On a vacant lot in the northeast US, used for haying in the past, myself and a few other people started different farming projects on it. It is very wet and had an especially wet year in the past. Traffic is relatively low but we do drive pickup trucks on the field during the growing season and have had very occasional heavier trucks deliver materials.

The path we drive on is now very rutted, as expected. Road work was planned before the past growing season but was not completed. We're still trying to line up some basic road work, expecting that means installing a culvert and a gravel driveway for the worst spots. We're getting pros on it ASAP but they are busy.

My question for this community is what kind of activities would you expect to fix ruts like this, and how much worse do these issues get each year they go unaddressed? I understand compaction gets worse and the soil will only become more and more likely to puddle and become inaccessible more frequently and longer - I'm looking for confirmation and clarifications about that.

Here's some pictures.

This is entering the field. You're on a paved town road, then you pull off onto 20x20ft gravel driveway the town built, and that slopes down into this muddy path. front field entrance

This is between two fields on site, over a hundred feet away from the entrance in the image above. This is a clearer case of a culvert being needed along with plenty of gravel. back field entrance

Between the two images is about 150ft of rutted ground that stays relatively dry. We are thinking these two problem areas need 50ft or so of proper gravel driveway installed and a culvert in one or both areas. For the drier stretch we're thinking pickup trucks and the soil can tolerate it, and ideally we will at least spread 3-4 inches of woodchips every few years, to make a path that gets less degraded each use.

  • The only way to determine price is to get quotes from local companies. That's why shopping/pricing questions are explicitly off topic here. Please edit out that part of your question.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 5, 2022 at 14:41
  • 1
    @crip659 I have seen them work and for the drier part I think it could. I realize the wetter areas will need better than woodchips. Examples of woodchip driveways: homeguides.sfgate.com/create-wood-chip-driveway-32638.html and youtube.com/watch?v=J-zc113e8L8
    – cr0
    Apr 5, 2022 at 14:52
  • 2
    I have used bark mulch as I got it for free at my last job. It takes quite a bit to fill the ruts and mix with the mud. After getting enough to support trucks/tractor packed in I had to add about 1-2 inches every other year to the path where the tires traveled not as good as crushed quarry but it was easier on my horses feet than rock.
    – Ed Beal
    Apr 5, 2022 at 14:59
  • 2
    Part of your question is about cost, and that's strictly off topic. The other is speculative and subjective. That's not ideal for DIYSE either. Please revise to ask something more specific.
    – isherwood
    Apr 5, 2022 at 15:23
  • 1
    Even rough estimates of pricing are off-topic because pricing can vary so much by locale.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 5, 2022 at 16:17

1 Answer 1


The key to road maintenance is water. Specifically getting rid of it, getting it OFF the road as soon as possible (even in deserts.)

You can build the roadbed up with stone or gravel so it's higher, and crown it (shape higher in the middle, lower on the edges) so water runs off of it, not along it. You should relocate the topsoil onto your growing areas and start building from subsoil.

You can ditch beside the road to take water away, but you still have to fill in the ruts and crown the road so water goes into the ditch, not sitting in the ruts. And the ditch has to go somewhere lower to take the water away.

Tile drains (perforated pipes) can help PART of the year, but are ineffective in times when the ground is frozen between the surface and the drain. Ditches are simple and reliable.

While a road grader is "ideal" - if you have farm tractors available you can manage the earthmoving with those. On average tractors are less destructive than trucks, where you have a choice of what to drive onto the field.

As you are in the USA, speak to your agricultural extension agent, who probably has pamphlets or web sites on building and maintaining farm roads. They might even come take a look when they are in the area and offer specific advice.

Geotextiles can help to keep the dirt from "eating" your stone or gravel materials (which may otherwise sink into the muck, requiring constant reapplication.)

If you don't fix it it will get worse, especially if you keep driving on it when wet. You can already see that you are losing soil in the second picture, and ruts will only erode deeper with time, water and additional driving on them - though time and water will keep working once started, even if you stop driving on them.

Using free woodchips (copiously) is certainly a lot better than doing nothing while waiting for money for gravel/stone.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.