Soil erosion is a topsoil thief with a sneaky methodology. It can start with just a little drainage after a heavy downpour that loosens soil below the surface of the vegetation. You may not even notice at first, but unstopped, it can dislodge your vegetation and increase the slope of the bank or hill. As this happens, you’re losing both useable yard space and precious topsoil. Water, ice, snow, heavy wind, foot traffic, and even gravity can wear away your soil. The answer to soil erosion is work, aka landscaping changes.
Homeowners most experience soil erosion on slopes where they’ve become tired of trying to mow or use a string trimmer. It’s difficult to keep these hills trimmed. But, whatever you do, don’t fall to temptation: Avoid using a grass/weed herbicide, which wipes out everything.
If mowing or trimming is not your thing or you’re facing a slope that is already vegetation light and damaged, you need a more permanent solution. What you choose depends upon how steep the slope is and, to a degree, your bank account.
For slopes with a low grade, vegetation with a thick root system like fast-growing native grasses and shrubs are your best bet to protect the soil. If you’re starting with bare earth, you may need an erosion or seed mat to help keep everything in place. You may also want to mulch around any bushes and plants until they are established and growing larger. For sure, plants make an ugly slope look attractive, but choose wisely (a call to your landscaper or local extension office can help). While choices depend upon your vegetation zone, some good picks include juniper, forsythia, and phlox. Ground covers like phlox can be a great choice because they add a beautiful coat of color and do not grow more than 4 to 6 inches tall.
Mulch can work but be sure you put down a deep layer or it won’t keep the water from getting at your soil—it might just join the fun and slide away with the soil. You’ll need at least three inches of heavy mulch. Landscape rocks are an attractive choice, but again, it’s the required depth that matters. Note: Mulch is relatively inexpensive but will need layers added every year. Rocks are more expensive, but they last longer. Hint: Placing a geotextile layer under the mulch or rocks will add more stability to the soil underneath.
Steeper slopes and heavy erosion areas like around a drainpipe may need some serious changes to your landscape, such as a retaining wall, erosion control grids, concrete blocks, or a thick layer of large rocks. These solutions usually require the help of a professional landscaper and aren’t recommended for the weekend-warrior landscaper.
Posted on December 3, 2020
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