Erosion is the process where the action of wind or water wears down the soil. What may start as a small bare patch of dirt over time can become a large area of severe erosion. When erosion is allowed to go unchecked, it creates unsightly problems that are expensive to correct. However, there are some ways to control erosion before it gets out of control.
The most popular way to control erosion is to plant grass or other vegetation. If starting seed, it is best to lightly cover the seeded area with straw or hay so the seed does not wash away in the first rain storm. Also, you can plant different types of native plants in a checkerboard fashion along the slope or erosion prone area to slow the erosion process. Whatever method is used, you will need to slow the erosion process with rocks, hay bales, or another method so the vegetation can get established.
In a small lawn or landscape, use the same process, but on a smaller scale depending on where the erosion problem is located. In this example, you place something in the erosion prone area as a temporary solution then plant appropriate plants that are in scale and suitable for your landscape, then remove the rocks, hay bales, straw or whatever short-term solution you are using after the plants become established.
Some plants, such as rye grass or clover, can be used as a cover crop for erosion control, then tilled into the garden to use as a green manure.
Mulch is ground up or shredded plant material such as tree limbs or grass clippings. It can be used to prevent raindrops from pounding on loose soil, loosening it, and creating erosion problems ; mulch can also be placed around garden plants for weed control, to equalize moisture levels, and to prevent erosion.
Using mulch specifically for erosion control is best used on slopes or garden areas where the water does not run off rapidly. Also, mulch is used to keep rain that falls at the top of a slope from gaining speed as it runs down the slope carrying soil with it. A drawback of using mulch for erosion control is that it decays rapidly and needs to be replaced often.
Rip rap is another name for adding rocks along the sides and bottom of an erosion prone channel to prevent erosion. Using rip rap, or riprap, is effective not only in large-scale landscaping projects but in smaller projects such as a lawn or garden because it is usually permanent.
Landscape fabric, which blocks weeds by allows water to percolate into the soil, is often put down under the rip rap. Larger rocks are used for big erosion problems, but gravel can be used for yards and landscapes. Simply lay down the landscaping fabric and cover with a rip rap that is attractive and in scale for your landscape.
Another solution for an erosion prone area is the use of erosion mats, also known as erosion control blankets. They are made of straw or other organic material and are placed on top of the soil to prevent erosion. Erosion control mats should be overlapped with the ends buried and weighted down with rocks or other material so water running down the slope cannot dislodge them. They are inexpensive, easy to transport because they come in long rolls, and are often made of biodegradable material.
Erosion mats should be over seeded with vegetation that grows through the mats as they decay, eventually replacing the mats. Also, holes can easily be cut into the mats and garden plants added as needed. Erosion mats are available at most garden centers.