Answer: Several methods will help control soil erosion. Plants are the first line of defense, since they are the most attractive solution. Shrubs, vines, groundcovers and perennials that grow quickly and send out dense root systems help hold soil in place. Especially good for erosion are ground covering plants. When spaced close together, these plants will cover an erosion-prone area in the lease amount of time.
Erosion cloth, available at some garden centers, is another means of control. This is usually a lightweight, open-weave hessian staked into the ground's surface to stabilize soil on embankments and slopes. For a more natural look, install plants in cloth openings or mulch to cover.
Mulch, if heavy enough also helps prevent the break up of soil particles. Thick layers of straw or stones work to protect soil.
Building a basin around plants on a bank makes watering easier and more efficient with less runoff. Mound the soil on the outer edges to catch water at the base of the plant.
Terracing also helps control erosion. Building wooden or stone retaining walls, or tiers, on banks creates level surfaces to maximize planting space. These are much easier for planting and will channel water off hills with a minimum of erosion. Larger terraced areas, however, should have built-in drainage.
An easy step by step guide to controlling erosion with the help of groundcovers:
1. Moisten the planting area on the slope with a hose and remove weeds, taking care to avoid disturbing the soil unnecessarily.
2. Roll out erosion cloth horizontally to the hillside. Overlap the rows slightly, pinning the cloth with tent pegs as you go to keep it firmly in place.
3. Set out the groundcover plants, spacing them appropriately for quick coverage. Using a trowel plant the groundcover through the erosion cloth.
4. Mulch over the cloth and around the edges with several inches of shredded bark to protect the soil and help retain moisture.
To achieve the fastest growth on hillside plantings, and to minimize runoff, water with drip irrigation. Drip irrigation systems hook up to outside taps and use plastic tubing with emitters that slowly drip water at the base of each plant.
Whatever method you choose, simple planning and planting will keep the area stable, beautiful and functional.
Plants with fibrous roots systems are excellent for erosion control, because the mass of roots cling to soil particles. Here are some Maryland natives that make nice ground covers:
Antennaria plantaginifolia (woman's tobacco); Asarum canadense (Canadian wildginger); Cornus canadensis (bunchberry dogwood); Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry); Geum canadense (white avens); Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal);
Lycopodium digitatum (fan clubmoss); Mitchella repens (partridgeberry);
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern); Viola pedata (birdfoot violet) and
Viola sororia (common blue violet).
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