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Ditch digging advice

 
Posts: 66
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I was wondering if anyone has any ditching advice for me. I'm planning to one-side ditch approx 1km of my road to prevent spring-time washout and better water flow.

There was a decent ditch made approx 20 years ago, but the land was then abandoned and not maintained. My local town has variety of small equipment to rent, mini-backhoes, kubota, etc.

My question is: what is the best equipment setup for doing this efficiently and properly? I also need to find a creative way to take care of the dug up scrub and do not want an unsightly pile to be seen for visitors (We are a part time retreat centre as well)

Thank you for any advice!
 
Michael Adams
Posts: 66
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Anybody? Perhaps I should've been more specific? I would like to rent heavy equipment, just unsure of exactly what would be the most efficient piece to do it. The road is well established (sand/gravel) and is 12' wide for access.
 
pollinator
Posts: 685
Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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Well, start with a laser level and get your ditch designed before you turn the key an any machinery.

Following that, the width and depth of the ditch you will need (and related culverts) can impact what machines you are likely to select. Backhoe or some call them a trackhoe would be the more common way to do the job. http://antiquity.ac.uk/projgall/hill321/images/figure3big.gif

If you wanted to try something on the cheap, use a two-bottom plow attached to a tractor and cut the ditch as you want it. If the ditch wasn't to be too deep, I'd have the plow throw the back fill on the roadside and you can simply use a front-end loader to scoop up that soil the plow turned over. A couple of passes in the same furrow might just do the trick. That's how I made my swales. https://i.ytimg.com/vi/Ph2TVulyGRU/hqdefault.jpg

I think the bigger question isn't what machine to use, but rather, what are you going to do with all the backfill. Rather than distributed it locally around the new ditch, one could use it to add to poor soil to help improve it. Stack your functions and use what you have on hand!

When you do it, keep in mind how it will be mowed. Some ditches are formed with no thought given to how they will be maintained and it's a pain.
 
master pollinator
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My main mantra in life has always been "Use what you got", but from your post it does not sound like you have any equipment like a farm tractor. If that is the case that is too bad as you will have to rent something...

Myself, I am in the midst of a big road building job, and while it is from scratch, losing the transmission to my bulldozer mid-way through was a HUGE crippling blow. Not to be deterred I ended up using my small 25 hp kubota tractor to do what has to be done. Even I was impressed at what it was capable of doing. Don't get me wrong, I miss my bulldozer and its 6 way blade, but often times we discount what we have as being inadequate when really all we have to do is get out there and start, and be amazed that it can really do it.

That being said, I would recommend a bulldozer for your job. Bulldozers with their 6 way blade are made for ditching and excel at it. Thankfully you do not even need a big one. A 450 John Deere or equivalent can easily do what you need done. They also have ample traction, do not get stuck, and are impossible to flop over even on steep ditch side banks.

Yes I have had a bulldozer since I was 9 years old so I am biased, but I can build a half mile of swale from scratch and be done for lunch. They really are fast machines because...well they are designed for this work. They do not consume a lot of fuel and their rental costs are pretty cheap. I can get a 450 John Deere for $400 per day, with the delivery fee (being because a smaller truck can haul it) a modest $85 per hour. Since it is an hour trip each way to the rental shop, I with fuel and everything, a job like yours would be $700 or so.

HOWEVER, if you have some difficult ditching, you could rent an excavator. Again it does not sound like you need a big one. Skill set to operate one (assuming you never have) is a bit longer on the curve then a bulldozer, but might work well for you depending on what you need to get the water to flow on the uphill side of cross culverts and outflows.

I am currently writing a book on taking a farm from beginning status to the next level, and in my book cover how to get the most value out of rented equipment. let me know if you want information on that because a few key things can really save you time and money. I rent a lot simply because I often do not have the equipment I need for a job. Its nice having equipment on hand 24/7/365 for sure, but renting is a very viableoption that can save a lot of money too. I rent heavy equipment about once per year if that is any indication.

 
Posts: 307
Location: Stone Garden Farm Richfield Twp., Ohio
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Mike, This is a general comment. Its not directed at anyone in particular. --If someone doesn't know what equipment to use to do a job, there's something to be said for them not knowing enough to do the job. It takes experience to do things right. If a ditch allows drainage off its side along its length its fairly easy to do, ie: hard to screw up. But if a ditch needs to carry water down its length to discharge, then levels and fall matters. It can be done by an amateur, but it'll be hard to get right. Don't discount what you don't know. One poster suggested renting a piece of equipment for maybe $700. He said he's been running that type of equipment most of his life. He's got it, he knows what to do. But a first timer doesn't really know what lever to pull or when to pull it. So a one day rental could easily turn into longer. And maybe the job still isn't right. ...So therefore, what I would do is be aware of my abilities and limitations, check costs hard, compare buying a used tractor to do the job, with rental of equipment, with cost of hiring someone. You just might find hiring the job done is cheaper than the "$700" rent (especially if your hired guy might take part of his pay in produce you grow or honey you produce, or even work trade for doing something for "him" that you actually know how to do. Maybe he needs his shop cleaned up or a Facebook page created. Plus you made a new local friend, and supported small business. All of which is very "permaculture" like.) ...Everything is connected. Sometimes standing alone isn't always the best solution. The way you solve a problem can sometimes have more benefits than just solving the problem.
As for the other problem of brush, my solution has always been to cut the brush then burn it and use the ashes on the gardens. Potash is good. The remaining roots take up much less space for disposal. Sometimes I pile them somewhere out of sight and a few years later I have a pile of garden compost. Other times I have dug a hole in a low spot and buried the roots. In a few years no more low spot and better soil. And sometimes even a good new garden.
 
Michael Adams
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I appreciate the replies, thank you. Again, I should've been more specific in my first post..(I have to learn to take some time when I'm on here, even when my net access to the internet is limited due to travel and time constraints)

I will have ample and generous support from friends who will be helping out on this. The reason I'm somewhat confident in doing this as I'll be following the preexisting ditch already there (this is the specific I neglected to post). The ditch has been neglected for approx 18 years, but still has its relative form. Its been overgrown with alders and bush which has contributed to the mismanaged drainage and washout.

The plan is to manually clear out the brush as best we can so the lines can be set to follow the proper grade to empty to the water source, which is a pond. Then use either the backhoe or tractor to clean out a fresh cut. I'm leaning towards the backhoe as the ditching approx 2' wide and I would like to keep that for aesthetics and tree saving.
 
pollinator
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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One of the principles of permaculture is that the problem is the solution. Your problem is that short term rainfall events are causing damage from surface water flows. An engineers approach would be to install ditches and culverts to divert the water away from the at risk areas.

A permaculture approach would be to view the water a resource to be collected and sunk in the landscape before it becomes a problem in the first place. Common methods might be swales on contour to hold up surface flows. You might also consider building ponds and diverting water catchments to them, instead of a culvert.
 
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