Dig a hole a foot deep and a foot wide and fill it with water. Come back in a few hours. If the hole is still full of water, your soil has an internal drainage problem. Choose plants that are okay with wet feet (many gardening books provide lists of plants suited to poorly drained soils).
ëIf you must grow plants that want good drainage, take steps to improve it: Dig a deep posthole to punch through the clay layer (if that's the problem) and fill it with gravel so that water drains out, or run drain pipes underground to draw water away from the area. You can also plant on mounds or in raised beds, ignoring the bad drainage altogether.
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