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(Carmel Valley, CA)

Oleanders, a Century Plant (agave)that has grown 9 feet tall ad wide and a Canary Island Palm that's about the same are FLOURISHING near my leach field.Nothing else on my alkaline soil property is growing with such vitality.


My question: If any of their roots get into my leach field, I fear that
I may have to build a new leach field which, around here, runs $50,000 or so. This is enough for me to go down there right now and move and/or cut them down. But I'm Mother Theresa with plants (I look out through their eyes and feel their elation for life) and so I put it off plus I'd have to
hire it done and it would be a big job.
Here are the particulars in case anyone has the expertise to advise me.
(Please, if you're guessing, don't advise though I certainly appreciate your
desire to be helpful.)

The leach field stretches out in a long trench under a 45 degree hill. Exact location is unknown but I know approx. where it is give or take ten feet or so. Now if we follow the supposed location of the leach field up to the surface of the 45 degree hill, I estimate that this surface area is around 8-10 feet from the top where it levels off onto a plateau. Running along the edge of this plateau are my 8 oleanders (3 1/2 feet x 3 1/2 feet each - not big for an oleander but big and unusually healthy for this alkaline property). TO LOOK SO HEALTHY, I THINK THEIR ROOTS MUST BE TAPPING INTO THE LEACH FIELD (However, I did read your 5-10 feet above--it's hard to know when their roots are going down - when I researched it, I found that oleanders don't have a big root system.)
Around eight feet behind them (going away from the leach field) is MY GIGANTIC CENTURY PLANT THAT LOOKS LIKE ITS GOING TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD. COULD ITS ROOTS BE TAKING OVER THE LEACH FIELD PIPES AND MY BANK ACCOUNT? The same is true for my palm which is right next to my century plant and it too is growing at a phenomenal rate - 8feet by 8ft. I catch my breath when I look at the two of them. In regard to the century plant with its sawtooth
edges and sharply pointed (leaves?), I actually feel alarm.
I'm beginning to think, to be on the safe side, I should cut down the century plant, move the oleanders and transplant the palm which is going to cost $$$ because I can't do it myself BUT IT'S BETTER THAN HAVING TO GET A NEW LEACH FIELD. CAN ANY KNOWLEDGABLE PERSON PLEASE ADVISE? I WOULD BE SO GRATEFUL. DIANA


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Nov 27, 2011
Thank you!
by: Diana

Dear Kimberly,
I apologize for not getting back to you! I lost the piece of paper that had your website address and I couldn't locate it again. This morning, when I was re-opening my quest for knowledge on agaves and canary island palms, I saw this heading in capitol letters and thought that someone else had the same problem! Then I realized that they were my own words written back in April!
A few corrections: they're both 8 feet high rather than nine.
Thank you for the idea of locating the exact position of the leach field and digging around it though this will be tricky for many reasons that I won't go into. Around 10-12 years ago, I removed a locust from that area and found alot of water! I would guess that's the area
where the leach field is and that it would stretch out in both directions. I didn't know water meant that it wasn't functioning correctly (haven't had any problem with it).
I've thought of getting one of those water diviners - the stick. They work.
Right now I'm trying to find out if the roots of an eight foot high,11 foot wide agave would reach over to this area. Evidently it's reaching some area of the field and I'd like to know if it could simply be enjoying the affluent that comes out of the holes in the pipes. The same for the
canary island. I'm also wondering when americana agaves die a natural death. This would be such a simple solution: let nature take its course.
As for having them dug up, it runs up into the hundreds and hundreds. Chain sawing it is a possibility followed with Round-Up which I never use.
Also there's a huge coyote bush growing next to them that I had cut down last year and it's come back. That might be the most dangerous thing of the three for my pipes. Plus 8 oleanders and a huge rockrose, both of which I found out have roots that will interfere with a perforated pipe (I had been told otherwise. Will move them in spring).
Also, info says prickly pear cactus is OK - well, I've got loads of that and have been moving it each year to another location but it's back all over the place. I don't trust the info on the cactus.
Ah, country living.. . . .but it's worth it!
Again, I apologize for not responding to your
answer. I appreciate that you took the time to think about it and write it.
Take care and happy holidays.

Apr 16, 2011
Plants Near Your Leach Field
by: Kimberly

Hi Diana, Kimberly here from landscape solutions for you. Thank you for asking your question on trees and shrubs near your leach field. Thank you also for your very detailed description.

This is a really touch call as a professional landscaper. I have dealt with leach fields with clients, and also in my own front yard.

One of my first questions is, how old is the Century and Carnary Island Palm?

The Century tree roots grow outward from the mother root. The Carnary Island Palm doesn't have a deep root system.

The main issue you have in your decision is that if you remove these trees, you still may have roots that have gotten into your leach field.

The Oleanders can be removed and replanted in another location.

Roots from trees actually can help with your septic system, but many times they also can cause major damage.

For now, I would recommend seeing if you can find the exact location of the leach field. I know this may be difficult as you are in a sloped situation. Once you find the exact location, you can actually dig around the leach field and find any problem areas. There will be pools of water around problem areas. This means that roots have gotten into the leach field and preventing the leach field to work properly. The roots can be dug out and removed. A process that has been done before.

Let's work through the process from step one. See if you can find the exact location of the leach field. Is there anyway you can download a few pictures so we can get a visual of your property? This will help me and others that have had experience with trees near leach field. I have dealt with this problem, but I always access a problem when I can, by looking at the property.

Both the Century and Carnary Island trees are unique and beautiful trees. Unfortunately when most trees are planted near a leach field, problems do arise. Thanks Diana, and I would be happy to pursue this with you and help you come up with solutions that won't break your bank account. Let us know and again, feel free to download a few pictures so we can get a visual. Thanks and have a great day.

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