There are several types of field irrigation with the most traditional being ditch irrigation. Irrigation helps distribute water evenly, reduce death of plant life, and assists in water conservation. Depending on the size of the field and job, irrigation ditch digging equipment can range from the most basic tool such as a shovel, to a piece of machinery like the power chain trencher or backhoe.
Chain Trencher, Backhoe
Using a power chain trencher is probably one of the most efficient ways to dig larger trenches. These are self-propelled machines and the operator can run it by riding on or walking behind it, much like a lawnmower. According to the Louisiana State University Extension, this work is extremely physical. Power chain trenchers can be rented for use by a homeowner. Backhoes don't require the physical work a power chain trencher requires; however, operating a backhoe requires expertise. Backhoe work is usually hired out, but the machines can be rented.
Tractor Implements, Tiller
Implements for garden or compact utility tractors are helpful in digging smaller trenches. Tools used for tilling such as mouldboard ploughs, rotary tillers, and disk harrows break up the soil. Loosened soil is easily removed with a scoop, angle blade, front end loader, or a box blade. A common garden rotary tiller can actually be used to dig a shallow ditch without any tractor tools. Travel down the desired path way with the tiller, remove the loose dirt, and repeat until the preferred depth is reached.
An average trench for an irrigation system is about six inches wide. For these smaller jobs, a mattock, tile spade, or shovel will work. A mattock pick has a pick on one side and a blade resembling a tile spade on the other. A tile spade, also known as a sharpshooter, is a specialised tool like the mattock. It is basically a tapered, D-handle shovel. Shovels with round points and long handles are recommended by the Louisiana State University Extension. The LSU Extension points out shovels and tile spades work best on sandy or soft soil. Harder, rocky soil may require the use of bigger tools.
On property requiring little landscape disorder, a vibratory plough can be used to help with the installation of an irrigation system. Rather than digging, a vibratory plough cuts the ground for irrigation lines. These machines are also called pipe pullers.
Vertical notched blades of a wheel trencher assist in making slim, shallow trenches. This is a walk-behind tool that runs on a small, gas engine. Smaller ditches created by a wheel trencher can be used for the installation of irrigation lines or for running wires for outdoor landscape.