Sunburned Ficus | Garden Over Septic Leach Field
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Issue: June 3rd

Sunburned Ficus

Garden Over Septic Leach Field

Sunburned Ficus

Question:

Now that winter is over and I have moved my houseplants outside, I am having problems. Many of the leaves on my Ficus tree have fallen off. They turned white, then dried up and fell off. What happened?

Answer:

You have described sunburn in Ficus. When plants which have been in a low light environment are moved into a brighter location, especially into direct sunlight, the leaves will blanch and die. This should not have killed the plant and new leaves should form fairly soon. However, if the plant is in full sunlight, move it to a shadier location.

If the light is bright in the new location, even though the plants are not in full sunlight, the leaves that develop will be adapted to high light intensity. That will be good until the plants are moved indoors for the winter. Then in the dimmer light of the indoor environment, the leaves will fall and a new set of leaves will have to be produced.


Garden Over Septic Leach Field

Question:

I have an open area over my septic leach field and want to plant a garden or orchard in that area. Is that a good idea?

Answer:

In my opinion, it is not a good idea to plant either a garden (vegetables) or an orchard over the septic leach field. Although plants will not absorb human disease organisms through their roots, it is possible that disease organisms would be on the surface of the vegetables (roots, leaves, or fruit) and could cause disease.

Although there is little chance that the disease organisms would be on the surface of tree fruits, the problem with an orchard over the septic field is that of the tree roots clogging th drain lines. It is best to avoid planting trees too close to the leach field since their roots extend a long distance from the trunk, even if the trees are not directly over the leach field.

Perhaps it would be best to plant either a lawn or an ornamental garden of annuals and other flowers which do not have a deep root system over the leach field. This would preclude the use of edible plants or plants with a deep root system which could cause problems.

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Send your gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden, ATTN: Dr. Curtis Smith, NMSU Cooperative Extension Service, 9301 Indian School Road, NE, Suite 112, Albuquerque, NM 87112. Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.