groundcover for streambank

Hello, I recently moved into a home that has a stream on the western end of the property. It has never flooded over according to the neighbors, but it does have a rather sharp 5 foot drop off, which indicates that soil erosion may be (or become) a problem. I'd like to plant a fast- growing groundcover in that area which can help prevent erosion while also looking good (and preventing weeds and thornbushes). It's a part- shade area that will get morning sun. Any suggestions would be greatly welcome.
Preferences: Zone 6 (Philadelphia area) Evergreen fast-growing prevent soil erosion deer/rabbit resistant (would be nice)
Thanks, Kartik
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<kartruck> wrote:

Difficult to say exactly what to do without knowing your location, and a much better description; like length and width of stream. Seeing pictures of what you're talking about would be most helpful.
Planting out a stream to prevent errosion is the worst thing you can do. Plants can't root nearly fast enough in just one growing season so they'll simply wash away with the first high water, and since the earth will have been disturbed for planting errosion will be far more severe had you done nothing. It's best to armor the stream banks with rocks (ripwrap) before planting, actually the native plants will emerge on their own, those that can survive and flourish will, others won't, so it's actually silly to plant except atop the banks well above the high water mark... probably just scattering grass seed is all until you know if the banks will hold well enough for adding landscape plantings... you do not want to disturb that soil within six feet of the stream rim or with the first heavy rain your stream banks will slough off. The rocks will help hold the plants and the plants will help hold the rocks, a symbiotic relationship. Place the rocks _now_, to give the flora as much of a head start as possible before the stream banks dry with the heat of summer and before high water in fall. You'll be surprised at how quickly greenery will take hold between the rocks without your doing anything... naturally you can scatter some wildflower seed between the rocks if that will make you feel like you're doing something but it's really not necessary, local seed will plant itself... leave the local fauna do the landscaping, an amazing array of animals visit streams (most you'll never see) leaving generous gifts of seed and fertilizer. I guarantee you'll end up with much nicer plants and arrangement than if you chose your own.
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Thanks for the advice! I should perhaps clarify that I wanted to plant a groundcover on top of the banks on one side, and hopefully let that groundcover "spill" over towards the creek. I can't actually ripwrap the stream because it actually is not on my property (sorry I initially misstated that), and is not on anybody's property, but comes between mine and other adjacent properties (there's about 25 feet of no-man's land). It's about 5-6 feet wide, although most of the time, the stream is slowly moving at about 2 feet across. I'm trying to cover an length of about 100 feet with groundcover on top of the bank that will hopefully spill over towards the creek.
Thanks!
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Impressive and comprehensive posting Brooklyn1... A delight to read !!
One question... is 'ripwrap', the same thing as 'riprap', a stone commonly used to prevent erosion. ?? Are we looking at two commonly used names???
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riprap
You may have sparked an idea... my local community association has placed resonable amounts of riprap on a local stream traveling throughout several neighborhoods.
Nothing growing on the rocks.... stream level is fairly low 8" in some spots, only a trickle in others. The erosion problem comes after heavy rains.... which we may or may not get every year . Any plants come to mind that might grow between the rocks ??? I see the wildflower mixes, but can't find one for shaded area.
Just to see if this would work It might be a cool option !!
Zone 6 marginal 7 Shaded stream bank low water, except when continuous heavy rains Not populated by people Fairly populated by critters
Thx....
Peter
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote in

slight misspelling. probably a typo. he meant riprap & he's spelled it correctly in other posts.

check Wildfower Farm: http://www.wildflowerfarm.com / they should have a blend of plants native to your area that do well in those conditions. lee
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Thanks, I tried to be brief.

Both versions are correct... I've seen it written as two word as well; rip rap/rip wrap.

This is typical, water way volume constantly changes. It's when there are incidents of extremely high volume when errosion is imminent, so any armoring needs to be sufficient to control the most extreme condition or there's a good chance it will totally fail, leaving the situation far worse than had nothing been done at all.

I'm in zone 5-6. I know about this topic from personal experience, not just some theory I read... in fact I first learned from doing and then did extensive research afterwards, all makes more sense that way.
I considered all sorts of plants but soon realized that any planting on eroded areas would make the situation worse because any disturbance of soil would create a starting point for more errosion... and especially if your ground freezes, water will collect in teh planting hole, freeze and expand, then at the first thaw during a heavy rain the banks will calve off. I even dug up some cattails from my pond thinking to plant those (anyone who has ever tried digging cattail will appreciate how difficult) but then realized digging in the stream would be futile (the plants would simply wash away and with lots more soil) and cattails won't survive in moving water anyway.
My little stream suffered from two periods of flooding, first in late fall and then again in early spring, the erosion was disasterous. There was no way I would be able to make any repairs myself, heavy earth moving equipment was necessary so I called in an excavating company that I had used previously to repair a washed out culvert. They reshaped the stream to make it less convoluted to minimize turbulence, and increased its volume, then lined it with a special cloth that would hold the soil but still permit plants to root... then placed the riprap (stones). The first riprap didn't hold, so they returned with larger stones. The trick is to use the smallest stones that will do the job, the smaller the stones the more surface area, the more they will diminish the pressure of moving water.
There was no other choice but to make the repair:
http://i39.tinypic.com/1217odi.jpg
http://i43.tinypic.com/2d7d8px.jpg
Repair commencing:
http://i39.tinypic.com/2h6y0lf.jpg
This is the first winter, ground is frozen, you can see a patch of snow:
http://i40.tinypic.com/n5jxj7.jpg
http://i41.tinypic.com/soo4r7.jpg
This is the following mid summer:
http://i39.tinypic.com/2hmniv9.jpg
http://i42.tinypic.com/339i0lh.jpg
As you can see the new plant growth is significant for just one spring and half the summer and I planted nothing, all the plants grew by themselves. I'm looking forward to seeing the growth progress this spring. If after this spring's rains the riprap holds I will begin landscaping the upper banks... they were lushly planted prior to the erosion, most all washed away (only a few daffodils remained that are flowering now). If you are experiencing a moving water errosion problem I would definitely not attempt to do any planting within the stream bed, it's banks, or the area immediately close by... you will only make the problem far worse, and of course you will lose every planting, and all your labor will be for nought. Do not underestimate the power of water.
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On Thu, 9 Apr 2009 07:03:24 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

My pond overflow feeds a nearby stream. A variety of native plants grow on the bank: ferns, grass, wild strawberries, moss, young cedars, etc. I selectively kill off plants (such as poison ivy). Sycamore roots hold the bank in place during rainstorms. It is very natural to see stream erosion and not uncommon for a stream to drift to one side over time. Pachysandra may grow well if soil is acidic--the deer/rabbits leave mine alone.
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