These plants can help stop soil erosion

Soil erosion can be a major headache when water seems to wash away all your hard work. These readers sent me some photos of a trouble spot in their yard.
QUESTION: “We have a trouble spot in our back yard. We live on a third of an acre sown in tall fescue grass. As you can see this area is under a fully matured oak tree. After a heavy rain we get a big wash into this area. We have tried various types of seed and sod but to no avail. We would appreciate any suggestions you may have to correct this problem.” – Allen and Judy Dickey
ANSWER: After studying your pictures a bit, a few things do come to mind. I know you have sown seed on that spot, but you might consider trying again if, in the past, you didn’t select a grass seed specifically for shaded areas and double checked your weather before sowing to make sure that there is no rain in the forecast for about one to two weeks afterwards.
When you do sow the seed be sure to cover it with a layer of straw for protection from birds and other wildlife, wind, sun and surprise rainfall. The straw creates a snug environment for the seed to germinate and root securely.
Another option is to smooth the area out and plant some shade loving plants that will not wash away such as:
PENNSYLVANICA SEDGE VINCA PACHYSANDRA FERNS HELLEBORES HEUCHERA HOSTAS You can also partially “plant” containers with flowering plants such as hydrangeas or shade other loving perennials. At one of our homes, sometime ago, we had a front yard full of tall oak trees. So, with all of that shade, we dug out holes around the bases of the trees just a little larger than the old tin coffee cans (with holes in the bottom). With a small inventory of the same size plastic pots, we made seasonal pots where we would drop into the tins. Pansies for early to mid spring, impatiens for summer with shade loving mums for fall through winter. It was a lot of work, but quite enjoyable. These are just a few ideas that you might give a try. I hope one works for you.
QUESTION: “I live along a large river with a lot of boat, ski traffic all summer. I have grass to water edge with rocks to prevent erosion which is not working. I would like to plant something that will not obstruct my view, no higher than about 2-3 feet. I want something that is year round and requires low maintenance. Any suggestions?” – Sue
ANSWER: It sounds as though you might need to increase the height of the rock layer to help keep the waves from eroding more of the river bank. Creating more of a levee with the rocks by berming them will go a long way to break the waves from water traffic.
On the inside of the rock berm (the lawn side), sedges can be planted which will tolerate damp soil. Their size will depend on the particular variety that you would choose as varieties range in height from about 12 inches to approximately 4 feet tall. I hope this helps to give you a couple of ideas to build on.
A useful addition to any garden lover’s bookshelf is “The All-New Illustrated Guide to Gardening” (Reader’s Digest Trade Publishing, hardcover, $35.00)
The editors have completely revised and updated this long-established classic that is the go-to volume for both first-time and established gardeners. This new edition has gone all organic for the first time.
The book is extremely comprehensive and contains thousands of illustrations. Reader’s Digest volumes are always well designed and logically presented and this one is no exception. Even the edges of the pages are color-coded to allow you to thumb to the desired section quickly. Both fun to browse through and an excellent reference. Give it a look.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve’s free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org
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