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water table too high. help me, please!

 
                        
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Hi permies,

I have water troubles.  Better too much than not enough, I know, but I would like to be able to plant more annuals and maybe get some ruminant livestock.  I'd also like to control erosion.

The situation is this:  I have 2 acres, part of which is adjacent to paddy.  Rainfall is 50+ inches per year also. There are a couple of higher spots that aren't too wet.  The well has a ton of water and refills very quickly.  Another problem is that most of the land is really flat.  If you dig deep, in some spots there will be sand and clay, and other spots have loose rock.  The side next to the paddy has a shallow ditch that leads out to a larger canal.  I'm considering digging this deeper.  Would that help?  The land is actually at a decent elevation.  I think it's mainly the proximity to paddy that's causing the marshiness.

Another idea is tile drainage(for those who don't know, it's a way to lower the water table using buried pipes surrounded by gravel)  Has anyone tried this?  Will it work on very flat land, and how much pipe is needed?

I already have a pond, and it's getting difficult to tell where the pond ends and the land begins.  What if, in some of the wetter areas, I were to dig swales and plant banana, taro etc.?  Would that just make it worse?  Would it help to dry out the area between the swales?  Some parts are on a gentle slope.  Would it be good to dig swales near the base of those areas?  Will more trees help?  I hope someone has some ideas.  If not, thanks anyway for listening! 

 
T. Pierce
Posts: 254
Location: Virginia
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around here.  a drain tile is required when building a new house.  it is as you described,  we use the black plastic pipe, it wraps around the foundation of the house and comes back around both sides it empties on the down hill side.  it is put on top of the footer where the foundation walls meet the footer.  it is then buried in about 2 ft. of gravel.  it is required by code and it works.

there is also an option called a french drain.  i cant really tell how either idea would work for your particular problem but perhaps using a mixture of all your ideas and these  two ive mentioned will help control your current situation.
 
John Polk
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If the land is really flat, a drainage system will not work...the water needs to drain downhill, and if there is no "downhill", it will just sit there.  Many trees are known to hold hundreds of gallons of water, so if your rains are seasonal, they will help to absorb a lot of the water in the rainy season, and utilize it during the dry season.  In some regions of India, they actually tap the trees so the humans can use the water seasonally.
 
richie Walsh
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Location: Zone 7 Dublin. Ireland
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One of my teachers from my PDC was planting willows to dry out area's. he told me how many litres a tree would take out in a day. I forget the numbers, but it sounded unbelievable. The easy thing with planting willows is of course you don't need to buy trees, just stick fresh coppiced branches in the ground, and most of them will make roots and become trees.   
 
Jonathan Byron
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richie wrote:
One of my teachers from my PDC was planting willows to dry out area's. he told me how many litres a tree would take out in a day. I forget the numbers, but it sounded unbelievable. The easy thing with planting willows is of course you don't need to buy trees, just stick fresh coppiced branches in the ground, and most of them will make roots and become trees.     


Yeah, here in Florida I have heard more than a few stories with a similar plot, although a different type of tree. Most of them sound like this: someone wants to sell land that is pine plantation. The buyer comes in and has a wetland survey done, gets told it is upland, no restrictions on what can be done with the land. Then the seller (as per contract) cuts the trees to help pay fees related to the sale ... a year or two later, the buyer has a wetland.
 
rose macaskie
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richie, if you always do what you always did you wil get what you always get.
     It is hard to have options on that, it is hard to see that there are different ways of being for you, parents and such spend years teaching you what they believe to be the whole picture or the correct one, they make you feel inhibitions about behaving another way, so i feel as shocked at the behavior of a person from another family as they do at mine we had different ideas taught to us about what was right. different families are as differetn nearly as people from different countries.
    If no one comes along and explains to you the ways and beliefs of other parents it is unlikely you will have much choice. So be very open when you see someone has no idea of the way of seeing you have, so they can understand different way of seeing and maybe learn something new that is of some use to them. No one seems to realise others have not been educated like them so its hard to see there is anythign to explain or argue about.
     It has been like that for me, impossible to do things i was not educated to do, though my parents did not see me as doing what they wanted, the education you give people comes out in some ways the educators did not expect. i would never have known tha tmy ways of seign things could be ineffiecient and that there were other ways before i met people who changed me, I just could not imagine how it could be right to be another way. agri rose macaskie
 
rose macaskie
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Brenda Groth is the person on these threads who has a lot of experience with wet lands.
    You could have fish ponds.
    I would have thought deepening the ditch round the paddy feild might help, i deepened the ditch round my house and got rid of the damp that way. The ditch would have to  have somewhere to go that was lower than your land for the awwater to run too. I suppose one can just take water off to the municipal drains in some places.
    Poplars are also river trees. Their leaves have a special twist in the stalk of the leaf  mechanism or some of the poplars do, that keeps the leaves twisting one way and then the other and helps them draw up even more water as they are blown in the breeze.
    What about swamp cypresses?
    Willows and poplars have very long roots can damage your drains from further away than the roots of other trees can. You should leave at least twenty yards i think it is between them and your house.
  Holey pipes buried in the ground  fill with water and take it off elsewhere. At my grandmothers farm where there were pipes under the feilds there were also ditches around the feilds, the pipes must have drained into the ditches and the ditches heaven only knows where. The feilds were also undulated lower bits over the pipes i think and rises between pipes.
      Maybe lots of roots on the land could get the water draining into the subsoil better. I have no idea if that is possibly true or not, if the soil was clay they would make it drain better if there were any porous rocks underneath that could take water. agri rose macaskie.
 
    Jon Pòlk is talking here about something I would like to know more about trees storing water and how they store water and retrieve it from the wood in their trunks. I dont know anything about movement from the centre to the outside of trees though i know a bit about the up down movement of liquids in trees. I did once wonder how much trees could store to help them through droughts.
    Which trees store water for the dry season in india, that information couldd be useful for someone.
      It very interesting about the lands covered in pine forests that were considered dry butthat turned out to be wet lands when stripped of the pines and pines aren't even a river tree. rose macaskie.
 
                        
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You might well have different trees in your area than willows  which are especially good at sucking up water. When I moved here I was told that black poplar, which seems on the face of it to be about as useless as a tree gets for human purposes, is actually very good at this very thing. White poplar, not so much.  Is there any sort of government extension service that could help you learn which trees in your climate might be best for this?

If you are at a higher elevation would deepening your pond  or your ditches help or is the runoff more or less at the same elevation as your land?

Something else you might consider  is making  rafts for your plants. I can't find the original site where I saw these but here is another which might give you some ideas to take off from
http://www.sahajo.org/pdfs/BGS_en/FI-0_Brochure%2012-07EN.pdf  After all, both plants and animals are said to have floated across oceans so lifting them a little above a soggy field should be somewhat easier.  Some of the photos even show trees growing in them.You can plant into the raft or you can sink pots into it and plant into those.  Disclaimer..I've never done either..this is just what I have seen advertised around the internet, but it makes sense to me anyway.

Personally I would try almost anything before getting into tiling..I've known a few who have had a lot of problems with maintenance. OTOH  the  people in the Netherlands clearly have been very successful  with it. Still; it's getting in "nature's" face, so to speak, and I  prefer options that  have things working for me rather than against, and that I don't have to panic if things go wrong.
 
Brenda Groth
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we have really high water table here, ..we picked the lowest spot and dug a pond, and in some areas that were still wet we put in french drains that lead either to the pond or to an overflow ditch that leads to a low swamp on our  property

the fill from the pond was used around our house and gardens and they are now high and dry

see blog
 
Paula Edwards
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Even a flat land has some fall.always. Maybe you find out in which direction there is a little slope. Otherwise you can make hills and plant trees on the top.
 
                    
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rice and taro in neighboring feilds, 50" rain+, diverse aggregated soil profile... Im wondering what semi?/tropical paradise you are in and what volcano its attached to.

with that much water you are in a great set of conditions for implementing chinampas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinampas) , or lo'i - I highly recommend NOT doing anything to the space aside from subsistence for a year and taking an in depth study of the apu a'a systems used in Hawaii (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahupua%27a) in this ancient system watersheds were treated as managemnt units in relation to other watersheds- ecotones between watersheds changes moderately or abruptly according to elevation profiles and wind orientation, insolation etc. This produces hoards of microclimates.

Your 2 ac. sounds homogenous- not a lot of microclimate. in the lowlands ahupua'a had broad scale practices including aquaculture (the island of Kauai is reported to have the oldest continuously managed aquacultures in the world (lo'i) which are  taro paddy/fish pond/garden arrangement. as you have a flat site it will be easy to build compared to steep valley walls.

love to hear what you think after looking at these examples of high water table uses in these and other cultures. permacultures a new name for a globes worth of ancient, replicable land management practices- with a few modern twists
 
Willy Kerlang
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Scooby, it would be very helpful to know where you live, what zone,etc.
 
                        
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I had forgotten about  chinampas.. Xochimilco  is  the most spectacular flower market I ever saw and all grown on floating islands. I couldn't find an English version on  You Tube that did it justice but this one gives a bit of the history
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJNygP28_0k 
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I know everyone has probably seen this video, but it is useful for a garden in a wet climate, I think:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugFd1JdFaE0
 
                        
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Thanks much to everyone for all the thoughtful responses.  You've all given me a lot to think about.  I am going to try digging the ditch on the paddy side deeper, and planting more trees throughout the property.  I'll keep an eye out for willow trees.   However, I suspect I'll have to do more.  I've already got a big pond, but I may add another or expand the current pond.  Tile drains will be the last option if nothing else works.

Much of the reason for wanting to dry things out is so that I can have ruminants, which will help to ease my responsibilities of constantly cutting grass. But I realize that adding to the pond area will also decrease the grassy areas, so that's a bonus too.

A couple of people were curious about my location - I'm in Northern Thailand, close to the border with Burma.  It is definitely tropical but in misty  mountains, not near the ocean.  There is a rainy season (now) and a dry season, during which it may not rain for several weeks.  I don't know what zone it would be in, probably closest to Hawaii, if you were to compare it with an American state.  No volcanoes now, but there are hotsprings and geysers nearby. 

Thanks again to everyone who posted.  I'll post the conclusion when things get sorted.

-Scooby
 
Tyler Ludens
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Do you have enough room for a water buffalo to graze the wet meadow?

 
                        
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I probably could keep a water buffalo if I really wanted to, but I don't really have a use for one.  Not sure I'm daring enough to try and milk one! Where I've seen them (sometimes someone will bring one by to a neighboring field), they tend to just make large mud pits.  I've mainly got my eye on cows for milk, and goats for milk and clearing land.  Good creative thinking, though. They are remarkable animals.  I once took a ride on a carriage strapped to the back of one.  We went past villages, through rough forest and swamps that no other mode of transportation could have taken us.  It was pretty cool,  but scary when they caught site of some other buffs, and they started stamping hooves!
 
rose macaskie
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Ii suppose that if you are brave enough to go and live on the other side of the world it is easier to find a place with land you can afford. agri rose macaskie.
 
John Polk
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The most sought after mozzarella cheese in Italy comes from the mountainous regions inland from Naples.  It is made from water buffalo milk (Mozzarella di bufalo).  I have tried it, and it is great...makes the best bruschetta.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://permies.com/battery
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