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Drainage :(

What we are hoping will be a growing area of about half an acre, is looking depressingly waterlogged and I can't work out why. The soil is peaty, loamy structure, and slopes gently down to a huge ditch that surrounds the lowest 2 sides of the field. There were horses in there late summer and it got fairly poached, and now even the bits that I've got flattened seem to be holding water. It's just there in the top 3 inches, and if I dig down, the soil below is pretty dry. The land has always been grazing, and the access isn't great so it isn't as if there has been huge machinery compacting it down.
Any ideas what could have caused the problem, and how I might sort it out. Field drains have been suggested, but down at the depth we'd put them, it's dry. Thanks for any ideas folks.

The ditch at the bottom sides of your field is not draining your land, it is keeping the next field(s) below it dry. You could dig a ditch at the top of your field to divert water away, or put in field drains as suggested. If you do put in field drains you should backfill with crushed stone so the water can percolate down to the drain. But it will be drier by next spring, even if you do nothing at all...
Paradise Regained

Just a thought - with all the wet weather, has your ground developed a "pan" at about 3 inches which is holding the water in the top few inches? It happened to me a couple of years ago - I thought the sandy veg beds had finally consented to hold moisture for more than 5 seconds until I started digging and found a solid pan about 4 inches down - once I broke up that everything looked as parched as it always did! Sad

Yes, that is how it seems, though how I'm not sure. Is there a way to break that up without using large machinery? Our soil is over granite, so depth varies from around 2 foot+ to 8 inches, and apart from wanting to avoid compacting any further, it probably won't do the kit any good.
Rob R

To find out if you have got compaction problems it's best to do a few (8 or 9) test holes in a W shape across the field to get a good representive sample. I'm pretty sure that, given the weather we have had this year, that nothing you could have done would eliminate the problem, but doing as crofter said would certainly help allieviate it in future years and give you an idea if you do actually need to do any remedial action on the whole field. Granite is pretty impervious, so it's doubtful if subsoiling would do any good.
Paradise Regained

The only 2 ways I know of dealing with it is to physically break up the pan, and add organic matter to encourage earthworms - as OH says, "earthworms are your friend". As (i think you said) you are looking at cultivating about 1/2 acre, to start work on breaking the pan without compacting using equipment could you take a fork or crowbar for a walk and spike the ground to encourage drainage through the pan - if you can get moisture under the pan before heavy frost the freezing may help to break the pan from below?

As others have said, putting a drain at the top of the field will also help reduce the water in your field which, by may have leaching the nutrients down through the soil to form the pan in the first place.

I have the same problem. Our horses have compacted the top few inches and the water isn't soaking in as it used to. If we ever have any dry weather again, its my intention to get a contractor in with a mole plough.
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