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How to Solve Hillside Erosion

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Mix elements such as retaining walls, mulch and plants to solve erosion.

Heavy rainfall can wash out soil, gravel and even vegetation on slopes in a yard, making
it difficult to grow anything or establish an attractive landscape design. There are
numerous solutions to solving problems with soil erosion on hillsides, but there is no
single best way to stop erosion. You'll achieve greater results by incorporating multiple
erosion-control methods. This doesn't mean you must incorporate every option in your
garden design, but pick and choose several options that can work together to keep the
hillside intact.

1
Cover bare soil on hillsides with erosion-control netting, which comes in rolls that you
simply unroll from top to bottom and pin in place with stakes. The netting has open
spaces through which you can sow seed; you can also cut holes for planting transplants.
Steep slopes require smaller open spaces in the netting than for more gradual slopes.
Use netting made of biodegradable material such as jute or coconut coir that
decomposes after plants establish to hold the soil in place.

2
Break the steep slope into several level terraces supported with retaining walls made
from stone or landscape timbers stacked no more than 3 feet high. Build a 3-foot
retaining wall at the base of the slope, cut into the hillside above the first wall, to create
a level platform to the desired depth. Build the second retaining wall when you achieve
the desired depth of the level platform and level off the soil at the top of the second
retaining wall. Repeat this pattern up to the top of the slope. Think of terracing a slope

as building a set of stairs -- the walls are the same as stair risers, while the level
terraces are similar to stair treads. The level spaces allow water to drain more easily
into the soil without washing the soil downhill. This might require a professional
landscape contractor if you have a very steep slope.

3
Turn a small slope into a dry creek bed that fills up with water and channels it to a safe
deposit zone, such as a natural swale or a storm drain. Set larger stones buried halfway
in the soil and fill in the empty spaces with gradually smaller stones, finishing with
gravel such as pea gravel or 3/4-inch minus gravel to fill in the small spaces between
stones. Water drains down the hillside and flows along a channel at the base of the
slope, preventing it from flooding your yard, patio or flower beds at the bottom of the
hill.

4
Set boulders and medium to large rocks in the hillside to help with drainage. Bury the
lower one-third to one-half of the stones to hold them in place and make them appear
natural to the hill. The rocks can also create pockets for planting so new plants don't
wash down the hill.

5
Plant a variety of plants with different root depths throughout the hillside, ensuring that
the roots interlock from just below the soil surface to even several feet below the
surface. The roots help bind the soil to the hillside so it doesn't wash away. Plant deeprooted trees such as white ash (Fraxinus americana, U.S. Department of Agriculture
plant hardiness zones 3 through 9), shallow-rooted ground cover such as common
periwinkle (Vinca minor, USDA zones 4 through 8), along with medium-rooted shrubs
such as boxwood (Buxus sempervirens, USDA zones 5 through 8). Many shrubs, such as
hydrangea (Hydrangea spp., USDA zones 3 through 9) and viburnums (Viburnum spp.,
USDA zones 2 through 9) have wide-spreading, fibrous roots close to the surface.

6
Mulch hillside flower beds with shredded bark mulch, which has long bark pieces that
interlock and stay fixed on a slope rather than washing away. Large bark nuggets might
look great on flat ground, but they float easily and quickly wash down to the base of a
hillside.