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How to build a drainage ditch

Updated February 21, 2017

If you have a problem with water build-up on your property, a drainage ditch may be the best solution. A drainage ditch creates a route of departure for excess water that may collect at a given location on your place of residence. By digging a long trench in the ground, you form a pathway, which will continue the course of flow downhill to a logical exit point, such as a small stream, a holding pond or even a storm sewer. In the process, you will want to take a few steps to insure the durability of your project. You can also add a little natural beauty to enhance the drainage ditch.

Plot the course of your drainage ditch. The closer your route follows the natural downhill flow of water, the better off you will be. If you already have a de facto drainage ditch, you may want to go with the flow, or you can change the direction of the moving water.

Clear away all vegetation in the path of your ditch. These plants can be used in other places on your property or discarded. Also, save all topsoil that is removed for your garden or other places in your yard.

Dig a ditch in the ground. The width of the trench should be greater than the depth, so as to create a gentle slope toward the centre of the ditch. A 2- to-1 ratio for the width versus the depth is ideal. A ditch with steep sides will only cause you problems. Now, continue the path of your ditch in a downhill direction keeping the same general shape for the entire course.

Fill the bottom of the trench with crushed rock ( the larger the better) and field stone, if it is available. Set some of the larger stones into the side of the ditch. This will help define the shape of the ditch, plus aid in the growth of a ground cover.

Tip

If your drainage ditch is very long, attempt to complete the project a small section at a time. Go green with the ditch. Without any vegetation in the ditch, the watercourse is just going to act as a pipeline for the exit of your topsoil. Plant vetch, rock flowers or some sort of cover plant along the sides of your ditch to act as a natural filter. You can even plant a long-stemmed grass in the bottom to aid in this task. Soil erosion is a huge problem in many places, and you do not want your drainage ditch to add to the problem.

Warning

Digging a ditch is hard physical labour, so pace yourself with the workload. This work is best done by hand, so invite all your friends over to help, if you can.

Things You'll Need

  • Pick axe
  • Pointer shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Work gloves
  • Hoe
  • Field stone
  • Crushed rock (at least the size of golf balls)
  • Seeds for cover plants
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About the Author

Henri Bauholz is a professional writer covering a variety of topics, including hiking, camping, foreign travel and nature. He has written travel articles for several online publications and his travels have taken him all over the world, from Mexico to Latin America and across the Atlantic to Europe.