Draining wet fields

We have a low area of our field into which water settles and remains just below if not on the surface of the soil.  We estimate that we have about 1/3 of an acre that we planted last year that was just too wet and needed some help.  The amazing thing about being so near a swamp is how well things do drain that have the right slope, etc.  For example over on the edge of the field water is  running off beautifully and the higher ground is fine as well.

We studied this part of the field and its surrounding terrain for the last two years.  To the left is a picture last spring of where the water ran off the field.   Our plan was to improve natural drainage to this area of the field.

What we realized was we needed to balance following natural contours with creating an area of usable farmland that we could reasonably access and cultivate with our small tractor and other tools.

We opted to create some drainage ditches that would follow contour as much as possible, while preserving the ability to easily maintain beds amongst the ditches.

Early this january Ben, Mimi, and I walked the field and studied how our beds worked last year and how the water was flowing in the field.  We came up with a plan for 2 or 3 straight trenches that would then connect to the natural curves of the land on the shaded edge of the field.  As with seemingly everything on the farm there was a small amount of tree work involved – mainly clearing fallen trees on the edge of the field.  Bo made fast work of the job.

The two trenches form each arm of a Y that connects in the drainage “creek” pictured above.  Below you can see 8 35′ zones surrounded on 3 sides by trenching.

We have observed a lot of water flowing off of the field and that the soil is much dryer.  We are interested to watch how this develops.  Our main concern is erosion.  It is a pretty gentle run, but we have observed some undercutting.  we are watching the profile of the ditch.  We suspect that it will settle into a V.  We will likely need to do some shovel work in the spring, but the speed and cost at which we established the ditches was impressive.

One other factor we are watching  is losing too many soil nutrients.  Time will tell with this.

We plan to plant the banks with clover and even doing a free for all in a section with some of last year’s old seeds and seeing what survives.