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Grass filling irrigation canal

 
Beth Mouse
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Anybody have any solutions for grass that is growing in our smaller-sized irrigation canal that runs alongside our acreage? We used to have sheep there who kept everything nice and cropped in and around canal. However, we planted an orchard in that area and couldn't keep them off trees and I want to plant guilds around trees, so we fenced them out of that area. I am thinking of flame burning at this point although I have no experience with it. The canal only runs in the summer and so there is no water in it right now and it is just covered and filled in with grass.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Howdy Beth.

I guess I am not understanding what the problem is. Is grass in a ditch a bad thing?
 
Beth Mouse
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It is a small ditch that runs down all along border of our property. It just looks "full" of long grass. Maybe we should weedwhack it before the water starts running in the spring. I just don't want it to overflow I guess. I know the canal company puts a chemical in the larger canals to kill the grass and I don't want to do that.
Attached is a picture of our canal:

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Kelly Smith
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are you just wanting to get rid of the grass, or are you worried about slowing/stopping water to people downstream of you?

in my area, it is common to burn irrigation ditches at the beginning of the year to remove all the weeds. is that possible?

 
Beth Mouse
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Thanks for the burning ditch idea. I will look into that and my teenage boys will think that is a fun way to go. I called local farm store place and flame-burners are running around $50 though. Can't I just have them light it on fire with lots of buckets of water and a running hose standing nearby?
 
Ann Torrence
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Our ditches get burned every year, using one of those flamers. Call your local FD and see what the rules are about timing and permits. We make a nice donation to the VFD afterwards.
 
Dinah Brickel
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Location: Austin, TX (zone 8)
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I'm very new to permaculture, so perhaps I'm missing something. Wouldn't burning that overgrowth be wasteful? That resource could be used for animal bedding, mulch, compost, or a hugelkultur ingredient.
 
A Tabor
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Dinah Brickel wrote:I'm very new to permaculture, so perhaps I'm missing something. Wouldn't burning that overgrowth be wasteful? That resource could be used for animal bedding, mulch, compost, or a hugelkultur ingredient.


Everything you do is a choice on effort vs outcome. Pulling that material out of a ditch doesn't sound all that easy or effective, and a small area of flat land would yield a far larger amount of material with much less time and effort, and that saved time and effort could then be used for other things that need done around your property.

Never forget that time is also a valuable resource. And you're going to waste something in life, just be sure you're happy with what it is you choose to waste.
 
Michael Cox
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Do you even need to clear the grass out? I suspect that the water will flow even with grass present, unless we are talking about sufficient quantity of material to totally block it.
 
Amy Woodhouse
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How deep is this ditch? What is the elevation change from the highest point of the ditch on your property to the lowest point and what is the distance between the two points.
 
Beth Mouse
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Thanks for all the great input everyone. I have discovered that a lot of the grass is dead (see the pic I posted) and I can easily pull it out. We have a yardman who owes us some work who is going to use his weedwhacker to cut down the rest. However, to be in sync with true permaculture principles my other options are to tether my sheep (I buy 2 each spring) near the ditch and let them clear it out or I could cut it out with this Japanese hand sickle I bought. I am having back problems right now so that is not an option.

There are 2 other areas of this ditch that are causing problems in that they are larger pond catchment areas of the ditch and fill up with silt each year and it is difficult to shovel all the muck out. I don't think the elevation of our ditch is correct and I am not sure what the elevation changes are and how to find out...

I will take some more pics soon of the ditch to show what I am talking about but will need to do so in several days. Thanks again everyone!

Beth
 
Ann Torrence
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Yes water flows much faster with the ditch cleaned. You want it flow in faster so you can get more OUT of the ditch. Especially when the water first starts flowing. Smaller the ditch, the more it has to be kept clear.

We tried scything. We could clear the top of the bank, but not the rounded edges.
My DH did ours with a shovel last year, about 300' because for various sociological meltdowns we could not get the users to cooperate on the burning. Never again. 3 days lost.
We are going to attempt to graze the goats on the banks this summer but it's full of milkweed, so I'm not sure how far we'll get with that.

Yes, if time and energy were unlimited it would be awesome to find a way to use that material. For those of you worrying about the waste, just think of it as biochar made in place. Sometimes you just do the best you can.
 
Beth Mouse
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I have another pic to share now of my canal. I appreciate all of the input on the grass filling our canal. About 15' down from where I took the pic, the canal fills into a small pond and then goes into a tube which is barely underground and that plastic tube runs all the way across the end of our pasture and property.



Anyway, the pond fills up with mud and has to be dug out each Spring. My husband is 63 years old and I have back issues and so I am trying to figure out solutions that would be easiest for our irrigation canal. This is how the canal was when we bought the property. Do we really need a pond at this corner where open canal meets with the tube? Can we fill in pond so it is same size as rest of canal before it flows into the tube (you can see beginning of tube sticking out). I am wondering if we need to put a mesh screen on this tube but we haven't and it hasn't gotten clogged yet. My hubby says the screen would be a problem because debris would cover it and then the canal would run over and flood the subdivision right behind us.

Thanks for any input.

Beth
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Kelly Smith
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Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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if the problem is the pond silting up and potentially clogging the pipe, you may be able to slow the water upstream (smaller "pond" uphill), so the silt falls out of the water away from the pipe.

depending on how the canal is setup, you may be able to get the canal to flow directly into the pipe, but you risk the silting the pipe.
 
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