Posted on

Turning a septic field into a wildflower meadow

When I mentioned not wanting to turn our septic field into the traditional mowed lawn, Travis Sparks wrote in to share his impressive mini-meadow, started in 2017 atop his Maine septic field.

First step turning a septic field into a wildflower meadow
“I mowed the area down as low as I could in late spring 2017,” he wrote, “spread a thin layer of compost over the whole area, broadcast a variety of both perennial and annual seed mixes over it, and lightly raked everything. I mowed it a couple more times that year (higher cut) to try to knock the competition back while things germinated, and then left it be.”

“I just had sparse grasses and wildflowers to start (nothing woody) before doing any of this, so the competition wasn’t too strong early on. It was reasonably successful the following year.” (Image above.)

Two year old septic field meadow
Travis wasn’t entirely thrilled with wildflower establishment, though, so he repeated the process in late spring 2019 including “another very light top-dressing of compost since the leach field soil is mostly just sandy fill.” The results that year were even more inspiring as you can see in the photo above.

Four year old septic field meadow
And here’s the meadow at four years old, in 2021. Travis wrote that after the establishment phase, he hasn’t done anything to keep the meadow on track (although I suspect he’ll have to mow now and then to keep woody plants out).

I’m so impressed by his success, which turns his septic field into habitat for pollinators and lots of other wildlife. Have you turned a blah septic field into an integral part of your homestead? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

2 thoughts on “Turning a septic field into a wildflower meadow

  1. I ive in Texas. I have a septic system. We do not get much snow here but a few years ago we had a snow deep enough to cover the whole world. Not even the horses were leaving muddy tracks. Their hoofprints were as delicate as rabbit prints. The snow was unblemished. It was beautiful! Except there was a muddy spot about 3 feet across not far from my back porch.
    I immediately realized that our septic tank was warming up the soil and melting the snow from underneath. A candle went on in my head..
    Last year I built a 4 x4 foot frame around that “muddy spot.”. I put a clear plastic dome tent over it. I am able to start seeds indoors but do not have enough light to hold them. Seedlings get leggy and weak quickly. Now I am able to move sprouts out immediately to my “bottom heat” dome. They do really well and grow quickly. I have another area to harden off starts before planting in beds. I took it down for summer last year and popped it back up this fall. I place a five gallon bucket of water in center of bed. I use a piece of twine to tie bucket to dome frame. The water bucket anchors the dome in high winds and provides heat sink as well. The design lets me easily access all four sides to tend to the plants. I can also roll up plastic on nice days. If we have high winds I throw an old trampoline mat over the whole structure just to protect it from “breathing” too much.
    Works for me!

    1. How cool! That’s such a great idea — using your septic tank like a hot frame. I will have to pay more attention to ours and see if we’re seeing warming action.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.