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Friday - June 13, 2008

From: Jackson, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Plants for ditch bank to stop erosion
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I have a huge ditch on my property. The ditch bank is about 5,000 sq ft. There is a lot of erosion and I am looking to correct the problem. Is there any type of SEED, I am not looking to plant mature plants over that much space, that would be good erosion control and also not grow very high so I will not have to mow it?


Grasses are the very best plants to use for erosion control—especially on slopes—because of their extensive fibrous root systems that are very effective in holding the soil in place. Additionally, they are easy to start by seed. There are lots of choices of grasses for Tennessee. You can look at them all yourself if you go to our Native Plant Database and do a Combination Search, choosing 'Tennessee' from Select states and provinces and 'Grass/Grass-like' from Habit (general appearance). From that list I have chosen a few that should do well and be attractive on your site. Most grasses grow 1.5 to 3 feet tall. I've tried to pick out the shorter ones and tried to pick ones that are attractive when mature as well as when they are green and growing. You will need to choose those from the list that fit your available sunlight and soil moisture. Sedges would also work and are usually shorter than grasses and some are evergreen. The problem with sedges is finding seeds for them rather than small plants. After the grass is established and is controlling the erosion, you can add some wildflowers to grow with them.

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) 2-3 feet

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge) 1-3 feet

Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge) 12-18 inches

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) 6-12 inches

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) 2-4 feet

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye) 2-4 feet

Elymus hystrix var. hystrix (eastern bottlebrush grass) 1-3 feet

Muhlenbergia capillaris (hairawn muhly) 1.5-3 feet

Poa arachnifera (Texas bluegrass) 1-2 feet

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) 1-3 feet

Read "The Return of Native Grasses to Tennessee" by Andrea Shea from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for an interesting discussion of native grasses. As stated in this article, you need to be careful about where you get your seeds. You want native seeds that aren't contaminated with invasive species. You can search for seed companies that specialize in native plants in your area in our National Suppliers Directory. On a quick search I found Dropseed Native Plant Nursery in Goshen, Kentucky, Nashville Native LLC in Fairview, Tennessee and Ohio Prairie Nursery in Hiram, Ohio, all of which deal in 100% native plants.

Bouteloua curtipendula

Carex blanda

Carex cherokeensis

Carex pensylvanica

Chasmanthium latifolium

Elymus canadensis

Elymus hystrix var. hystrix

Muhlenbergia capillaris

Poa arachnifera

Schizachyrium scoparium



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