Erosion control and landscaping go hand in hand. When natural processes---usually animal activity, heavy rains or blowing winds---remove soil from an area, the subsoil does not provide sufficient nutrients to sustain healthy plant life. That results in barren spots that are even more susceptible to erosion. Counteracting this process is possible for the landscaper; it requires a few steps in addition to introducing new vegetation likely to thrive in the area.
It is a common misconception that merely adding plant life for the sake of erosion control gets the job done. The first step in counteracting erosion---before planting anything new at all---is soil analysis and modification. Topsoil, where beneficial bacteria encourage healthy root growth, is usually scarce in areas where erosion is a problem. Landscapers must first create topsoil by augmenting existing subsoil with organic matter, such as grass clippings or compost.
Preparing the soil and establishing healthy plant growth on slopes and embankments can be difficult. Rainfall quickly washes out seeds and smaller plants. The use of biodegradable erosion control blankets that bond with the topsoil offers a workable solution. The weight of the blankets prevents soil movement, while the treated surface helps keep germinating seeds in place. For example, the Futerra erosion blanket is warranted for up to 10 months, which gives plants sufficient time to become established and develop deep roots.
Grasses that are native to the region are an excellent choice for erosion control. Native plants tends to require less watering and can make do with local soil pH levels, sunlight exposures and weather patterns. Good examples are Sideoats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) that grows in a wide array of soil and lighting conditions and the Virginia wild rye (Elymus virginicus), which does best in a soil pH of 6.0. Annual pruning curtails dead spots and keeps these landscape grasses looking attractive, while their fibrous roots prevent erosion.
Use landscape plants along with fast-growing grasses to conquer areas where extensive erosion is taking place. Good combinations are Crownvetch (Coronilla varia L.) and Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). The grass prevents any washout underneath the Crownvetch's canopy, while the latter, being a legume, enriches the soil by fixing nitrogen.
Carefully choose and monitor landscaping plants when controlling erosion with flora. A popular erosion control plant, Crownvetch, attracts deer and can become rather invasive. Its habit of spreading quickly makes it concurrently an excellent erosion control plant and a pesky weed that may choke out desired ornamental plant life. Its attractiveness to deer may also introduce those animals into a garden or landscape, where they can damage other plants.