Most folks don’t pay attention to soil erosion until it becomes an urgent situation.  But if you follow a few tips to slow down the wearing away of your soil the payoff will be substantial.  Along with stopping the erosion you will find that you are using less water, that your landscape is more attractive and that your plants will flourish.

Do You Have Soil Erosion?

To begin the process take a walk around your property and identify areas that present a possibility for concern.  You should look for sloping terrain, trails of water after rain, puddles, tree roots that have become exposed or muddy areas.  The mud and wet spots are indicators of runoff from soil erosion.  These conditions occur when the earth can’t hold all the water so it is pushed to the surface.

The fundamentals of erosion prevention center on two basic principles:  to stabilize the soil and to determine how to properly water the landscape.

Soil Stabilization

Some effective ways to stabilize the soil include looking to Mother Nature.  A sloping landscape might require terracing but there are other solutions that can be less expensive and less labor intensive.

The planting of native perennials and ground covers can help keep the soil in place.  Over seeding your lawn to encourage a deep growth of grass is another simple solution.  Even a thick layer of mulch offers good results.


Mulch will help protect the area from too much moisture and keep it in place. It also reduces evaporation and a nice organic covering will enrich the soil. Use locally sourced products if possible, including shredded bark, compost, wood chips, small gravel, decomposed leaves and even needles from a pine tree.

Dog owners should avoid using coco bean mulch and it is not recommended to use gravel or needles in areas where food is to be grown. A nice 2” layer of the mulch of your choice will minimize soil erosion.

Over Seeding

Over seeding your lawn is an easy step to reduce the wearing away of soil. Before seeding, it helps considerably to first break up the top of the soil.  This can be done with an aerator machine or by hand with a strong rake.  You want to open up the soil so the seed has proper growing conditions. Over seeding can be down over the entire lawn or just over bare spots and slopes.

The sown seeds will need to be kept moist to enhance germination.  There is no need for lengthy watering times, just enough moisture to keep the seeds damp, preferably several times a day.  Once seedlings have sprouted you should water more deeply about once a week depending on what you get from Mother Nature. As new grass begins to grow it will develop more dense roots which helps hold the soil in place.

Ground Cover

Ground cover can be your best friend when it comes to slowing down soil erosion.  Typically they grow quickly and form a thick root system.  For sunny spots you can try creeping juniper, lirope, silene, sedum or creeping thyme.  In shady areas you could choose from ivy, pachysandra, speedwell, ajuga, periwinkle or sweet woodruff.

Larger perennials can also be used to prevent soil erosion but ground covers will do well on slopes.  They won’t need the attention that perennials might require.  Consider your landscape conditions and choose plants that you will admire and enjoy.

Consider How You Water

You can’t control the rain provided by nature but you do have control over how and when you water. One of the best ways you can be strategic about slowing down soil erosion is to plant in zones – create the zones based on how much moisture the plants will need.

Create Plant Zones

For example, all your heat loving, thirsty plants can be grouped into a sunny spot while dry shade lovers might go under a canopy of trees.  Plants that require a moist environment can be placed in those areas where you have seen water puddling or where you know runoff will pass through. With this strategy you can water according to the zone requirements and reduce watering plants that don’t need it.

Consider Watering Type

Also the type of watering equipment you use should be chosen for water requirements.  A vegetable bed that will need steady, even moisture would be served well with a soaker hose snaking through it.  A curved border of perennials would love a drenching from a circular sprinkler that can be customized to spray where needed.  Smart watering will greatly reduce over saturation of areas where erosion is becoming evident.

Think About How Much and When

How much water you provide will depend upon the plants, growing conditions and climate.  In general, all plants – including your lawn – do best with a periodic heavy drench than with a light watering every day.  Deep watering encourages a more stabilized root system which is turn will slow down soil erosion.

Once perennials and annuals are established for the season, they typically need a deep watering about once a week.  If Mother Nature has provided the needed moisture than you can take a break from this chore.

As a general rule, watering should be done in the morning.  This gives wet foliage the opportunity to dry out before the heat of the day sets in.  The foliage of some plants will sear if watered during hot, sunny times.  And other plants can succumb to fungus if they do not dry out properly before night fall.

Hopefully these simple tips to slow down soil erosion will be all the maintenance you need for your landscape.   If these measures do not provide the proper results, contact a landscape professional who can help you assess the need for adding retaining walls to your property.