This is a common issue, especially in new developments where the topsoil has been scraped away and the only thing left behind is compacted clay. There are actually some options.
Is the rain just hitting the ground and running off? Then, you need to be building up your lawn to make it healthier so the water is absorbed into the ground. Remember, weeds do not germinate in healthy soil. Lawns can be built up by tilling in organic matter, such as aged compost, aged manure mix, straw, etc. Aeration can also help water soak in. Sometimes it can take several attempts of aeration to see results. Soil softeners can help the ground absorb water. Like aeration, it often requires several applications before results can be seen.
French drains are made by digging deep trenches. In the bottom of the trench is placed a layer of rock, followed by black perforated piping covered with a weed cloth and then covering the piping with rock to the top of trench. French drains are (or can be) complicated issues, so a professional should be consulted to install them.
Dry creek beds are beautiful ways to direct excess water to where you want it to go. They are slightly dug out beds or paths, placing landscape fabric in the depression followed by pebbles/gravel/larger rocks. In some cases, the waters path is already clear in your yard, so use that to your advantage and create a dry creek bed and then landscape around it. It can be a great focal point as well as utility.
When working to alleviate drainage problems, keep in mind to route the water to an area that will not pose any further problems. One place is to your curb, but you should check with your development or city regulations first. Should you have a drainage ditch (common in most developments) bordering one side of your property, route the water to it. Never route drain water to a neighbors property.
Of course, if you can’t drain it, use it. Where the water lays, create a bog garden. Plants that will work in such an area are: vinca, spiraea, viburnum, goat’s beard, phlox, ferns (shade), daylilies, irises, bamboo (clumping varieties), red twig or other shrub dogwoods, acorus ogon grass, french pussy willow, nishiki willow, giant pussy willow, solomon’s seal, liriope, maples, green ash, bald cypress, river birch, elm, white pine, hemlock, sourwood, tulip poplar, blueberry, cranberry, red chokeberry, sambucus, holly, spicebush, oaks, red bud, serviceberry, hostas (shade), anemones, and gaillardia. If you have a really marshy area, check at your local fish store for pond plants.
- French Drain Design: What You Need to Know (johnallenchambers.wordpress.com)
- Ground Cover Plants and More as Lawn Substitutes (gardeningwithcheryl.com)