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Help me fix this land, what would you do?

 
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I have two small fields. The soil is quite heavy in clay.



One is sitting lower than surrounding land and gets water bogged easily.  I had cut down the tall grasses and tilled land at the end of summer last year. But there was little rain and I only saw the problem once it rained and the field was super muddy.



The other 2nd field I cleared the tall grass in some areas, but didn't rake it up yet.

For the second field with better elevation I am planning on doing hugels to make the soil better over time and still plant stuff in the meantime (as well as used raised beds). Should I rake up the dried tall grasses and do the hugel mounds after? Or should I not bother with raking it up and just do hugels on top of the dried tall grasses?

For the first field that sits low, I was thinking of hugels as well, raised beds, or just filling it with some earth that slopes to the corner so I can get the water out sooner than letting it seep through the high clay tilled soil. What would you do with this field?

What do you recommend for either field?

Thanks!

EDIT: here is another look at the rectangle area I made ready for planting that turned into a puddle of goop that I can't ever use lol :/

 
pollinator
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Heavy clay.  As if there's a Light clay!


I like hugeling the lower field.  That's a good way to get a hunk of the land above the pond line.  And the logs installed at the bottom of the hugel will be full of water, all the time.  That sounds like a good thing.  And of course plant comfrey roots all around up top.

The higher field, yeah raised beds are always nice, if you're planning to add a truckload of topsoil.   Otherwise, come September I would plant annual ryegrass, hairy vetch, and more comfrey.  

And plant trees!  


Edit:  Welcome to Permies, n00b!

 
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Gary said, "I like hugeling the lower field.



I agree that would be a great idea.

I would like to see lots of woodchips and mushrooms in both fields.

Redhawk said, "Fungi that would come from buried wood chips will be a boon to the soil and the plant roots not a detriment.

Also the spores would need to bloom before the hyphae could even start to develop and that takes near perfect conditions to become an "explosion" plus these spores would first decay the wood chip they were on and since spores land on exposed surfaces if the tree was cut and chipped with the wood chips going right where they were going to end up, there would be little chance for every chip to contain spores.



Here is a good statement on these benefits:

Eric said, "This last summer I planted tomatoes is pure wood chips that were partially decomposed by Wine Cap mushrooms.  And by pure, I mean the bed was about 10-12" deep, filled entirely with chipped up wood before reaching any soil.  I simply scooped away about 6" of chips, dropped the tomatoes right in the holes and covered up.  Then I stood back and watched them grow up into lush, dark green tomato plants with plenty of fruits per plant.  Again, I added nothing to the wood chips, but they were about 1 year old, partially decayed but still obviously wood chips.

 
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If you end up putting in hugels in the wet field and you still find yourself with an excess of water, you may consider putting in a few willow trees.  They make good forage (if you have animals also), and love wet areas, so they'll help to absorb excess water.
 
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It would help me give you ideas if you gave us some idea of your weather (length of wet periods vs dry or drought and overall temperatures) and what they call your gardening zone. It doesn't have to be a precise location, just give us a feel for how much of the year that boggy area will be boggy. Some ideas of what your goals are for this land would also help - do you want annuals, perennials, a food forest? Are you trying to grow all your own food, or food to sell, or just be more productive than "grass". Are you wanting to support native fauna, including things like frogs and butterflies? Maybe you aren't sure yet, and that's OK - but it's good to be thinking about what really matters to you regarding this land. For example, hugels are great, but you can't plant trees on them or the trees may tip over as the hugels biodegrade. Berry bushes are usually OK, because they're easier to correct without killing them!

The first field appears to get run-off from the road. Have you considered putting a deep ditch along both sides of the field adjacent to the roads and planting cattails and reeds on the slope +/- some plants that absorb salt, to clean the road water?
Have you read about the concept of Chinampas? In its simplest form, you make raised areas which are bordered in wood to support and keep the soil in, but can have extra buried wood if available, but dig out the "paths" to form canals. The canals may dry by the end of the dry season.

The second field - how much slope is there? Is the row of evergreen trees on your land? Will they eventually block the sun? (ie are they on the south side of the field?)

Do you have lots of access to dry, high carbon waste material? (branches, pinecones, wood chips, nut shells ) If so, I'd also read up on building something such as a TLUD to make a lot of biochar. It helps to hold microorganisms on your land and lightens clay soil. Here's the whole forum for you to explore: https://permies.com/f/190/biochar

It looks like you've got two beautiful patches of land with lots of potential - this is a journey, not a destination though, so accept that you may do some things that just don't end up working, but if those things help the soil transition into healthier soil, it's still a win!
 
Kris Nelson
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Gary Numan wrote:Heavy clay.  As if there's a Light clay!



Not heavy clay, heavy in clay, as lots of clay content ;)

I am buying lots of topsoil to put on the hugels and for raised beds.

Gary Numan wrote:ryegrass, hairy vetch, and more comfrey.



That would be to add more organic matter, and help get organic matter in deeper via the roots (like comfrey can)?

Gary Numan wrote:And of course plant comfrey roots all around up top.



Up top where exactly?

 
Kris Nelson
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Anne Miller wrote:I would like to see lots of woodchips and mushrooms in both fields.



Just dump woodchips into there to make into higher land again?
 
Kris Nelson
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Laurel Jones wrote:If you end up putting in hugels in the wet field and you still find yourself with an excess of water, you may consider putting in a few willow trees.  They make good forage (if you have animals also), and love wet areas, so they'll help to absorb excess water.



The tree in the middle of the first field picture is a willow tree :) I don't know how long its been there. I wanted to use the land, not put a bunch of trees that will grow big and not produce food though ;)

My idea was to buy soil and fill it in on a gradient so as to make the water to to one area where I can channel it away.
 
Anne Miller
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Kris said, "here is another look at the rectangle area I made ready for planting that turned into a puddle of goop that I can't ever use



With some earthworks, I feel that spot would be totally useable.

Not knowing the part of the world you are in, you might check to see if where ever you are they have an office named something similar to "Soil Conservation".

When we had our homestead they came out, free of charge, and gave use their recommendation for our land.
 
Anne Miller
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Kris said, "Just dump woodchips into there to make into higher land again?



That is probably not a bad idea.  Just dump lots into those bogs and just let them sit for a few years.

You could also use them on top of the raised beds that you are planning.

And inside the hukelculture beds.
 
Kris Nelson
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Jay Angler wrote:It would help me give you ideas if you gave us some idea of your weather (length of wet periods vs dry or drought and overall temperatures) and what they call your gardening zone.



Last summer it didn't rain much. I am in the south-east of Quebec, Canada, a town called Mansonville. It' sonly boggy when it rains.

My goal: permculture food forest with annual crops as well, permaculture in one field, annuals in the other, ideally. The permaculture food forest is the second field, and the "flatter" one was to be the annual crops. But with all that water... The food is for us to be self-sufficient. I Haven't seen any frogs in the swampy area to the right of the flooded area I tilled last summer.

I'm going to be planting trees in mounds of soil I buy in bulk, just too much clay in the native soil... I'm only planting annuals that can do well in the hugels until they flatten out.


Jay Angler wrote:Ihe first field appears to get run-off from the road. Have you considered putting a deep ditch along both sides of the field adjacent to the roads and planting cattails and reeds on the slope +/- some plants that absorb salt, to clean the road water?



There is already a ditch alongside the road, but it doesn't go anywhere, so i need to make an opening and channel it to a hole or something and prevent most of the water from seeping slowly downward into the field. There are cattails in the swampy area I mentioned, I could add some by the road ditch to help, thanks!

Jay Angler wrote:Have you read about the concept of Chinampas? In its simplest form, you make raised areas which are bordered in wood to support and keep the soil in, but can have extra buried wood if available, but dig out the "paths" to form canals. The canals may dry by the end of the dry season.



Thanks I'll look into that concept, and the biochar.

The second field is sloped, which is good for the water issues in clay soil.

Yes, they have potential, gonna take some time, but eventually it will be marvelous :) Thanks for the tips!
 
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Always daydreaming about things I would do someday with land, I am convinced that integrating animals as soon as possible into my landscape will be essential. Do you have the ability to have chickens or other poultry, or even goats there eventually? Soil restoration is an essential task of our generation I am coming to believe, and it seems like a very effort-intensive job, but animals are excellent helpers, I keep learning and reading. And of course meat, milk, and eggs!

  • I think I would try to intercrop some of my annuals and perennials, "Grocery Row Gardening" style, too.
  • I would try to put in local flora that have almost disappeared, or plants for local fauna that have almost disappeared (that would be such things as milkweed for the monarchs down here).
  • I would have beds for herbs and medicines, just because it would be fun to have them all together.

  • Is any of that on your Permaculture wish list too?
     
     
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    I have a friend at work that approached me with very much the same problem.  He had an option to buy 5 acres of land, but it all sits in water much of the time like yours is.   I suggested digging as much of a pond as would be required to raise the surrounding area high enough to keep it drained.  More or less sacrificing one acre to salvage four.
     
    Laurel Jones
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    Kris Nelson wrote:

    Laurel Jones wrote:If you end up putting in hugels in the wet field and you still find yourself with an excess of water, you may consider putting in a few willow trees.  They make good forage (if you have animals also), and love wet areas, so they'll help to absorb excess water.



    The tree in the middle of the first field picture is a willow tree :) I don't know how long its been there. I wanted to use the land, not put a bunch of trees that will grow big and not produce food though ;)

    My idea was to buy soil and fill it in on a gradient so as to make the water to to one area where I can channel it away.



    Understandable, but there's nothing wrong with trees that aren't food-producing if they're serving a purpose in the grand scheme of things.  I'm unsure how planting a tree interferes with your ability to use the land?  

    Is your hope/expectation that this entire area be full sun?  How much additional organic matter can you afford to import to build up the areas enough to use?  My point is that the willow will, in addition to helping soak extra moisture, produce a significant amount of biomass that can be useful in creating raised areas.  Additionally, if you have or intend to keep any animals on the land the willow will produce food in the form of meat and/or eggs.

     
    Kris Nelson
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    Laurel Jones wrote:I'm unsure how planting a tree interferes with your ability to use the land?  



    It seems logical that if you plant a big tree, it takes space, reducing the space for potentially more useful things like a tree that grows food, or other food crops. It also shades areas and reduces the range of veggies or fruits to grow. This field is not the permaculture field to utilize zones that a tall tree produces.

    Laurel Jones wrote:y point is that the willow will, in addition to helping soak extra moisture, produce a significant amount of biomass that can be useful in creating raised areas.



    It doesn't matter how much little bit extra it can soak up, when it rains it will still flood the area and kill off any crops growing there. It doesn't solve my problem of the water. It only prevents me from adding soil to create a gradient and direct the water to one location. The tree is the in the middle of the field, so I can't create a gradient from one side to the other. What biomass does that tree produce other than minor amounts of leaves in the fall?


     
    Kris Nelson
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    Thomas Tipton wrote:I have a friend at work that approached me with very much the same problem.  He had an option to buy 5 acres of land, but it all sits in water much of the time like yours is.   I suggested digging as much of a pond as would be required to raise the surrounding area high enough to keep it drained.  More or less sacrificing one acre to salvage four.



    Yup, that's why I had thought of filling in some dirt/earth and creating a gradient to one area -- the swampy/pondy area on the bottom right corner -- and all the water would go there, leaving me the rest of the field to actually use more effectively. The willow needs to go I think, and it is good material for hugels. I wanted to keep the willow and manage around it, but I think fixing the land properly is more advantageous than leaving one tree and having half the field flooded with rains and not able to grow crops.

    But, I could leave the tree, and create raised area around it, except that would mean all the water would collect to the lowest point where the willow tree is. Willows like moisture/water, but not being submerged in water from what I understand, which is what would happen with all the land around it being higher than the base of the willow tree.

    The tree is nice, covers the road, gives some privacy... but not sure if that outweighs the issues with keeping it around that prevent me from fixing up the land better for my self-sufficiency goals. Let's see...

    1. Keep tree, raised land around for growing, making the water go around tree and killing it eventually.
    2. Keep tree, lower land more on the lower point and dig to create a pond and lose a portion of the land for growing.
    3. Cut tree, and make a gradient of the field with filler earth to channel water to a much smaller pond area in the lower right corner.

    Option 3 seems the most optimal for fixing the water issue. Option 1 is the worst, since the tree dies eventually. Option 2 is a middle ground I suppose,  keep tree but lose more land.
     
    Anne Miller
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    I would really like to see Kris work on fixing this land instead of talking about planting things.

    Kris asked for help to fix this land.

    Maybe this year my suggestion would be to contact the local county extension agent and find out about ways to fix the land.  The county extension agent would know if Soil Conservation or a Dept of Natural resources is available.

    Matt said, But have you tried real live local experts? I did, and it was an amazing experience!



    Heather said, There's a lot to be said for someone that knows the area and can actually visit your particular part of it. I was kind of amazed how helpful the guy who runs the county soil and water conservation district was. I just wanted to know the best place to get soil tests and some ideas for protecting the soil after removing invasives. He spent quite awhile on the phone with me and even offered to come out and help, as well as directing me to lots of really great resources to read more.



    https://permies.com/t/162471/Lean-Local-Resources
     
    Kris Nelson
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    Anne Miller wrote:I would really like to see Kris work on fixing this land instead of talking about planting things.

    Kris asked for help to fix this land.



    Yes, I have plans to grow stuff in either field this year in different areas, more so in the second one without the water issue. The first field has issues for optimal use of the land which is what I wanted suggestions and ideas for.

    Anne Miller wrote:Maybe this year my suggestion would be to contact the local county extension agent and find out about ways to fix the land.  The county extension agent would know if Soil Conservation or a Dept of Natural resources is available.



    That's an option if it's available. I will look into it. I figured asking people doing permaculture who have potentially faced similar issues would have knowledge to share for me to act upon.

    I live in a very small town, and I don't live in the US with the same governmental bodies or ngo. But I'll see if I can get an expert to come give me some tips Thanks.

     
    pollinator
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    Another vote for lots of wood chips.  Before you add top soil!  Where I grew up in Michigan there was a lot of clay in the yard and every time my parents added top soil it would somehow work it's way into the clay and be gone the next year.  If it were me I would think about 6" of wood chips spread over the entire area and then tilled into the clay.  I wouldn't be surprised if it consumes the wood chips and you decide to till in another batch.  You can then put the top soil on top.

    My suggestion would be to take a huge step to begin with and get way ahead of the game the first time so you don't have to do it again next year.  The more organic material you can get into the clay to break it up the better, and the more water it will absorb and retain for the dry times.  Plus, it will raise the level of the soil to reduce future puddling.

    Good luck.
     
    Kris Nelson
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    I'd like to know people's opinions on whether I should leave all the dried tall grass in the second field and make the hugels where necessary as rows. Alternatively, rake it all up and have the grass regrow without the dried grass there?

    I think leaving it is best, since it adds biomass to this clay soil. I just want to see if anyone has arguments in favor of removing the dried grass.

    Thanks.
     
    Kris Nelson
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    Michael Fundaro wrote:Another vote for lots of wood chips.  Before you add top soil!  Where I grew up in Michigan there was a lot of clay in the yard and every time my parents added top soil it would somehow work it's way into the clay and be gone the next year.  If it were me I would think about 6" of wood chips spread over the entire area and then tilled into the clay.  I wouldn't be surprised if it consumes the wood chips and you decide to till in another batch.  You can then put the top soil on top.

    My suggestion would be to take a huge step to begin with and get way ahead of the game the first time so you don't have to do it again next year.  The more organic material you can get into the clay to break it up the better, and the more water it will absorb and retain for the dry times.  Plus, it will raise the level of the soil to reduce future puddling.

    Good luck.



    Thanks, the wood chips indeed sounds good for that pondy area, if I'm not going to get rid of the willow tree in the middle and make the whole area a gradient to push the water to one specific area. If I fill up that area with wood chips and the cover with earth, I think it's going to be a big mound with water around it, like an island hehe. Would be nice I guess.

    I'm still thinking that filling and making a sloping area to one targeted watery area might be best though for a long term vision. I could also just raise everywhere around the center where the tree is and the water would end up in the middle of the field in a pond there with all the crop l and encircling it. Hmmm... too many ideas and not sure what is the best option to take.
     
    Michael Fundaro
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    Kris Nelson wrote:I'd like to know people's opinions on whether I should leave all the dried tall grass in the second field and make the hugels where necessary as rows. Alternatively, rake it all up and have the grass regrow without the dried grass there?

    I think leaving it is best, since it adds biomass to this clay soil. I just want to see if anyone has arguments in favor of removing the dried grass.

    Thanks.



    After you address the soil issues, if you don't plan to plant anything productive the first year plant a cover crop to protect and improve the soil.  The roots of cover crops will break up the soil and add nitrogen.  Just try to cut the cover crops before they seed so the nitrogen stays in the roots.  Then when you are ready to plant you till it into the soil and plant the knew.  Plenty of good info on the internet about cover crop options for your area.
     
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    I vote for making a pond in the low area. It sounds like it would probably just be a seasonal pond. We have a low area in our land that is a pond for about 4-6 months of the year and the rest of the time it grows thick with grasses and a tree that doesn't mind being submerged half the year. We chopped the tree down, thinking it wouldn't like so much water but it decided that we were just pollarding it and happily resprouted from the top of the trunk we left. (It's an alder.) I bet your willow wouldn't mind being wet a chunk of the year. We have some neglected willow sticks that have been happily growing in a bucket of water for two years now... I really need to plant those things. 🤦
     
    Kris Nelson
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    Michael Fundaro wrote:After you address the soil issues, if you don't plan to plant anything productive the first year plant a cover crop to protect and improve the soil.  The roots of cover crops will break up the soil and add nitrogen.  Just try to cut the cover crops before they seed so the nitrogen stays in the roots.  Then when you are ready to plant you till it into the soil and plant the knew.  Plenty of good info on the internet about cover crop options for your area.



    That question was for the 2nd field though, were the hugel rows will be, and I will be planting stuff. The  other field with water issues I do plan to add cover crops where I don't plant food crops. Grasses or grains like oats, rye and buckwheat seem best as non-invasive cover crops, right?I planted some buckwheat last end of summer in that water flooded patch of the first field, then chopped and tilled for green manure. But this year that needs a fixing before planting there again
     
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    Jenny Wright wrote:I vote for making a pond in the low area. It sounds like it would probably just be a seasonal pond. We have a low area in our land that is a pond for about 4-6 months of the year and the rest of the time it grows thick with grasses and a tree that doesn't mind being submerged half the year. We chopped the tree down, thinking it wouldn't like so much water but it decided that we were just pollarding it and happily resprouted from the top of the trunk we left. (It's an alder.) I bet your willow wouldn't mind being wet a chunk of the year. We have some neglected willow sticks that have been happily growing in a bucket of water for two years now... I really need to plant those things. 🤦



    Well, it would be frozen like 3 months of the year for me ;) As we get into summer, it will dry up, but when rain comes, it turns into mushy mushy mud, not good for crops.

    Thanks for the willing info, raising the surrounding areas around the willow and just letting in bath in water for a few months in spring or early summer might be a good option to pursue, then I don't have to cut it and can plant certain crops in the morning/afternoon shaded areas with some in the full sun areas as needed.

    So, to be or not to be, to willow or not to willow, that's the question... do I keep it or not. Gotta think on that one ;) Thanks!
     
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    Kris,

    I was just re-reading this thread and it doesn't look like anyone mentioned the potential of adding drainage tile to the property.  If there is a drainage ditch adjacent to your property you can use some tile would go a long way in curing your excess water problem.  
     
    Kris Nelson
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    Thomas Tipton wrote:Kris,

    I was just re-reading this thread and it doesn't look like anyone mentioned the potential of adding drainage tile to the property.  If there is a drainage ditch adjacent to your property you can use some tile would go a long way in curing your excess water problem.  



    Hmm, interesting, so upsidedown "U" tiles or just pipes from the drainage ditch underground that lead the water away those those channels and into the desired end ditch or pond. Thanks for the idea! For my case, the rain is the issue, with the clay soil, more so than the drainage ditch by the road which collects water. The water takes very long to seep through the clay. So it's an interesting idea, but not one that I see working for my case.
     
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    As you improve your soil, flooding in the low area might become less of a problem.  Better soil, I am thinking includes better aggregates, which improves water percolating into the soil, recharging the water table and such.

    In the arid west, we seldom speak of draining excess water.  Instead water is a precious substance.

    And speaking of precious substances, I wonder what you will actually receive if you buy “topsoil”.  The QuĂ©bĂ©cois may be better behaved  than statesiders!  Here, purchased “topsoil” is likely not to be living fertile carbon rich.  Might just be mineral sandy or silty loam.

    If you do go the chips route, (another vote for chips)I think you might want to consider filling one area to the desired level, then as you get more chips, move laterally, rather than filling from the bottom up.  Then you get some high ground right away.

    Where I grew up we had heavy clay soil, a rainy season and a long dry season.  The low spots did collect water which dried up over the long dry summer.  Those were called vernal pools.  Different plants grew at different levels.  At the lowest were plants that needed most water and tolerated being wet.  I think you would maintain a higher diversity if you kept a pond, or Bernal pool.  I don’t know what would grow in your climate , but there are food plants that need to be wet.  Cattail roots are edible, and grow submerged.  Lotus roots are edible, also require being submerged.  Rice is grown in water too, isn’t it?  And asparagus needs lots of moisture, and wild rice, there are sure to be plants that could form a guild in your low area.  I just have never had a pond or wet soil, so I cannot make a long list.

    As for building soil fertility and volume, deep rooted perennials grasses are workhorses!  Strategic mowing and or grazing will accelerate the soil building process.

    Another quick thought:  clay has the best CEC, and can make the most fertile soil, don’t despair!  Your land has tremendous potential, and is already lovely.
     
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    Is it possible that the pond is there because it was dug out to drain the surrounding land and filling it will make a problem over a larger area? Perhaps you might dig it deeper and/or larger?
     
    Thomas Tipton
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    I live in NW Ohio where just about all of the land is "Heavy Clay"  Water sits on it much of the time unless it is drained with drainage tile.  I'm referring to the plastic pipe with holes in it that comes in big spools.   You use a trench digger to install that several feet into the ground and let gravity flow move it to the ditch.  Most farmland around here would be unusable if it weren't for the tile.  BTW, the plastic tile is just a modern replacement for the old fashioned clay tiles that used to be used back in the day.  It might be more of an investment than you want to make, but it might very well be worth looking into.

    Good luck.
     
    Michael Fundaro
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    Kris Nelson wrote:
    Hmm, interesting, so upsidedown "U" tiles or just pipes from the drainage ditch underground that lead the water away those those channels and into the desired end ditch or pond. Thanks for the idea! For my case, the rain is the issue, with the clay soil, more so than the drainage ditch by the road which collects water. The water takes very long to seep through the clay. So it's an interesting idea, but not one that I see working for my case.



    I don't mean to repeat the information but tilling a bunch of wood chips and grass and other organic matter into the clay will help the water soak in.  Have you dug down to determine the depth of the clay?
     
    John Indaburgh
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    I took the liberty of editing your picture which makes a little easier to what you have;. Mostly I increased the contrast and added a slight amount of green which made the water stand out a bit more:



    There's water running from the "pond" and from the right center of the picture toward the tree to the left of the pine and then down toward the road. Then there's a bank maybe 4 or 5 feet up to the road. It looks to me like when they put the road in they created what to your property is a dam. I'd say that what you need is to tunnel under the road so that the water follows the original natural path. But that would involve approval by the owner (Province ?) of the road and the owner of the property on the other side of the road. It also may be your legal right to drill and restore the natural water flow.

    Drilling under a road is a common practice in fact most land developers who want to access utility lines here are required to drill under a road to get to utilities when they're on the far side of the road. That keeps folks from bouncing over a patch for many years.

    Governments have a series of maps called topographic maps. I once bought one in the Lands and Forest Office in Wawa Ontario, but now you can view them online. This may allow you to see the grades and contours, and older buildings.

    If you were to drill the road it might be wise to trench from the pond to the spot where you're doing the drilling and putting in the roll of perforated plastic pipe and back filling with gravel.

    edit 4/17/22; attempt to move the picture, not so much luck.
    NMpF1C4-1-.jpg
    [Thumbnail for NMpF1C4-1-.jpg]
     
    Thekla McDaniels
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    My question is:  just how much water does your region get to throughout the year, and what time of year does it arrive.

    During this time in human history, we are looking at instability, moisture patterns and regularity have been disrupted.  I understand that there’s a limit to how much water can permeate the soil in a given period of time, but the same downpour that erodes gullies and carries off topsoil on one farm, soaks into the neighboring farmer’s fields.

    Viewing water as precious resource makes most sense to me.  Increasing tilth, organics, “biology” and fertility will increase permeability, which will lead to recharging the aquifers, moderation of the drought flood cycles.  

    A vernal pool is a lovely thing, creates more diverse niches & habitat, and allows longer for water to soak in.  A pond also diversifies your land.  Both provide habitat for amphibians, who require liquid water for at least one phase of their lives.

    The prairies referred to in an earlier post supported diverse plant communities without being drained, and through that process the rich soil was created.
     
    John Indaburgh
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    It's possible that there is a pipe running under the road and merely has become blocked over the years. Do some weedwacking at the low point where your property meets the bank for the road. You may also have to do some digging just to find the end of the pipe. Look on both sides of the road. And the owner of the road (municipality) may be able to tell if there's drainage built into the road design.
     
    Kris Nelson
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    Thekla McDaniels wrote:As you improve your soil, flooding in the low area might become less of a problem.  Better soil, I am thinking includes better aggregates, which improves water percolating into the soil, recharging the water table and such.

    In the arid west, we seldom speak of draining excess water.  Instead water is a precious substance.

    And speaking of precious substances, I wonder what you will actually receive if you buy “topsoil”.  The QuĂ©bĂ©cois may be better behaved  than statesiders!  Here, purchased “topsoil” is likely not to be living fertile carbon rich.  Might just be mineral sandy or silty loam.

    If you do go the chips route, (another vote for chips)I think you might want to consider filling one area to the desired level, then as you get more chips, move laterally, rather than filling from the bottom up.  Then you get some high ground right away.

    Where I grew up we had heavy clay soil, a rainy season and a long dry season.  The low spots did collect water which dried up over the long dry summer.  Those were called vernal pools.  Different plants grew at different levels.  At the lowest were plants that needed most water and tolerated being wet.  I think you would maintain a higher diversity if you kept a pond, or Bernal pool.  I don’t know what would grow in your climate , but there are food plants that need to be wet.  Cattail roots are edible, and grow submerged.  Lotus roots are edible, also require being submerged.  Rice is grown in water too, isn’t it?  And asparagus needs lots of moisture, and wild rice, there are sure to be plants that could form a guild in your low area.  I just have never had a pond or wet soil, so I cannot make a long list.

    As for building soil fertility and volume, deep rooted perennials grasses are workhorses!  Strategic mowing and or grazing will accelerate the soil building process.

    Another quick thought:  clay has the best CEC, and can make the most fertile soil, don’t despair!  Your land has tremendous potential, and is already lovely.



    Yes, over time, with more biomass, and deep penetrating roots left to compost, it can become better. I was originally thinking to fill in area and the high mineral clay underneath is a good layer food to tap into, but there would still be lots of water collecting there.

    I have a river 100ft behind my house as well, so if I ever need water, I can get some there. But the pond idea several people have mentioned is an idea I might go with, just probably not in my flat square patch, but the existing area with cattails. I won't be eating the root, no thanks. Not looking for wild wood sources to eat Asparagus may like moisture, but not water soaked. I wouldn't grow my food around the pond, more have it for biodiversity.

    The flooded square is prob going to get wood chips dumped in at some point. Gotta build up from the clay to make it usable.
     
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    John Indaburgh wrote:Is it possible that the pond is there because it was dug out to drain the surrounding land and filling it will make a problem over a larger area? Perhaps you might dig it deeper and/or larger?



    The square flooded patch isn't/wasn't a pond. There is no pond. There is a small area to the bottom right corner that gets water. But the other area is just flooded because i tilled it and its loose and a low point. After a few weeks it will be dryer, but the rain will turn it to mush again. It needs to be better soil for planting. The bottom right corner with cattails I could make bigger and deeper indeed.
     
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    Michael Fundaro wrote:

    Kris Nelson wrote:
    Hmm, interesting, so upsidedown "U" tiles or just pipes from the drainage ditch underground that lead the water away those those channels and into the desired end ditch or pond. Thanks for the idea! For my case, the rain is the issue, with the clay soil, more so than the drainage ditch by the road which collects water. The water takes very long to seep through the clay. So it's an interesting idea, but not one that I see working for my case.



    I don't mean to repeat the information but tilling a bunch of wood chips and grass and other organic matter into the clay will help the water soak in.  Have you dug down to determine the depth of the clay?



    Nope, I assume there is many feet of clay, tilled about a foot last year and it was all the same.
     
    Kris Nelson
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    Thekla McDaniels wrote:My question is:  just how much water does your region get to throughout the year, and what time of year does it arrive.

    During this time in human history, we are looking at instability, moisture patterns and regularity have been disrupted.  I understand that there’s a limit to how much water can permeate the soil in a given period of time, but the same downpour that erodes gullies and carries off topsoil on one farm, soaks into the neighboring farmer’s fields.

    Viewing water as precious resource makes most sense to me.  Increasing tilth, organics, “biology” and fertility will increase permeability, which will lead to recharging the aquifers, moderation of the drought flood cycles.  

    A vernal pool is a lovely thing, creates more diverse niches & habitat, and allows longer for water to soak in.  A pond also diversifies your land.  Both provide habitat for amphibians, who require liquid water for at least one phase of their lives.

    The prairies referred to in an earlier post supported diverse plant communities without being drained, and through that process the rich soil was created.



    Rain at various times. Depends on the year. I'm just above Vermont in south eastern Quebec. I have a river 100ft behind me, maybe 20ft lower than my back yard. Making a larger area for the pond and fixing the land sloping is what I've been thinking, elevating over time with biomass from cover crops for green manure, wood chips, etc. Pond is looking more likely to help get the water to one place.
     
    Kris Nelson
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    Thomas Tipton wrote:I live in NW Ohio where just about all of the land is "Heavy Clay"  Water sits on it much of the time unless it is drained with drainage tile.  I'm referring to the plastic pipe with holes in it that comes in big spools.   You use a trench digger to install that several feet into the ground and let gravity flow move it to the ditch.  Most farmland around here would be unusable if it weren't for the tile.  BTW, the plastic tile is just a modern replacement for the old fashioned clay tiles that used to be used back in the day.  It might be more of an investment than you want to make, but it might very well be worth looking into.

    Good luck.



    Right, like a french drain. Not sure I will go that route, prefer to just build up with biomass to make proper soil
     
    Thekla McDaniels
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    Maybe I am repeating what I said here, maybe I said it elsewhere, but I once used an auger to drill 12 inch diameter post holes almost 4 feet deep.  I scratched and abraded the polished sides, filled the holes with wood chips…

    If nothing else, it increased the surface area for water to penetrate, and the wood chips provided habitat…

    I hope it’s a fun project for you…
     
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