 10 Years

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    Just about anything can be grown in a pot as long it as is big enough to suit the plant's needs.

    As for the type of trees, there are a lot that you can grow in pots: dwarf cherries and apples are the first that come to mind. But don't limit yourself to these, do some research on the size of the tree you are interested in - frost peach, loquat, medlar, chocolate mimosa (ornamental) and yuzu inchandrin lemon are among some of the trees I have growing in large pots.

    Just make sure that the pots are large enough and - depending upon the tree - that you can protect the roots during winter if necessary (this can be done by wrapping the pot). Also do your research on the needs of the tree; does it need a pollinator or can you get away with just one?
     
  11. Milagarden

    Milagarden New Member

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    Great idea about pots. I can definitely grow some of them in containers and pots.
    However - I was wondering how safe is it to just grow on the ground too, especially fruit trees.
     
  12. pmurphy

    pmurphy Contributor 10 Years

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    If you have a septic field you could run into problems being caused by the roots. By growing the trees in pots, you can eliminate this possibly expensive problem.
     
  13. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    i wonder about Kiwi --- they do grow well around here - there has been a recent discussion (thread) on this forum about Kiwi ---- I think also that they keep for a while? (ie you can put them in paper egg cartons (not styrofoam)

    is a kiwi invasive in terms of roots?
    the bonus is that they need a sturdy trellis support - (vertical gardening idea) - and then you could support (hang) some tomato baskets or something from that same arbor - I have never done that but I could picture it. I am sure someone here has experience about what to plant near Kiwi vine.

    also for berries - the space they take up - and the maintenance - the (as in THE) place to go is the "cannon-free" farm called Onninks - (you'll hear about propane cannons in Langley etc ... we live near a winery - same issue) blueberry farm, old-time family - https://www.facebook.com/onninksblueberryfarm (you don't need to belong to FB to view their page, I don't think)

    another place - a bit of a drive east but scenic route possible on the old backroads - is Lepps Farm Market - I don't know all their sources - however, it's a destination with lovely displays of produce etc - and has cooking classes (Mennonite Girls Can Cook sometimes do their class there) - there's a meat department, bakery etc - and also - instead of taking up space growing 20 cobs of corn - I believe this market offers non-gmo corn cobs - all part of the old Mennonite aspect of the Fraser Valley. Famous FV (Chilliwack) corn - what we'd all look for decades ago.

    Just remember, now you live so close to that tempting shopping destination just south of Langley (namely WA State) - keep in mind, you cannot (usually) bring plants, seeds, certain fruits over the Canada - USA border. You have to read up on that - and other than certified citrus - why would you / )
     
  14. Milagarden

    Milagarden New Member

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    Georgia, you are so great!
    I see you know a lot about gardening. Can you recommend me a good place to buy an organic horse manure and also where, close to Langley can I buy fruit trees and berries to plant?
     
  15. pmurphy

    pmurphy Contributor 10 Years

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    Kiwi will grow very well here and will set down good, deep roots. If you are going to try growing in a (large) pot, I would go with a smaller variety such as Actinidia arguta 'Issai' which can be kept smaller than most....and they are also self-fertile so you only need one.

    One of the "latest" vines to have is the pixie grape - will grow nicely in a 2 gallon pot and will stay under 3ft. Phoenix Perennials in Richmond has been advertising that they will be in soon (I got mine a couple of years ago and while only 2ft tall, it provides a lot of fruit for such a small plant)
     
  16. Milagarden

    Milagarden New Member

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    Great idea - kiwi fruit. So, if roots are so deep, would they interfere with the septic?
     
  17. pmurphy

    pmurphy Contributor 10 Years

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    They may depending upon where you plant - I have never been successful in moving an established kiwi because the roots go deep and tend to cover a large area. FYI, 'Issai' will not produce fruit like the store bought fruit, it is about the size of a grape and very tasty :)
     
  18. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    I am not an expert at Langley area -

    however -
    in your travels around your new town - I'm sure you will find someone who knows someone - Otter Co-op sells feed - go and see if the bulletin board has any manure from sheep or goats

    and be careful with horse manure - it tends not to be so well digested (the horse eats the hay/grain - and a lot of the seeds come out in their manure ... and then on to your garden. Not helpful. So some of the ads (just look at Craigslist for example) swear it is "composted" - well, I don't know what that means - I don't think we have a gov't standard on that yet (then again - I could have just opened up an entire long conversation in a far different forum!)

    careful with chicken (poultry) manure - it can burn your garden (chemical burn)

    ideally - my experience - have a look around and see if you can find a friendly sheep farmer near you - that's what we always used growing up in the Fraser Valley- Vancouver area. I think it is because sheep have more tummies - and ruminate (is that the correct term?) - in other words, they digest more of the food before poops - therefore less weed seeds in their manure. I think some people suggest that rabbit droppings might offer similar benefit. (go to Otter Coop one day - out in Aldergrove - ask the livestock feed department who has sheep/rabbits - I bet they have a bulletin board offering "for sales" - ) http://ottercoop.com/index.php?id=37

    some old timers at the coast swear by seaweed - well, that's great - as long as you leave it out for a good long rain monsoon season (rinse the ocean salt out) - also - I wonder about the ethics these days of harvesting off the beach - I would think the marine life possibly needs the seaweed more than us human gardeners. I don't know. Not a marine biologist.

    some other old timers I grew up around always put their fireplace (woodstove) wood ash on the garden - I would never do that these days without testing the soil first - and making sure you never burn newspaper, other waste, presto-log products etc.

    on the up side - I do like certain brands like Sea Soil and Sunshine Mix #4? I can't remember, I just know the bag color - maybe someone else here has experience to offer - sea soil is a recycler of the fish processing industry - perhaps it is made of fish offal I think - and wood waste ----- IMPORTANT - there was a recent conversation on here about all the weeds (very invasive ones) in landscaping soil that the Original Poster had paid good money for - without realizing that the soil they had spent $$$ on was full of horsetail or --- i've had fireweed over half acre - a few thousand dollars worth - now try getting rid of that - i was looking at it the other day wondering in which bed I should start THIS season (5 years later). No restitution / recourse. In our small town - the Boy Scout troop would sell "manure" at approx this time of year - always make sure it has been heated to (WHAT TEMP>?) - to kill any weeds, etc. (here is the link to the recent thread about weeds in commercial topsoil http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/forums/showthread.php?t=64623 )

    one of the reasons people (old gardeners) would store and "cook" the manure over a season is because it heats up naturally and "kills" the weed seeds that the animal ate and left on the barn floor - in fact, in a dry climate, it can burn (catch on fire). And it certainly attracts furry friends - like rats ... remember Templeton in Charlottes Web - the compost-manure pile is ideal rat habitat.

    as far as where to purchase plants and trees - it might take a few tries - how about going to the community garden and meeting a few people - and asking - or I'd call somewhere like West Coast Seeds and ask them. Some of my best purchases have been at a small town Cdn Tire (no kidding) - and sometimes at a tiny private nursery - I think you'll get the feel of it when you walk in - do the plants look nice, are the people polite, knowledgeable etc --- certainly go early in the day so they have time to help you out with your questions. This specialty nursery out in Langley is well-known - and even tho they might not have exactly what you are looking for in terms of edible plantings - they might have info for you about where to shop for fruit shrubs and trees - Botanus http://www.botanus.com/pages/Contact-Us.html (I really wanted to try the Angelique begonia from here - darn, sold out!) Remember - there are only so many suppliers in the Valley - so the plant at the big box store might have come from same place as the plant at the local nursery.

    here is a place that looks like fun, over on Glover Rd - I have never been there - tho I'd be tempted - maybe there are some reviews online http://www.cedarrim.com/store/fruit-trees-have-arrived/

    remember to check with neighbors to find out if bears and raccoons are common in your new neighborhood - they could well be tempted by grapes, kiwis, berries, fruit trees in your Langley neighborhood - it harms them (obviously - the old saying - a fed bear is a dead bear - they don't trap and remove them any longer) - and is an obvious risk to your plants (breaks the branches, etc) - and scary for some humans. (Bear Aware programs are common in many BC communities)

    i'm sure as you're exploring your community you're observing every detail re who has what color rhodo right now - what flowering trees, etc - take lots of photos and scrapbook them in a garden journal so you can keep track of what is where, etc.
     
  19. pmurphy

    pmurphy Contributor 10 Years

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    Cedar Rim Nursery usually has some pretty interesting things and always a very good selection
     
  20. woodschmoe

    woodschmoe Active Member 10 Years

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    I'm assuming your lot is (more or less) rectangular? If so, how wide is the margin between the edges of your septic field and the fence-line? If 10' or more, you can think linear when it comes to planting: the actual square footage available to plant along a fence-line is quite large, and you can establish your orchard along it. By adjusting the spacing, you can fit blueberries and the like between each fruit tree along the line and fit a surprising number of trees, shrubs and vegetables into your lot while keeping the septic clear. Roots can always reach to the leach field, but 10' should be alright for smaller fruit trees--one rule of thumb that's been suggested is to place a tree at a distance from a septic field equal to it's mature height. The structure of the fence itself (assuming you have one) provides good support for berry trellises, vegetable supports and espalliered fruit trees. You might actually find you can fit more this way than you would have planting in blocks and rows....
     
  21. Milagarden

    Milagarden New Member

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    Yes, you are right. I have 10 fit on each side of the septic and 24 at the back. I was thinking - maybe green house at the back for tomatoes, peppers, greens and shrubs along the side of side fences.
     
  22. Milagarden

    Milagarden New Member

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    I have a delema about carrots and garlic. Those are both root vegetables and could be easy contaminated. I usually plant garlic along with strawberries, so I'm thinking maybe another raised bed along the side of the fence.
     
  23. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    I would stay out of the ground and grow in pots - keeping in mind that even if you pack all available space with food plants you are not going to be able to turn your small lot into a farm. And remaining aware that woody plants in particular will have to be watched for rooting out of drain holes and into the ground. I would also stay out of the front with edibles if you are on a busy street. In fact your whole place may actually have an automobile contamination problem (maybe something like asbestos from brake linings or lead from gasoline) if this is an old block along a long- and much-traveled arterial. Another reason to stay out of the dirt and grow in potting mix. Since some commercial potting mixes can be questionable also you may want to buy ingredients and make up your own, so you can control what may be in it.

    I've seen onions planted in parking lots here. Not every patch of ground is clean enough for food production, no matter how much you want to do it. Some crops are so prone to concentrating chemicals they are used to decontaminate polluted soils. If this is a possibly "dirty" site and you are determined to grow in the ground you may want to sample your soil and have it tested for likely suspects. You may want to have your soil tested for nutrient content anyway, so you don't start out guessing what you may need to do with it to get good results.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2015
  24. Milagarden

    Milagarden New Member

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    Good point. My street is very quiet, but drive way may effect the gasoline influence.
    Sometimes I see some organic farms on busy roads too. I'm wondering how safe is it to eat greens from such places. They are much more effected by busy roads than my small plot. When you go to the store and buy staff - you never know where did it grow. At least here I know what I put in and out.
     
  25. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Most modern operations use power equipment, which of course is blowing exhaust onto crops, may be leaking oil etc. - many people pay no attention to this. I've seen people standing in front of tail pipes of cars, smoking and chatting - or even bending over to look under a running vehicle, placing their faces directly in the exhaust plumes.

    Last night I got to load my groceries into my car while a woman in an idling SUV in the next stall played with her handheld, her tail pipe pointing right at me. When I left she was still sitting there. There are a lot of different pollutants generated by internal combustion and these do have effects on people.
     

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