I have about 5 acres that are for the most part flat. There are a couple of spots that might be 5 to 8 feet about the rest, but for the most part, it is extremely wet in early spring or after a heavy rain, which is not uncommon in the Finger Lakes. The soil is predominantly heavy clay, so combined with the flat terrain, there is a drainage problem. At present, my garden is too wet to work, and for that problem I'm moving to raised beds, however, I would like to put some beefcattle on the pasture areas, but I don't want them to do damage because of walking around in soggy fields, nor do I want to run the risk of them having health issues due to having wet feet.
What most farmers in this area do is to dig ditches around the property or put in drain tile to drain the water away (there is low area along one edge of the property that drains to a culvert under the road, but except when there's a lot of rain or snow melt, the water barely trickles), but I don't want to go that route if I can avoid it. I've thought of putting in a pond or underground storage tanks for the water, but considering that 1" on my 5 acres equates to about 135,000 gallons, I don't know how much good that would do. Ditto with putting in a pond.
So, if anyone has ideas for how to address this problem, I'm all ears. Well, not ALL ears, else I couldn't have typed this message.
I ask because if you're in the Finger Lakes region you'll have to keep the cows off the pasture in early spring (mud season) anyway. Then you just have to determine if it's worth it to do some earthworks to get them on regular pasture a little earlier.
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Just some ideas that I have picked up from reading here and related forums...in the short run, you have fewer choices than to do creative drainage. Over several years, you can change the composition of the soil so that more water will drain into the soil than run off it. Clay drains very poorly. Maybe swales will help..there is a kind of drainage ditch called a French drain (I think that is the right name, but not sure. Are properties adjacent to you contributing to the problem? It is usually cheaper to keep the water off than to get rid of it once you have it. If your neighbors are having similar problems, you may be able to share the cost of getting rid of some of the water.
Location: Seneca Falls, NY
posted 5 years ago
This is a view of the property that doesn't really say much. The wettest area is the far right back corner where, after about a week with no rain there is still enough standing water for my lab to get thoroughly wet an muddy. Earlier this spring there was standing water all around the perimeter and in the wooded area to the left and back. There is a slight trickle of drainage in the woods to the left, but there's not enough pitch for it to do much.
If I were to put in a pond in the area that's the wettest, how would it affect the water table in the rest of the immediate area? Depending on the year, you don't have to go down far to get water in the hole. (It's very hard to pass a perk test in most of this county)
As to a French drain, I've considered that, but the question is, "To where do I drain the water?" The culvert that crosses the road at the front left of the property is not much lower than the surrounding area, so it would be a challenge to get the water to drain putting the pipe down only 2 feet. I'd like to figure a way to retain the water on the property since some years we don't get much rain through the summer and it would be beneficial for watering and for livestock.
This link may help - there is a lot of information on Google. The basic answer seems to be "big enough to hold the excess water you will have so that it will drain in to the surrounding soil in 3 days". You may need a couple. I am surprised that no one has chimed in about building swales, basically trenches in the soil that allow more chances for the water to seep into the ground and provide some useful purpose other than making mud. What kind of ground cover do you have on the area? I think you will have more luck, and spend less money, if you look at a long range (3-5 years) solution to your problem as well as an immediate one.
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