The Lead Up To Digging A Trench
Rain, Rain – Go Away. Come Again Some Other Day. It has rained for 40 days and 40 nights! Heck, the animals are starting to pair up it’s been raining so much. Get it? Noah’s ark – animals 2 by 2? Oh well, maybe Naamah, Noah’s wife, would understand my bizarre banter. In those biblical days, digging a trench wasn’t an option – but, it is now!
It probably wasn’t really raining THAT hard – but, it sure seemed like it! A rushing river rapids quickly formed and began cascading down the hill in my backyard – emptying into the left side of my beautiful garden. My plants were drowning – some were actually floating away in one of the most torrential downpours we’ve had in a couple of years!
My first thoughts? I gotta do somethin’! But, what can I do to save the veggies that I worked so long and hard to nurture and protect?
Enter – The French Drain
After a long and arduous period of research, I settled on installing a French drain. It turns out that this is one of the most common ways to eliminate – or, at least minimize – the debilitating effects of Mother Nature – when the bottom falls out of the sky.
A French drain also goes by other names: weeping tile, trench drain, filter drain, perimeter drain, agricultural ditch, French ditch – to name a few.
But, it basically consists of digging a trench deep enough and wide enough to accommodate either a perforated or slotted polyethylene plastic pipe wrapped in a type of landscape fabric that is specially made for this application. The fabric keeps dirt, debris, and roots from invading the interior of the pipe and, eventually blocking the flow of drain water.
Time To Dig
So, now, I begin chopping a channel to China – shoveling out soil – exhuming the earth – trimming the trough – in other words, I become a ditch digger – at my age of all things!
I wanted to install a perforated or slotted pipe 4 inches in diameter, into a trench that is 12 inches deep, 12 inches wide, and 100 feet long! One hundred feet long! Now, that’s a long way to dig – don’t you know?
The first several feet were a little deeper and wider so that my 6 inch diameter catch basin had a comfortable place to sit. Then, it was shovelful by shovelful – inch by inch – all along my fence – 100 feet until I reached my wooded area behind the garden.
Whew! All done.
The best pipe to use is either perforated – with holes punched throughout the pipe – or, slotted – with one long open gash along the entire length of the pipe.
I used the perforated pipe because I didn’t have to worry about which side should be on the down side. But, either type will work equally as well. The key here is, if you use the slotted pipe, make sure the slotted portion is placed down – on the bottom side – so that water flowing through the pipe can easily drain into the soil.
The flex drain pipe I purchased was 50 feet long – I bought 2 of them. To be able to string it out the length of the trench, I tied one end to my fence and rolled it out – straightening it as I went. I connected the two 50 foot sections with a flexible elbow pipe connector.
Then, I sleeved the pipe with trench wrap and placed it in the trench that I had already lined with 15 bags of gravel – about one and-a-half bags per each 10 foot section of the 100 feet length of the trench. After adding another 15 bags of gravel around the sides and top of the sleeved pipe, it was time to start shoveling dirt back into the trench to bury the pipe.
Here’s a picture showing the 100 feet length of the trench. I almost need my binoculars to see the other end! The pipe is in place, along with its trench wrap sleeve.
It’s hard to see in the picture of the catch basin drain – but, I took the time to tape the grate to keep the dirt out of the catch basin. I’ll get enough dirt and sludge after a gargantuan rain storm – I don’t need to add more to it.
You can also buy this pipe already sleeved but, the sleeving material was not as good a quality as the trench wrap sleeve I purchased separately – and, I wanted to guarantee that the pipe would be protected until the end of time!
I did my best to tamp down all the soil I shoveled back into the trench – to make sure I added more than enough to allow some shrinkage and sinkage due to the loose ground settling over time and through additional showers.
I’ve finished filling about 60% of the trench with dirt. Take a peek at the first 10 feet around the drain. Looks pretty good, huh? Remember what you see here – because bad news is coming…
Oh what fun!
The total cost for the trench project came in at around $250 – which included the 30 bags of gravel – about $2.50 per linear foot.
The weather report called for more rain so I hurriedly tried to get as much dirt back into the trench as I could before Mother Nature took over – again!
The Next Day
The rain came down in buckets. As they say, it was raining cats and dogs! I was afraid that I would have to break out my canoe to navigate around my yard.
Then – as the rain subsided – and the clouds began to clear – the sun came out. So, I excitedly journeyed outside to inspect my installed French drain to see how it fared through the thunderstorm.
And, lo and behold – when I got to my trench – I couldn’t believe my eyes! The rain had washed ALL the dirt out of the first 40 feet of trench. It was as if I hadn’t shoveled even one shovelful into it! To say I was mad is an understatement! I was not only “up in arms” infuriated, I was horror-struck that all my efforts had been all for naught!
I ripped the drain lid off the catch basin before I took these pictures:
How could I fix this? I didn’t want to keep filling the trench and have Mother Nature ream out the dirt over and over again – each time she decided to rain on my parade!
The rain had washed dirt much farther over into my backyard – permeating my grass and encroaching on my beloved garden!
So, I discussed the situation with the wisest member of the household – my wife. She suggested that, after filling the trench again, I lay tarp over it and use cement blocks and bricks to hold down the tarps and divert the force of the raging waters – until the dirt had a chance to harden up sufficiently – and, I had a chance to get new grass planted.
Following her sage advice, I have, up to this point re-filled the first 40 feet of trench, stomped it down, and covered it with several tarps – folding the tarps enough to just cover the width of the trench – using the longer side of the tarp to cover the trench’s length. For instance, I folded the 16 feet x 20 feet tarp I used in half – twice – so that it became 4 feet wide and 20 feet long when placed on the trench.
Then, I topped off the tarps with cement blocks and bricks to keep everything in place.
Now, I will be waiting for the next session of rains to attack my trench and see how it holds up. If this works, I’ll finish the last 60 feet the same way and hope for the best.
The weatherman says that it is supposed to rain so hard tonight that the birds will be wearing swim fins!
To Be Continued…
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this saga – devoted to diverting the deluge from destroying my voraciously vibrant veggies. (Say that 5 times real fast!)
Comment below or email me with your thoughts. Any ideas or experience with this? I’m sitting on pins and needles – ready and willing to study your stories.