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Mr. Smarty Plants - Native plants to stabilize a steep bank in Pennsylvania

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Wednesday - April 23, 2008

From: Honey Brook, PA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Native plants to stabilize a steep bank in Pennsylvania
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I would like to use native plantings to stabilize a steep bank of a septic leach field in eastern Pennsylvania. My purpose is to control erosion and to eliminate the need for mowing. What would you recommend?

ANSWER:

Grasses, because of their extensive fibrous root systems that hold the soil, are ideal plants to stabilize a steep area and prevent erosion. You can find native grasses that are commercially available in Pennsylvania by choosing Pennsylvania from the map on our Recommended Species page and then narrowing your search to Grass/Grass-like species under "Habit".

Here are several good candidates for grasses from that list:

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sporobolus heterolepis (prairie dropseed)

All these grasses will mix well with wildflowers and they have attractive shapes and seed heads.

You can return to the Pennsylvania Recommended list for shrubs and wildflowers to plant with the grasses. Again, you can narrow your search by the plant "Habit", "Light Requirement", or "Soil Moisture" to find the perfect plant for the space.

Since I don't know the sun/shade situation or the soil moisture for your site I will recommend a few hardy perennials that will grow in a variety of habitats and help with the stabilization.

Achillea millefolium (common yarrow)

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea)

Conoclinium coelestinum (blue mistflower)

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed)

Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry) is a low-growing evergreen plant that could be used alone for a groundcover that would not need to be mowed.

Lupinus perennis (sundial lupine)

if the erosion is already very serious, you might want to consider using erosion-control blankets to stabilize the erosion area until the plants can take over the job. The erosion-control fabric works by slowing the runoff water and allowing sediments to fall out rather than be washed away. Seeds are sown under the erosion-control material and grow up through the matting when they germinate. You can insert plants into the soil by cutting through the matting. The roots of the plants that are growing through the erosion-control material anchor the soil to stop the erosion. If you use erosion-control blankets made of biodegrable material, they will eventually disappear leaving the plants to control the problem. You can read about a stream bank stabilization project implemented by Department of Environmental Services, Arlington, Viriginia.


Bouteloua curtipendula

Elymus canadensis

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sporobolus heterolepis

Achillea millefolium

Ceanothus americanus

Conoclinium coelestinum

Coreopsis lanceolata

Gaultheria procumbens

Lupinus perennis

 


 

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