There are apple trees growing on our property, just past (downhill from) the septic tank. They are near the leach field, I imagine, but I don't know how close.

The trees produce tiny, non-edible apples. We would like to graft scions of delicious apple varieties onto the trees, but the proximity to the septic gives us pause. Is it safe to grow apples here for human consumption?

As far as the septic, if it matters, we take good care of it. We have it pumped regularly and we don't pour chemicals down the drain.

Relatedly, would a soil test (of some kind) help us to determine safety? We have a good university extension near us. What would we test for?

  • I would be thinking about tree roots hitting the leachfield. A tree root in a pipe is annoying in the extreme.
    – Boba Fit
    May 1, 2023 at 13:22
  • 1
    Sounds like crabapple trees. May 1, 2023 at 14:21
  • I'll mention to commenters that I didn't plant the trees, which have been there for many many years without issue. I'm asking about food safety if the trees were to be grafted into fruit-bearing trees for people.
    – nuggethead
    May 1, 2023 at 14:43
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    The trees should be 35 feet from the leachfield. You don't know where the leachfield is actually located. Until you do, you don't know if the location of the trees is actually a problem. So figure it out, before it breaks, not after. A leachfield does not automatically have to be right next to the septic tank - it's not uncommon for there to be a fair bit of pipe between the two.
    – Ecnerwal
    May 1, 2023 at 17:08
  • @Ecnerwal good to know - some research is in order! What's the best way to determine where the leach field is?
    – nuggethead
    May 1, 2023 at 18:16

2 Answers 2


As far as the fruit, it is very probably safe from a health effect point of view. Fertilizer of all sorts, way worse than a septic tank, gets used on food crops all the time.

There isn't really anything to test for. The kind of bacteria involved, and the material involved, is in soil pretty much all the time. It's decaying organic matter. As you say, you are not disposing of any whacky chemicals.

All you need to do is keep an eye that nothing is broken open and splashing around. A brief walk through the area looking for spots that are lower, damp, or smell "that way" is most probably adequate.

  • +1 The trees probably don't get enough sun or water or whatever but it's surely not nutrient related.
    – Vorac
    May 4, 2023 at 8:08

As long as the outflow does not splash on the fruit, it is perfectly safe. We water all our plants from the septic overflow, except the ones that are low to the ground such as lettuce, strawberries and carrots.

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