Slippery Slope

Posted by Tammy Sons on 2nd Feb 2016

The Slippery Slope-Erosion control with Plants

Many amateur gardeners struggle with ways to make a hillside look attractive, while preventing topsoil from being washed away. Various options usually use rock to hold everything in place. Another effective means to control erosion is with plants.
Understanding Erosion
Erosion is the loss of soil caused by running water. This occurs by two different processes. The first is called Suspended Load. In this case, the force of the water carries away small particles of silt or clay. The second method is Bed Load. This term refers to heavier particles, such as rock, that slide or roll with the force of the water.
Erosion control is a means of preventing the loss of these particles and preserving the landscape. The steeper the slope is, the greater the chance is of erosion occurring during hard rainfall. Hillsides with a slope of less than 45 degrees are the easiest to tackle. Anything with a grade steeper than this should be terraced.
An erosion control blanket is a helpful item to purchase. Available at most nurseries, they will hold the hillside together until plants have an opportunity to develop a root system. If it is made of cloth, the blanket will break down over time.
When the planting is complete, it is a good idea to add mulch. Not only does this look nice, but also it will provide another layer of protection from erosion. Shredded bark is the preferable material. Large bark, straw, and gravel can wash away during heavy rainfall.
Plants for erosion control should be chosen for their fibrous root systems. It is best to used mixed plantings in order to capitalize on different water absorption rates. Ground covers, trees, shrubs, and other perennials can be combined. Common recommendations for plants that control erosion are:
Native Tall grasses- Unlike turf grasses, these develop deep root systems. The taller that they are, the better job that they will do.
Vines- Popular vines are Bougainvillea, Creeping Fig, Japanese Honeysuckle, Passion Flower, and Carpet Bugle. These add a pop of color to the landscape.
Shrubs- Viburnums, sumacs, Rhododendrons, Spicebush, and Mountain Laurel are good choices.
Erosion control with plants is a viable option for those willing to put forth the effort. It not only creates an enjoyable landscape, but it is also good for the environment.