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Sunday - April 20, 2008

From: Johnstown, PA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Possibilities of plants for bank shale ledge in Johnstown, PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We have a mountain that we ripped out to build our house. The remaining ledge is mostly bank shale and everyone is telling us that nothing will grow on the hillside due to it being bank shale and a pretty steep slope. Do you have any ideas on what might work??


First we had to try to find out what "bank shale" was, since we are gardeners and not geologists. We found a lot about undersea formations and petroleum bearing formations, but none of the pictures we saw appeared to have any vegetation on the stone. In fact, the close-ups of the bank shale looked very inhospitable. Perhaps we need to ask you a few questions that may send you in the right direction, because we really can't recommend any plants that would grow in that shale unless there was a pretty deep layer of soil on top of it. Our first question is: what caused you to choose that for a building site? Second, has the slope been examined by an engineer or a geologist to ascertain if it is stable? Is your house sitting at the foot of this bank? Are there other properties in your area with a similar situation, and have you observed the solutions those landowners have reached?

We think that before you start trying to find plants that can survive on that slope, you need to make sure it is safe. If there is some soil on top of the shale, there might be grasses or conifers that could be coaxed to grow there, but nothing planted is going to hold that slope if it begins to slip. In Texas, we have a lot of plants that grow in rocky soil, because that's what there is, but there is some soil, and it's usually not a very steep slope.


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