Soil erosion describes water washing away soil, either from wind, rain or floodwater.
Usually, the soil affected is topsoil, the best and most nutrient-rich soil to grow.
The amount of soil in any given place is constantly changing. Soil builds up from decay and the breakdown of dead plants and animals, and eroding rocks.
Soil erosion is a natural phenomenon caused by the following:
Water is the most common cause of soil erosion. When it rains for an extended period of time or floods, your ground gets so wet. So it gets wet that it loosens and begins to flow with the water. Generally, rain – especially excessive rain within a short period – can fragment soil aggregates. Once the soil gets broken up, water pools on the ground’s surface beneath the loosened topsoil. It causes it to wash away. How much soil erodes depends on several factors. They include the nature of the soil and the length and steepness of the area involved. For example, more prolonged, steeper slopes tend to take more soil with them. As compared to shorter, more gradual inclines.
Large amounts of rain can cause streams to form, which may take with it the soil it encounters. Water often takes the path of least resistance and will charge through open areas, whether over the surface or under the surface, taking with it any soil, rocks, and debris in its path.
Wind can also make soil erode by displacing it. Depending on the circumstance, you might end up with dry soil erosion that gets carried in the wind. Or a combination of wind and rain that grabs your land and throws it all over the place. Hurricane conditions can undoubtedly cause soil run-off.
Gravity is the primary culprit behind the three other causes. For example, if your land gets sloped, the soil is going to head down the slope because of gravity naturally.
How Does Soil Erosion Effect Your Yard?
- A loss of nutrients that run off after a rainstorm
- An increase in flooding because of clogged waterways
- A degradation in local air quality because of exposed soils
- Silt build-up at the bottom of driveways
- Clogged neighborhood drainage and storm drains
- Run-off interfering with swimming pools or driveway stability
- Loose soil and mud blocking streams and creeks
- Harm to marine life as well as offspring mortality
At least once in a year, you should closely look at the topsoil around your garden. Then revise your strategy accordingly. These are some simple guides to help you stop erosion in your yard.
Covering the Soil
Arguably the best and the most commonly used method for preventing soil erosion is to cover the soil adequately.
When the soil gets left bare, it is much more susceptible to erosion caused by wind or rain. So in order to protect the soil in the right way, you have to make sure that it remains covered throughout the year.
There are plenty of soil-covering materials that you can choose from. Another advantage that you get for selecting soil-covering materials is that they prevent weed growth.
Grow a Cover Crop
If you cleared the soil in the fall to grow a particular crop in the spring (or if you’d like to keep that spot clear all year, plant a cover crop in the interim. Cover crops do more than prevent soil erosion;
They are incredibly effective in:
- increasing organic matter
- prevent weeds from taking over the garden
- add nutrients to the soil.
- Protecting from wind and water erosion
- Increasing water infiltration
- Crafting channels for water flow through the root system.
Common cover crops include legumes, such as clover, vetch and peas, cereals, and forage grasses. Another advantage? They’ll add more visual interest to the garden than just keeping the spot bare dirt. Once you’re ready to plant, just pull it up, and the soil will be well-nourished and ready to grow the intended plants.
Trees and bushes are especially useful. It is because their roots will go in deep. It is while their leafy canopies will break up heavy rainfall and protect the soil underfoot. Just make sure that your chosen plantings are appropriate for your growing zone. You can also decide on groundcover, grasses, legumes, and other broadleaf species to shield your slope.
These plantings multiply generously and quickly, providing a lush backdrop against your hillside. They will also be hearty enough to withstand rain without needing constant pruning and care.
Shredded bark, wood chips, rock, gravel, leaves, and even pine needles make great mulch. Look for locally sourced materials whenever possible. Yet, you may want to avoid cocoa bean hulls if you’re a dog owner and don’t use pine needles or gravel in food gardens. Use leaves, straw, or coarse compost around kitchen garden plants instead. Cover bare patches of soil, hillsides, and spaces between plants with 1 to 2 inches of mulch. This will protect soil from overhead watering and rain, keeping it in place. It also minimizes evaporation and feeding soil at the same time.
Soil compaction can also cause erosion. Consider aerating your grass in the spring. And, if you have clay soil, consider aerating again later in the year. Also, tend to your trees and shrubs to ensure they remain in good health. If you have soil pathways in your landscape, replace them with paved or permeable pavement. It is to prevent soil runoff.
Build A Garden Terrace
Preventing soil erosion on a hillside is a steep challenge. The incline or rise of the slope makes it prone to a faster rate of landslide and erosion. A compact and elegant solution to this is to terrace your hill. Using homegrown and natural materials, you can put together a series of stages or “terraces.” They break up your slope and act as plateaus. This stops run-off from just flowing straight down a hill.
You can then use these stacked terraces or plateaus to plant cover crops and seeds. With the intention to hold the soil together, compact it, and contribute its nutrient content.
Roots from plantings like perennial fruit trees, berry bushes, and herbs are ideal with terraces. They will take to the soil and give it the heft needed to fix it firmly in place. They’ll also contribute nitrogen to the soil, which is the measure of healthy and high-quality topsoil.
The best part is that you can use organic matter to construct and secure the terrace stages. Logs, brush, and wooden stakes are just some examples of the sustainable but straightforward materials your new terrace garden will need.
Rain Gardens & Plant Catchments
Sometimes the best solution is to catch and control water when it’s moving downhill. Or by creating a garden in low points. In fact, the problem of erosion presents an opportunity for a garden you may not have anticipated. A well-positioned rain garden can cut down on erosion and the possibility of pollutants reaching neighboring tributaries by over 30%. To plant a rain garden, select water-loving plants adapted to your region and climate. You can add stones and other features to direct the water.
Build Retaining Walls
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of building a garden terrace then install a retaining wall. It might be an effective and viable solution.
Not only do they look very good but retaining walls are also quite functional. They will allow you to create stages or zones around the sloped property. It will make it resemble a terrace.
One of the reasons why these retaining walls are so popular is because they will prevent the soil from eroding. They will also allow you to create many plants or flower beds. You can let your imagination run wild when it comes to creating different kinds of flower beds or plant beds around the property.
You might want to cover all of the bald spots around your garden with mulch. It is imperative that you get something growing there as quickly as possible.
It’s important for you to make sure that you protect the soil as much as possible. These are arguably the best ways to do so.
Use Sandbags As Diversions
You can’t necessarily fight nature, but you can certainly try to channel and divert it.
That’s what sandbags allow you to do. When heavy rainstorms affect your hilly area, you’ll likely be in the path of other run-off and debris flow.
If this is the case, you can use sandbags as a consistent (though temporary) solution by stacking them in a stair-stepped formation.
It’s temporary because it simply diverts the flow of the water, but doesn’t necessarily seal water off from your property.
It’s a great additional measure to use, especially if your sloped property is just part of a larger, overall hilly area.
Use Geotextiles Or Erosion Control Blankets
When examining your property, you may find that there’s a thick layer of rock underneath the soil that won’t support vegetation (yet). You need to build up the thin soil and support it for a few seasons before anything can grow on your slope. That’s when geotextiles and erosion control blankets come into use.
As the name indicates, erosion control blankets cover wide areas of soil on a steep hillside. Some of these blankets are synthetic materials known as “geotextiles.” Others are simple but strong netting crafted from organic material like coconut.
They’re biodegradable and protect your soil from erosion. If you do choose to have plantings one season, they’ll allow the seeds to breathe, take root, and shoot up. Over time, as they break down, they’ll add to the soil’s nutrient content.