When a Saskatchewan farmer turned to Twitter for advice on draining his bin yard, Grainews wanted to know what that would take.
As I soon found out, it’s not as easy as it sounds, but the results can be well worth the effort. As with most things, consulting a professional is probably the best first move.
“It’s probably most important to get a consultation so we would come down and take a look and see what the customer’s end goal is, and then help design a system that reaches that goal,” says Jason Fraser, business development manager with Precision Land Solutions based in Winkler, Manitoba. “Any system should also be built so it can easily accommodate future expansion.”
Because every yard is different the next step is trying to identify the issue. “Is it ground water coming up and that’s creating frost boils? Is it surface water that’s pooling due to the soils being so compacted from being driven over all the time?” says Fraser. “It’s not always as easy as just taking a scraper and shaping the yard because you sometimes have no options of where to put the water.”
Tiling a field and tiling a yard require different approaches. Typically, fields in Manitoba are tiled at 50-foot spacings, but in a yard the spacings are much closer together —generally around 15 feet apart because when the soil is compacted by traffic water can’t move through it as quickly, so the tiles need to be closer together.
Then there are options that can deal with surface or ground water, or ideally both. “We like to alternate the depth so we will have one line at two feet and another line at six feet deep, so the six foot line grabs the ground water and the two foot one is shallow enough to be able to get some of the surface water,” says Fraser.
The DIY route
The “Cadillac” yard tile drainage system includes a French drain, a seam of crushed rock that the plough inserts from the top of the two-foot pipe line down to the ground surface. “When the water is running along the surface it hits that seam of rock and shoots directly down into the tile, so it speeds up the drainage process,” says Fraser.
Although it’s much easier to do an install before the infrastructure, especially power lines, are in place, it is possible to work around existing bins and buildings. It’s just trickier, as Minto-area farmer, David Rourke found out.
Rourke, who runs a 5,000 acre grain operation and agricultural research company, Ag Quest, had no choice but to install tile drainage because there were times when his yard was literally impassable. “In 2011, we couldn’t drive across our yard. We would sink right up to the axels. We couldn’t get in our shop, it was a mess,” says Rourke.
Rourke decided to go the do-it-yourself route. Even though he brought in the local utilities to mark the existing power and telephone lines, his team still managed to damage a hydro line and sever a couple of phone lines when they actually installed the system, which he says added quite a bit to the cost.
After seeking advice about what they would need, and how to get the spacing right between the pipes, they set to work digging narrow (24- to 30-inch) trenches with a backhoe. On, and straddling the main driving areas of the yard they trenched in two or three rows of four-inch tile and one to two rows between the bins and other buildings. Everything drains back to a dry well (a main collection point) and is pumped out from there.
Rourke also installed GeoMat, a thin layer of woven material that is used in road construction and creates a physical barrier between the ground surface and the covering top layer of gravel. The mat prevents mud from wicking up through the gravel and gravel from being pushed down into the ground over time. “It keeps the physical separation between the topsoil and the finishing gravel otherwise when your truck punches down the mud comes up and makes a mess. If you have got that physical barrier and enough gravel on top it seems to hold it pretty good,” says Rourke.
Although doing it yourself is an option, there are some things to consider in using a backhoe compared to a tile plough; one being time. Fraser says with a plough they can usually tile an average yard in a couple of days. Rourke says it took them almost two weeks and several guys to complete his project, although they did end up doing three yards.
“The other issue with a backhoe is you are generally using a four-inch pipe, which is pretty fragile and if when you are backfilling it with a bucket if a lump comes down too hard or fast it can crush it and you may not really notice it, but the tile may not perform properly,” says Fraser. “With the plough there is less likelihood of things going wrong.”
Rourke says they’ve had no trouble with access since tiling his yards, even after they got a 30-inch rain late last summer. “We were fighting frost mounds every year and now we don’t. We just operate, we don’t need to think about the integrity of the yard,” he says.