I want to cover a large area that is on a steep slope with ground cover. There is absolutely no soil at all, it's all pure clay: hard rock when dry and soft when wet.

I was thinking of putting a large pipe (20cm to 40cm diameter) in a hole and filling it with good soil as shown on the picture below. I will also add a small pipe that goes out of the bottom end to drain the excess water.


Will a 20cm diameter x 40cm deep pipe be enough for the roots? My goal is to plant a Trailing Rosemary.

Does anyone has a better way?

Here is the Trailing Rosemary: Trailing rosemary

source: nzplantpics.com

3 Answers 3


This is similar to what I did a few years ago. I needed dirt for the back of a building foundation I was constructing, so I dug up the hard clay from 10ft down and used it to level the foundation which sat on a bit of a hill. At the end, I was left with a fairly steep slope of ground on which nothing would grow except some ragweed, pokeweed, and some briars. So I dug out holes like what you're suggesting and filled them with decent soil, then planted strawberries. I didn't use any pipes. Its been 3 years and the strawberries are doing great. On the eastern side, the strawberries have completely filled in with dense vegetation. On the south and western sides, not as much, but they are spreading some. I'm not sure if there is a difference in the dirt from the east to the south or if the strawberries like morning sun rather than evening sun.

So, I think what you're doing is a great idea, but I don't see much need for the pipes. If you want to measure drainage, you could dig the 40cm hole then fill with water and see how fast it drains. I think you'd be surprised. I think 40cm is a good depth, but I would make the diameter a little larger.

Edit in reply to comment:

Roots typically look like this and can go wider and deeper than you would guess:

enter image description here

Roots don't absolutely have to go that wide or deep, I'm just pointing out that they can if the soil permits.

I made the holes about the size of a flower pot... maybe 30cm across and about that deep. The bigger you make the holes and the more good soil you add, the better the plants will grow. The strawberries send out "daughter" plants about 30-50cm away from the mother.

Like this:

enter image description here

enter image description here

Wouldn't you like your hill to look like this:

enter image description here

enter image description here

I thought strawberries would make a good ground cover, but I like your Rosemary idea too.

  • I agree, I will try the strawberry too next to the rosemary. I added a picture of the trailing rosemary. Can't live without it for my roast :)
    – Pat
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 5:23
  • @Pat Does the trailing rosemary taste just like the bush rosemary?
    – Randy
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 15:25
  • Meant to taste delicious: video.about.com/gardening/…
    – Pat
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 21:45

Based on your sketch it looks like you're building a little retaining wall too. I wouldn't count on the plastic pipe to hold up to the weight of the soil and uv rays for a long time.

How about building the wall out of cinder blocks to the appropriate specs to be able to hold back the clay. Then fill in the voids in the middle of the blocks with good soil and plant whatever you decide on using in that.


I did a similar thing using concrete blocks as part of a retaining wall a few years ago. It worked fine once I realized that the blocks absorbed a lot of the water I applied to the plants. Once I switched to plants that tolerated dryer conditions it was lovely and held its own well and the plants grew well. I would recommend using trailing rosemary, portulaca, ice plant, and similar inexpensive plants until you get it all figured out.

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