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non invasive ground cover for a wet/dry area

I have a drainage swale in my yard that stays wet for many days after a rain. this makes it difficult to mow and in one spot there is no grass growing. the flip side to that is, the soil is clay and when we have no rain it is dry, rock hard clay (mid atlantic region) I would like to put a ground cover in it that I don't have to mow and won't impede the drainage. I cant really find anything that will tolerate really wet and really dry and not invade surrounding areas. the area gets at least partial sun, some parts get full sun. just looking for suggestions of plants to research, even if its some one who is growing something in similar conditions.


erika mccormick
newark DE USA

Re: non invasive ground cover for a wet/dry area


You didn't mention the size (length X width) of your swale; the first thing you have to do is to AMEND THE EXISTING CLAY SOIL so that you will get both better rain drainage & prevent the soil from getting rock hard in dry weather.

The site below illustrates the negative aspects of clay soil----it is too fine-grained to allow any air & microscopic pockets to allow roots to grow----if it is not mixed with enough amounts of course sand, vermiculite, pearlite & compost/humus (ground up leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds, etc.---whatever you have available) & it will NOT allow any rain or surface water to pass thru in wet weather & you'll have standing water where nothing will grow; conversely, clay will dry up & cake in arid weather & also prevent plant growth.

If you have a very large swale, you may have to consult a LANDSCAPER who has the heavy construction equipment needed to mix large areas with the soil amendments; hopefully, you have a small enough area that you can do as a diy project, providing the clay layer doesn't go down too far; sometimes 4" or 6" diameter low-cost plastic piping containing tiny holes is laid sub-surface to conduct most rainfall accumulations to a lower area away from the clay deposit.

Google "How to amend clay soil properly" to get a You Tube video that illustrates how to amend soil; also, "Amending Clay Soil" by a woman from Dallas; also the article by P Allen Smith, "Amending Clay Garden Soil"

Re: non invasive ground cover for a wet/dry area

hmmm...well that won't happen. When the county installed the swale I almost didn't qualify for it. my yard has barely enough slope to it. any amending of the soil will throw it all out of whack and it will no longer serve its purpose. that sucks. back to the drawing board!

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