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Author Topic: Improving waterlogged clay  (Read 5630 times)

Daleswoman

  • Joined Jan 2015
Improving waterlogged clay
« on: March 02, 2016, 03:30:39 pm »
We have 4 acres of pasture on the top of a hill, where you might expect excess water to run off; however the soil on the top is very heavy clay and quickly becomes waterlogged. This makes our top field and a small corral attached to a field shelter extremely muddy so that they become virtually unusable all winter (except for the ducks!)

Weve had a quote for putting in some drainage, including a soakaway, in the field, and for digging out and surfacing the corral to make an all-weather yard, but the costs are eye-watering! And I dont really want or need a yard, I would like to keep it as a small grassed pen, but just prevent the worst excesses of mud.

Would it work if we simply dump and spread a load of sand in of the corral, and allow it to get trodden and mixed into the soil? Im thinking that over time this would help to break up and lighten the clay, and we could eventually reseed it. I realise wed probably need to repeat the exercise over several years.

Has anyone ever tried this, and did it work?

clydesdaleclopper

  • Joined Aug 2009
  • Aberdeenshire
Re: Improving waterlogged clay
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2016, 03:56:19 pm »
No sand won't work and could make it worse. Lime helps to flocculate clay particles to stop them being so sticky. I am in a very similar situation and I am planning to lime and sub soil to improve drainage.
Our holding has Anglo Nubian and British Toggenburg goats, Gotland sheep, Franconian Geese, Blue Swedish ducks, a whole load of mongrel hens and two semi-feral children.

Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: Improving waterlogged clay
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2016, 05:30:10 pm »
We have ancient meadows on heavy clay and leave haymaking until after the deep-rooted wild flowers, like sheep's sorrel and yarrow, have set seed.  We move troughs and field hayracks at least once a day and try and go into Winter with at least 10cm of grass growth on the fields.  If it gets very bad we either move the stock into the wood (which has several centureis of leaf mould and pine needles underfoot, although little grazing) or into the shed.  In our experience you have to work around the drawbacks of clay.

Carse Goodlifers

  • Joined Oct 2013
  • Perthshire
Re: Improving waterlogged clay
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2016, 08:57:01 pm »
......I am planning to lime and sub soil to improve drainage.
I'm with CC on the sub soiling front BUT only do it when conditions are good - when the ground has dried out almost completely and preferably when natural cracking starts to appear in the field. 
A lot of folk do it when the conditions are wrong i.e. too wet, and they end up smearing the soil after the subsoiler.  The point of a subsoiler is to lift the soil profile as well as breaking up compaction.

Hevxxx99

  • Joined Sep 2012
Re: Improving waterlogged clay
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2016, 10:12:45 pm »
I have similar problems and intend to try liming to floculate.  I may try some mini-gutters to help water flow as well but think my problem is more springs coming up than water not getting away. My other thought was to roll in the hopes of the water running off the top rather than sinking in: may work in your little pen?

farmers wife

  • Joined Jul 2009
  • SE Wales
Re: Improving waterlogged clay
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2016, 03:25:40 pm »
why not plant new hedging on bunds and trees around this will help absorb the wetness (possibly divide the fields up.  Also if you could find the lowest area and create a natural drain & wildlife pond.  Allowing poaching in winter will just ruin grassland in the summer and we only have sheep on a strip grazing system here. Nothing else is allowed on the soil. 


You could research particular types of grasses that would suit this soil structure and relay for a better pasture. A spreading of a good organic compost will improve the soil structure while you are at it.


You cant change a natural soil structure.




Daleswoman

  • Joined Jan 2015
Re: Improving waterlogged clay
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2016, 11:27:56 am »
Thanks so much for the replies. I think probably digging out a layer of topsoil and putting limestone down is the way to go in the corral, we've tried rolling it but it just gets churned up again as soon as stock are in there and it rains. 

The worst area is a half-acre field, the only things in there over winter are the ducks but unfortunately it's also our access to the barn and sheds so we can't avoid walking over it. The lowest part, where the water collects (about a foot deep at its deepest point) is where I think we should dig a soakaway. We've already got a wildlife pond, possibly in the wrong place (not our fault!) but there are newts in there so I don't want to disturb them :)

desertmum

  • Joined Mar 2016
Re: Improving waterlogged clay
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2016, 06:08:46 pm »
Have found this really interesting as we have a similar problem.  Have had to put the horses on temporary livery while we get the drainage sorted.  Now have some good ideas.  We were thinking of planting a row of willow trees along one of the boundaries and put in a large soak away pond.

We are now looking to see if there are any grants/funding to help with the cost of the trees.

YorkshireLass

  • Joined Mar 2010
  • Just when I thought I'd settled down...!
Re: Improving waterlogged clay
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2016, 06:55:50 pm »
Thanks so much for the replies. I think probably digging out a layer of topsoil and putting limestone down is the way to go in the corral, we've tried rolling it but it just gets churned up again as soon as stock are in there and it rains. 

The worst area is a half-acre field, the only things in there over winter are the ducks but unfortunately it's also our access to the barn and sheds so we can't avoid walking over it. The lowest part, where the water collects (about a foot deep at its deepest point) is where I think we should dig a soakaway. We've already got a wildlife pond, possibly in the wrong place (not our fault!) but there are newts in there so I don't want to disturb them :)

Re the walking/access, any chance of using those plastic grids to make a path? Like councils use in grassed carparks, or sometimes footpaths in parks. I'm sure they have a proper name!

cloddopper

  • Joined Jun 2013
  • South Wales .Carmarthenshire. SA18
Re: Improving waterlogged clay
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2016, 01:15:43 pm »
I hired a 2 tonne minidigger for a week  dug 300 mm wide trenches in a herring bone pattern with theh " Vee " point end  going down the hill . All the points of the " Vee's were  connected via an down hill run . All these excavations were 800 mm deep . I back filled the trenches with coarse chipped tree cutting to a depth of 400 mm then back filled with a 50 /50 % mix of the soil & more chips in a ridge till it was all used up  . Then tracked over the ridge tops  to flatten things out a bit & make contact between the soil and the chippings.
 The first year we saw a bit of a difference but in subsequent years it was tremendous the whole type of flora had change from bog loving type plants to meadow grasses by the end of year six .
  I got the idea of using chippings and bark from the way the Romans used faggots /bundles of stick in their herring bone drainage systems in the Fenlands of East Anglia . Once the wood /bark is anaerobically preserved it is there & porous for many many years .
Strong belief , triggers the mind to find the way ... Dyslexia just makes it that bit more amusing & interesting

clydesdaleclopper

  • Joined Aug 2009
  • Aberdeenshire
Re: Improving waterlogged clay
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2016, 02:09:34 pm »
Would it not just turn into peat which ends up holding water ? I'd love to use this method if it works
Our holding has Anglo Nubian and British Toggenburg goats, Gotland sheep, Franconian Geese, Blue Swedish ducks, a whole load of mongrel hens and two semi-feral children.

Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: Improving waterlogged clay
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2016, 04:18:46 pm »
Do you know the underlying geological structure of the land?  Our topsoil is clay but has bands of sandstone and granite-type conglomerate running diagonally across it.  The water gathers where the porous sandstone meets the bands of non-porous granite and there's very little you can do about it.  Many similar fields around here were planted as orchards so the trees took up a lot of the excess water.

 

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