Establishing proper vegetative cover is anything but basic. Get the lowdown on reseeding disturbed areas and find out which habits you need to kick.


Whether you are replacing an outdated onsite system or installing a new one, removing vegetation or disturbing the soil increases the chances of soil erosion. There are several steps to follow to establish proper vegetative cover if you’re reseeding the disturbed area. 

As an installer, you should take care of initial seeding, mulching and watering, and the homeowner should be responsible for future seeding and watering. If you need to establish a new vegetative cover over disturbed areas, work directly with the client or landowner to ensure they understand the importance of good vegetative cover. 

Follow these basic steps to guarantee proper vegetative cover for new installations: 

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Step 1. Rough grade the area you’ve finished working in, and ensure water will drain from the area instead of pooling at the site. If possible, finish grading with good topsoil.

Step 2. Apply the proper amount and type of fertilizer (a soil test is recommended so you know how much and what type to apply). If you haven’t done a soil test, a general rule of thumb is a 20-27-5 fertilizer applied at a rate of 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet. 

Step 3. Till fertilizer into the top inch of soil and do a final grading with a rake. You can do a light rolling of the soil, which will show low spots or irregularities in the area. The soil should be firm enough to prevent ruts made by seeding equipment but loose enough that seed can be raked easily into the top quarter inch of soil.

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Step 4. Apply seed. The time of year may dictate the type of seed you want to put down. Cool season grasses such as tall fescue, perennial ryegrass or Kentucky bluegrass will do best when seeded in late August through early October. If you are completing a project and using cool season grass seed and need to get seeding done before those dates, be sure to tell the homeowner that care and watering will need to be done to help ensure a good grass stand.

A warm season grass is generally established in late spring or early summer. Check with the homeowner or a local lawn care professional for types of warm season grasses.

Follow the seeding rate as listed on the seed bag, but here’s a general rule of thumb for spring and fall planting:

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Step 5. Rake or drag to cover seed lightly. If the soil grading was done properly, the soil bed should work well and allow the seed to be lightly covered.

Step 6. Mulch with straw. Light straw mulch should sufficiently reduce any potential soil erosion until the grass gets established. One bale of straw should cover approximately 1000 square feet. This will shade the ground and prevent rapid drying of the soil surface.

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Step 7. Water the seed. Moisten the seedbed — do not saturate — to a depth of 1 to 2 inches. For continued ground cover growth, ensure the homeowner waters the area up to four times a day with light applications of 1/8 to 1/4 inch of water. This should continue until they see 2-inch-tall seedlings.

These basic steps in addition to recognizing the issues created with warm temperatures and rainfall events will ensure successful vegetative cover.

There are also several habits you should avoid during onsite installations and vegetative cover plantings. Don’t plant trees within 20 feet of septic tanks or lateral lines.

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Trees can produce roots four times the width of the tree canopy so maintaining a proper distance from trees will prevent damage to septic tanks and lateral lines. If there is a lagoon instead of lateral lines, trees should be a minimum of 30 feet from the lagoon. This allows for proper lagoon function, and it keeps most tree debris from entering the lagoon.

Whether you need above- or belowground drainfield design help, here are some of the latest offerings designed to keep drainfields operating correctly:

Septic system vents from Pagoda Vent Company passively ventilate on-site system components.

The Multi-Pipe (MPS) Rockless drainfield system from Plastic Tubing Industries uses corrugated pipes to replace voided areas within a gravel system.

The Dirty Bird vent pipe filter from BS Design Corp. has been tested at the AIRVAC facility to serve as a concealment device for residential AIRVAC 4-inch vents, covering unsightly pipes protruding from an otherwise traditional landscape.

The Spider Valve assembly from Clarus Environmental is designed for effluent distribution when regulations require pressure splitting or when a small lot requires lateral lines of unequal length.

Quick4 Plus Chambers from Infiltrator Systems provide unobstructed infiltration into soil in a variety of drainfield applications.

The GEO-flow HDPE Pipe-Leaching System from Advanced Drainage Systems promotes an oxygen-rich environment for increased biomat activity.

Versatile distribution boxes from Polylok allow installers to choose the height of inlets and outlets.

Flow Divider/Directors from Quanics serve as stationary two-way splitter valves, containing a central weir, evenly splitting flow between fields.

The S-600 aerobic bacterial generator from SludgeHammer is certified by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials Research and Testing Inc. and to NSF/ANSI Standard 40 as an advanced treatment system for residential wastewater.

The passive Advanced Enviro-Septic system from Presby Environmental uses large-diameter pipe surrounded by fibers and fabrics to create an ecosystem that digests wastewater contaminants.

Orifice shields from Sim/Tech Filter prevent drain media, such as drain stone, from blocking discharge holes to keep pressurized systems distributing effluent evenly.

The Sweet Air Filter self-cleaning D-Vent filter from Tuf-Tite eliminates offensive odors from roof vents.

The 108 Model decorative rock enclosure septic lid cover from DekoRRa Products is designed to fit over lids up to 25 inches diameter and over risers up to 4 inches in height.

The Wasteflow dripline irrigation system from Geoflow is placed directly into the soil, at the plant’s root zone, so effluent is released slowly and uniformly to be digested and absorbed safely.

The GST Leaching System from Geomatrix Systems uses a removable form to accurately shape and construct leaching fingers along the sides of a central distribution channel.

Bioline polyethylene, low-volume dripline from Netafim is debris-resistant, continuous self-flushing and pressure compensating.

Want to learn more? Click here for complete product listings and manufacturer contact information.

About the Author
Bob Broz is water quality specialist with the University of Missouri Extension. He teaches classes on soil percolation for onsite installers and developed a class for real estate professionals about understanding onsite systems. He has developed a class for homeowners on the care and maintenance of onsite systems. Readers are welcome to submit questions or article suggestions to Bob. Write to briana.jones@colepublishing.com.

What tips and tricks do you have for establishing proper vegetative cover? Post a comment below. 


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