Soil erosion is a condition where topsoil is stripped from the subsoil layer. Erosion is often due to environmental conditions such as drought drying the topsoil and wind blowing it away, or heavy rains washing away the soil. The planting of cover crops and other landscape plants helps to ease erosion in areas such as slopes where it is a prevalent condition.
According to the University of Missouri Extension, good vegetative barriers that prevent erosion must be perennial with stiff stems year round, are tolerant of wet and dry conditions and will grow through sediment. Switch grass is a plant that fits that description. Switch grass produces a thick stem that reaches its maximum growth potential within two years. The appearance of switch grass closely resembles that of fox tail.
Gamagrass fits the same vegetative barrier criteria as switch grass. Closely resembling corn, gamagrass produces a seed much like corn as well. The seed bed must be weed free for gamagrass to grow. Gamagrass is then planted at a rate of 15 pounds per acre at the same depth of corn. Any reoccurring weeds require cutting to reduce competition for light.
Ground covers are low growing plants that form a dense cover over potentially eroding areas, says Virginia Cooperative Extension. Grass is one of the best known ground covers. Most ground covers are not suitable for walking on, however. Ground covers are often suited to steep banks or slopes, shady areas, shrub borders, where tree roots grow, and very wet or dry growing areas. Creeping juniper, moss pink, Baltic English ivy, hosta, Japanese spurge, yucca, sedum and ornamental grasses are all suitable ground covers, each having their own unique characteristics, colors and shapes.
A cover crop is a plant established in a garden to protect soil from erosion and to add to the soil's organic matter once it dies. Most cover crops are annual plants that are planted when a garden or area is not planted with vegetables or fruit. Warm- and cool-season cover crop types are available. Alfalfa, barley, buckwheat, crimson clover, fava beans, oats, winter wheat and annual rye grass are all used as cover crops.